I’d say a good portion of my early gaming experiences are tied up between RPGs and metroidvania games, so I was more than enthused to give Elden Pixels new title Alwa’s Legacy a bash. Hot off the heels of previous release Alwa’s Awakening (ok, admittedly not that quick considering it was in 2017, but reasonably so by video game standards), this outing gives a fresh take graphically taking us from the 8bit of the previous title all the way upto 16bit this time around. To note, you don’t have to have any knowledge of the previous title to benefit from what this game has to offer.
The story begins with series protagonist Zoe, having lost her memory, waking up on the shoreline at the very edge of Alwa, the land in which the game takes place. Zoe has a chance meeting with a pretty nasty mage in the initial moments, who unpleasantly knocks her weapon away and tosses her into the deep reaches of the dungeon. He references a previous struggle you’ve had with him, but it’s all vague enough not to really worry about it. After recovering said staff, you can resume bashing monster skulls and make your way up to the village, meeting up with Saga, who tasks you with recovering three gemstones, marking the first one on your map and thus your adventure begins.
Alwa’s Legacy narrative is a bit thin on the ground truth be told, and interactions with NPCs are equally very linear. There were moments where some of the quirkier conversations gave rise to a bit more personality in the characters but to be honest, this isn’t a title where you’ll experience rich story facets and twisting plots. That said, it has plenty of other areas in the game to deliver well on, so despite the drawback, there’s still enough on offer.
Alwa’s Legacy follows the vein of previous metroidvania titles with its sprawling map of interconnected squares, with each covering a particular unique environment including pitch black dungeons severely limiting what you can see, castles full of spikes and dangerous drops, vibrant towns full of life and various other inclusions filled with traps and platforms to make up the land of Alwa. Each area varies in difficulty and can only be accessed once you’ve progressed and met particular requirements.
Combat is basic, with a simple button press allowing Zoe to swipe with her staff to dispatch the monsters that you’ll encounter throughout the game. It’s quite simple, with the focus being heavily laid at the feet of patterns rather than actual difficulty. That’s not to say that there aren’t some challenging moments in Alwa’s Legacy, but I would argue that this is found in exploration as opposed to combat with most monsters being a two to three hit battle that relies on placement rather than actual skill. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a criticism. The combat is satisfying enough, but its neither intricate nor ground-breaking.
Exploration however, which is what the title does very well, is a heck of a lot of fun. Most dungeon sections have platforming challenges to sink your teeth into, with some of them being quite challenging at times or flat out impassable now and then. The wonderful thing about Alwa’s Legacy is the freedom to access most areas liberally, making exploration a bit more exciting. Now that’s not to say that some areas aren’t inaccessible without progress, but there’s plenty enough to explore as you make your way through the adventure.
Zoe picks up a number of spells throughout her journey, including the ability to magically create blocks, formulate rising bubbles to use as lifts and a thunderbolt spell that will allow her to hit switches as well as burn down wooden doors and hit unreachable enemies. Puzzles will occasionally require use of one of these spells, or in some cases, a mixture of them all. It provides plenty of enjoyable moments when you’re stuck trying to work out how to pass a room and have to use a combination of two or more spells in the correct way to progress, and some of the more vague puzzles can be as frustrating as they are fun to work out. Admittedly, even the hardest puzzles only kept me at bay for ten or so minutes, so it isn’t unbearably difficult and offers a respite in between some of the blander combat sections of the game. Spell usage comes at the cost of Zoe’s mana pool which has four blue pips, with some challenges requiring a little bit of know how when it comes to use of the spells and the time it takes for mana replenishment.
Zoe has a couple more things in her arsenal with other abilities that can be gained, including the capability to walk on dangerous surfaces like spikes. The abilities come as you progress and pair well with the staple spells to overcome certain sections of the game. There are several abilities to unlock and this adds a bit more depth to the discovery element, especially when you come back to a room you had visited earlier with the means to now pass it.
The bosses you encounter in Alwa’s Legacy follow the same rule of combat as the basic enemies, in that it’s a battle of positioning. There’s a set of patterns to each boss, with variance coming as you deplete their health. It’s a system we’ve seen before and doesn’t really offer the kind of challenge that can be seen in other games in the genre. That said, there was plenty of opportunity to use the various spells at Zoe’s disposal, and their inclusion into the battle mechanics made the encounters more enjoyable for it. Despite that, bosses were little more than the standard enemies with a couple more tricks up their sleeves, so it left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed overall.
Visually, Alwa’s Legacy is wonderfully colourful and pretty. The polished 16bit graphics are presented well and lend an almost inescapable nostalgia to the title that almost made me feel like I was eight years old again, sat in my room playing on the SNES. Coupled with the retro music and almost cute sound effects, it all adds up to an experience that is heavily reminiscent of some of the classics we’ve seen in the metroidvania genre, and it does the title a hell of a lot of credit by doing so, showing that the style still holds up very well even by modern standards.
The game isn’t immensely challenging, which would likely make a playthrough for a skilled player a reasonably easy matter. The game is very accessible though, opening it up to gamers of all ages. So as a family game, this one is onto a winner, with it’s comfortability of control and gradual learning curve a boon, if you look at it that way.
With its focus on exploration and fun, Alwa’s Legacy is a solid entry into the metroidvania style that is both accessible and enjoyable to all players. It’s cute graphics and neat puzzles offer a charming reprieve from some of the more complex modern games on offer.
It is guilty of being weak in narrative, and a little underwhelming when it comes to combat. Still, there’s plenty to do in Alwa’s Legacy, and certainly enough to keep you going for a good couple of hours.
Alwa’s Legacy is an entertaining adventure full to the brim with puzzles and exploration.