Pawarumi is a 2D neon vertical shooter that incorporates a rock-paper-scissors gameplay balance. If you played the fan favorite Ikaruga, this new shooter takes it to the next level by including a third color. One color is always more powerful when attacking a corresponding color whereas another color can rebuild the life meter. It is a well-balanced system that is easy to understand and becomes immediately playable. In addition, it should be beatable by most players on the easiest difficulty setting, but hardcore fans will enjoy the tough-but-fair harder settings. Hard mode features way more bullets and health doesn’t regen after each stage. The good news is, there are individual leaderboards for each difficulty setting.
This isn’t a one-hit kill shooter. Instead, the player has an energy meter that usually allows the player to take a few hits before getting game over. To be clear, once destroyed, that is it as the player is sent back to the beginning without any continue feature. However, although tough, there is a saving grace that directly plays into the gameplay balance. Instead of attacking enemies with the more powerful opposite color, the player can instead choose to take down enemies of the same color to regenerate the health bar. So when health is fully stocked, it might be wise to blast away with the right color to inflict the most amount of damage. Looking at it from the other side, the player should focus on rebuilding the energy gauge after each hit to avoid setting that game over screen. This system works surprisingly well and is easily the stand-out feature and the reason you should play this game. It builds tension and anxiety by instilling a risk-reward scheme.
Adding one more layer to the rock-paper-scissor approach is the super attack. In time, the player can store power and unleash a powerful attack with the “Y” button. These super moves often come in handy when facing each stage’s massive boss. The screen is often filled with bullets and things trying to kill you but always remains impressive to witness. The neon lights and easy-to-distinguish pink bullets, along with the big bosses and wealth of enemies, keeps the action constantly fast paced and entertaining. There are even cutscene transitions from one stage to the next that do not even need to be there but provide a plot, although pretty morbid, if the player is so inclined.
Pawarumi is one of the best classic style 2D shooters I have played in years. The fresh approach to this time-tested genre is just what this type of game needed. Sure, it has the constant explosions, moments of pure bullethell, and ridiculous bosses, but the balance in the combat creates depth and strategy. Fans of shooters or not, you should check this out.
Also available on Nintendo Switch.