Marching To The Beat Of It's Own War-drum:

Pawarumi takes place in what is described by its' developer Manufacture 43 as a "retro futuristic sci-fi pre-Columbian universe". Thats quite a mouthful, but it actually does give a nice bit of context to the strange world that Pawarumi takes place in throughout its' five level arcade mode. Making your way through these five missions will be your primary focus while playing Pawarumi, although this is far easier said than done. You only have one life to accomplish this miraculous feat. Thankfully making it past a level in Arcade mode unlocks that level in Training mode, so you can practice it to perfection. This way you are never forced to backtrack through earlier levels just to get some practice on the one level that is giving you the most trouble. These kinds of modern quality of life improvements featured in Pawarumi, as well as its' strange but satisfyingly unique world and brilliant combat system are what drew me back to this quirky title again and again.

Rock, Paper, Lasers, SHOOT:

The combat in Pawarumi is easily its' most unique feature, at least in regard to gameplay. This is actually saying quite a bit considering how well the game excels in other areas like general polish and overall aesthetics. Almost all titles falling into the SHMUP/Bullet Hell genre feature rock solid maneuverability and boast a wide variety of unique weapons and upgrades to help cut through the ever growing swathes of enemy ships. Usually these sorts of titles will grant you power-ups, increasing your firepower and thus better equipping you for later stages. Typically in the the later levels of these sorts of games you will likely have accumulated enough of an arsenal to nearly rival your opponents in sheer firepower. When playing Pawarumi, however, this is not the case.

Instead of beginning with a base model spacecraft that grows more powerful over time through power ups and weapon accumulation, Pawarumi instead starts you with everything you will ever need to beat the game as soon as you boot up the first stage. While It may sound exciting to begin your game with a ship already stocked to the hilt with weaponry, the reality of the situation quickly sets in. Your weapons in Pawarumi are not like anything in any other shoot em up that I have ever played. The three different weapons you are given from the start of this game form the basis of what the developers like to call the "Trinity Mechanic". While slightly difficult to fully come to terms with initially the "Trinity Mechanic" system ultimately allows Pawarumi to achieve something truly unique, and altogether its own.

The "Trinity Mechanic" is the beating heart of this game and mastering it will be entirely necessary to make any kind of progress. To explain simply, it is a tense game of rock, paper, scissors that takes place at extremely high speeds and informs the player on how they will need to go about attacking every enemy in the game. Your ship, the Chukaru, is equipped with three different weapons, each corresponding to one of three mighty gods. The green Serpent machine gun, the mighty blue Condor laser, or the red Jaguar missiles are all yours to make use of. The enemies themselves also come in either green, blue and red and deciding which weapon to use on which enemy quickly becomes just as important as avoiding the onslaught of bullets flying your way. 

As the "Trinity Mechanic" name implies each weapon will have a different effect on each color of enemy. Shooting enemies with their matching color (green laser on green bad guy) will result in an increase in your health, although the enemy will be slightly more resilient. If health is not an issue you will likely be seeking to use the "Crush" mechanic where shooting an enemy with their inverse color will double the damage (green laser on red bad guy). This brings us to our final weapon interaction, dubbed by the developers as the "Drain" effect. By shooting an enemy with the inverse of the color that would normally "Crush" them (green laser on blue guy), you instead inflict normal damage but build up your super meter which once full, allows for a traditional bomb mechanic clearing the screen of all enemies. 

If this sounds at all complicated, it's because it is. Mastering when to switch between your three weapons at high speeds will challenge your brain, just as much as dodging enemy fire will test your reflexes. When playing on harder difficulty settings, the enemies will come pouring down the screen so fast that often you will not even have time to fully process what's coming at you. In these moments Pawarumi almost feels like Guitar Hero, of all things. While any weapon can technically kill any enemy, on harder setting you MUST be using the most effective weapon on all enemies at any given time. While Pawarumi certainly does come with a rather steep learning curve, taking the time to learn the intricacies of this title will reward the player with one of the most unique takes on the Shoot-Em-Up genre in quite some time.

Conclusion:

This game is unique in every sense of the word. From its utterly one of a kind, sci-fi Mayan landscapes, to its bizarre pan-flute/heavy-metal soundtrack. This is a game that truly has its own identity and isn't afraid to show it off. It would have been easy for Pawarumi to rest on the laurels of its' incredibly well conceived "Trinity Mechanic" and build a simple shoot 'em up around a brilliant base concept. Instead they went the extra mile and delivered not only an excellent game from a mechanical standpoint, but also one that stands apart thanks to its strong memorable characters, level design, and bold unique aesthetics.