Although Pawarumi can sometimes feel like hodgepodge of tried-and-true mechanics from other games in the shmup genre, it knows what it wants to do with its central mechanic, and it does it well. It’s like playing the ultimate game of rock-paper-scessors, except that there is no losing out.
Wrapped in a futuristic universe with heavy pre-Columbian inspiration, the game revolves around color-coded weapons and using them to defeat enemies. Each weapon has different properties, such as the Serpent (Green) being essentially a gatling gun, Condor (Blue) being a laser that can hit multiple targets at once, and Jaguar (Red) being homing missiles that attack whatever’s in range of your searchlight, but that’s not all that’s at play – depending on which weapon you use to defeat which enemy, you can gain one of three different benefits.
Using Green on Red for example will do double damage, while Boost effect is acquired by using same color attacks. Drain goes clockwise in a familiar color triangle that people are likely used to, and is used to fill the Super Attack that sends dozens of white bullets that wipe the screen.
Essentially, it feels like playing rock-paper-scissors, except that you can’t really “lose”, per se. So why the analogy? The split-second decisions you make to defeat enemies are very much influenced by this mechanic, and you’ve got to decide immediatley whether you want to prioritize the weapon properties, or whatever you need at the moment. The game speed itself is decently slow, but having to make these decisions adds stress and strategy that can’t be found in most other titles. It’s pretty exhilarating, honestly.
— Some numbers guy (@s07195) July 30, 2019
These sorts of color interplay come to a head in places like against bosses and minibosses, who will have different body parts with different colors. Do you activate reverse color order for double damage, or charge up your Super Attack for maximum bombage? Or use the same color to heal back an unfortunate hit, even if that means the boss’ attacks are stronger as a result?
Visually, the game is stunning, and utilizes Aztec design motifs that hardly ever used for the aesthetic of the entire game. The music focuses on beats rather than melody, giving it a tribal feel, although I did miss tunes that could really pump me up.
As for features, the game itself is a bit sparse on them, instead focusing on its central arcade experience that is hardcore to the point of not offering continues. However, getting to a new stage immediately unlocks the levels you can play in free mode. Thanks to this, it’s easy to practice the stages for when you eventually do reach them, and challenge yourself to get the highest rank in the leaderboards. There are also various options to choose for in Pawarumi, offering various language options to which you can view the menu and story, including English, French, Italian, German, and even Simplified Chinese surprisingly.
Pawarumi is definitely a game that reaches beyond its first impressions as yet another shmup. The game’s color system feels great once you get the hang of it, and switching weapons and buttons becomes second nature. While there really isn’t much to do outside getting a high score, the core experience is just so good.
Pawarumi is available on Nintendo Switch and PC.