Alwa’s Legacy Review – A Unique Take on the Metroidvania Genre

    Title: Alwa's Legacy
    Developer: Elden Pixels
    Release Date: June 17 2020
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Elden Pixels
    Genre: Metroidvania, adventure

I’m a massive fan of Metroidvania titles, but when looked at critically not all of them can live up to the genre’s namesake adventures. Simply mentioning the genre to gamers and you might get a sour reaction possibly due to the over-saturation on the market. With that in mind, it seems developer Elden Pixels aren’t relying too heavily on these tried and true systems in their newest release, Alwa’s Legacy. Making a case for exploration and puzzle-solving over tedious backtracking.

Alwa’s Legacy is a sequel to Alwa’s Awakening taking place right after the events of that game’s ending. You play as Zoe, a purple cloaked amnesiac magician who has been transported to the land of Alwa. The sorcerer Vicar has returned along with a slew of monsters in an attempt to rule over the region. As you progress you learn magical tricks and abilities to defeat enemies and attempt to bring peace back to Alwa. The plot is simple enough to follow and doesn’t linger too long as it merely acts as a jumping-off point for your gameplay.

In the beginning, you are armed with a staff that you use as your main melee attack. Gradually, you gain magic spells and abilities. Magic allows you to execute specific action to progress such as creating a green cube that weighs down switches, a bubble that you can jump on to reach higher ground, or electricity to illuminate darker areas and shock your enemies.

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There’s also a magic bar that quickly refills and prevents you from spamming these actions.  This forces you to think a bit more about how you use your magic during exploration. Blue orbs can be collected and traded to upgrade your skills as well as unlock new features. Most of these upgrades aren’t necessary as you can reach many of the areas with your baseline magic, but the make your gameplay much easier and ultimately more enjoyable.

Abilities range from being able to walk on spikes to slowing down the flow of time. However, abilities work a bit differently than your magic. They can’t be upgraded and don’t have a refill bar. Instead, you are only able to use one ability per screen. You can recharge an ability if you need to use them multiple times, but it requires you to hold still for a couple of seconds. Given some situations, this may be especially difficult if not impossible to do. Still, like your magic, abilities become essential to progress.

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Alwa’s Legacy shines when you are forced to use various magic and abilities in combination to explore. Many areas have several light puzzles that will stump you just long enough to experiment with your magical options. Even when you figure out how to advance, the challenge then becomes actually executing the plan.

Some sections are pretty forgiving, but most of the later levels leave little room for error.  Enemies and pitfalls await at every turn and given that you only start 3 HP, you may find yourself dying a lot. Coincidently, a little counter lets you know how many times you have died and if you’re as good as me then that death count may reach an embarrassing number.

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Luckily, checkpoints are pretty generous and there are rose petals scattered throughout Alwa which you can use to upgrade your health. It makes testing your powers a bit more encouraging and never feels like a huge loss if you mess up. It’s also possible to death warp if you get through a room and don’t want to fight your way back. Furthermore, checkpoints can serve as warp points if you add a green tear to them, which are limited items that should be used sparingly.

One of my favorite things about Alwa’s Legacy is the beautiful world and art design. Backgrounds are especially gorgeous and extremely colorful. Character animations are smooth, which pair well with the responsive controls. Everything is presented as pixel art, and while some other games may use pixelation as a crutch, Alwa’s Legacy uses it sparingly to enhance its design to great effect. Different sections have their own feel and look to them, which makes exploring more enticing. The music that accompanies you is pretty catchy and the sound design fits nicely in the world of Alwa.

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Exploring the secrets Alwa has to offer is exceptionally addicting. As soon as I got a new power-up I was anxious to see what new paths I could open up and mark on my map. It’s clear where you can and can’t go, and you rarely feel like you just run into a dead end. Because of this, the backtracking that is in the game doesn’t feel like a grind.

The world of Alwa is broken into several sections with five dungeons. Dungeon sections are expectantly more intense and feature a variety of gameplay elements like changing gravity or a time-based system that enhances plant growth depending on the era you set it. There is even a water dungeon that is surprisingly fun and not a drag which is an accomplishment in itself. Boss battles are pretty unique and they each have a memorable design to them. While some bosses may start off feeling overwhelming after a couple tries you begin to learn their tricks and how to exploit them.

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For the most part, Zoe controls great and feels exceptional. This is really important with how much platforming and split-second moves that need to be pulled off. The only times this seemed to fall short for me was the shortcut for using magic which is Up and the attack button.

This wasn’t a problem until I came across enemies who were at the top of ladders. As you can imagine there were several times I accidentally performed non-lethal magic because I was trying to react quickly enough. It never became a huge issue thankfully but it was pretty annoying.

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Alwa’s Legacy is a vibrant adventure that takes some of the best aspects of the genre and puts just enough of a spin on it to set it apart. Using magic, puzzle-solving, and exploration through the charming world of Alwa is a real joy. There may be a few hiccups in its control scheme and execution, but it doesn’t take away from the overall experience. Zoe might not be the best with memories but this is one quest you won’t soon forget.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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