Contrary to popular belief, Dark Souls didn’t start the hardcore game sub-genre and steep learning curves have been around since the days of the vertical shooter, particularly the Bullet Hell shooters favoured in Japan. Pawarumi feels like a return to this classic era with some modern twists.
Fans of these games point to Treasure’s Ikaruga and, before that, Radiant Silvergun as the benchmarks of the bullet hell style of game. Pawarumi can sit proudly among these in terms of the frantic gameplay, despite its short run time.
For those who didn’t grow up with the vertical shooter, this game might be hard to wrap your head around at first. Enemies throw everything at you all at once and it can be a bit overwhelming facing off against such odds. Knowing that you will take damage and that avoiding the worst of it while dispatching as many enemies as fast as you can is the trick, though even that gets almost impossible at times. What hinders your progress further is the fact that you have just the one life to get through it all.
There’s an interesting system in play within the game which sees three different power types you can use to help against the enemy. These are matched in different ways in a similar system to Rock, Paper, Scissors (here referred to as Boost, Drain and Crush). For instance, your Green gatling gun can be used on the red Jaguar enemies to do extra damage (Crush) while shooting it with your own red weapon fills your shield up (Boost) or using the blue weapon on them charges up your super weapon (Drain). At the start I found it a lot to take in while fighting for my life at the same time but it does become part of a pattern after a while and pretty much essential to your survival.
Graphically, the game impresses with its mix of 3D and 2.5D elements all working together on different levels. The Aztec style setting gives this a unique look and boss levels have some dizzying background effects and the whole game looks pretty impressive to onlookers as your eyes concentrate on the bullets heading your way. The soundtrack needs a mention, too, as it’s a wonderful mix of heavy drums and guitars that is set to the pace of the frantic action.
Pawarami is primarily a score attack based game and is sadly fairly short once you do get the hang of actually staying alive to pass the rather impressive bosses. That said, each of the three difficulty levels (which I’ll call difficult, insanely difficult and impossible) have their own branching storylines, so it’s worth trying to beat them all. But ultimately, you’ll be returning to try and beat your last score once you’ve actually worked out how to stay alive long enough.