In Pawarumi, cyberpunk meets Aztec as pilot Axo rebels against the Council – a superpower of the local universe. Axo pilots a powerful battleship, Chukaru, and employs the weapons at its disposal to put an end to the Council’s rule. If you’re a fan of cyberpunk and shoot ’em ups, then fasten your seat belt because you’re in for an action-packed, albeit brief, ride.
Pawarumi features the main Arcade mode and a Tutorial mode, the latter of which I strongly advise to complete. It will introduce you to important combat mechanics and prepare you for the challenges in the Arcade mode. Once you feel comfortable, it’s time to choose from one of the three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal and Hard. Each setting not only alters the overall level of challenge, but also the game’s ending. On a Normal setting, you’ll battle across five different levels, whereas on Easy there’s only four. Hard mode shuffles the level and boss order, in addition to raising the default difficulty.
There’s a total of five levels and bosses in Pawarumi, introduced via a gorgeous cutscene before each level. These cutscenes don’t add much in terms of narrative, but I appreciated them nonetheless. Each boss looks distinct, largely thanks to the game’s unique art-style. And one of the bosses looks very much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version of Mr Freeze from the Batman universe. Levels look equally as beautiful, with plenty of variety and depth to them. Though you won’t see much of it during gameplay because of how fast the game progresses.
After this brief introduction, you must battle through the level in order to reach the boss. Axo’s ship features three different weapons with three different colours: green, blue and red. And each weapon is assigned to a corresponding button on the controller. Green, known as Serpent, is assigned to “A” and shoots bursts of small laser beams. Blue, known as Condor, is assigned to “X” and launches a powerful laser beam straight ahead of the ship. And lastly red, known as Jaguar, is assigned to “B” and emits lightning-fast homing lasers.
To coincide with these weapons, enemies come in three types, matching the same colour palette. And with this colour palette, Pawarumi introduces three unique combat mechanics. With Crush, you can defeat enemies twice as fast: green is weak against blue, red is weak against green and blue is weak against red. So, for example, attacking a green enemy with a blue weapon will defeat them faster.
Drain works similarly, but with colours switched. In this case, blue is weak against green and so forth. With Drain, you charge up the ship’s super attack assigned to the “Y” button. When activated, it unleashes a barrage of missiles which clear most enemies on the screen. I found it a good strategy to save your super attack for boss battles as it often depletes half of their health bar.
Finally, with Boost, you can charge up your ship’s shield by attacking enemies with the same colour weapon as them. These mechanics make you constantly think on the go, react to the enemies around you and change strategies. If your shield is low, for instance, then replenishing it should be your top priority.
Pawarumi succeeds at placing you into challenging combat scenarios and provides inventive means to overcome them. Most of the time, the screen is filled with various enemies and countless projectiles heading your way. Depending on the difficulty, they will require your utmost attention and push your reflexes to the limit. But I noticed that for every difficult battle, there’s a swarm of smaller enemies for you to charge the shield on.
A small nuance that I disliked about Pawarumi was the inability to change the direction of the ship’s aim. Often, enemies will move behind your ship and you won’t be able to counter them other than using the super attack.
At the end of each level, you face off against the boss introduced at the start. Each boss differs in its size and the overall approach, but beating one isn’t necessarily more difficult than another. Moreover, battling through each level and reaching the boss battle is often more difficult than the final showdown itself. Bosses follow the same principle as regular enemies and possess parts of varying colours for you to destroy. Sometimes, these colours change, forcing you to adapt to a new strategy during the battle.
Pawarumi doesn’t pull any punches with its difficulty and once your shield depletes, it’s game over. If you fail while battling against the final boss, too bad, but you must start over from scratch. Upon completing a level or failing in battle, you always have the opportunity to add your name to the Leaderboard.
Even with multiple endings, Pawarumi won’t take long for you to exhaust its contents. There’s no way to improve the ship or attain any new abilities. And other than improving your score on the Leaderboard, there’s really no reason to replay the game. If all you want is a fast-paced shoot ’em up and its scarcity of content doesn’t deter you, then Pawarumi will provide a good few hours of hectic action.