Alwa’s Legacy is an addictive 2D metroidvania title that has kept me sane and curled up with a warm cup of cocoa while the temperatures plummet outside. Metroidvania games and I have a love-hate relationship. I’m not great at them, and they generally frustrate me to no end. So what’s so different about Alwa’s Legacy?
For starters, you get to play as the female protagonist Zoe, a mage with amnesia that has to battle a dark wizard if she wants to return to her home. Think Venger from the Dungeons & Dragons animated TV show. However, she’s not ready yet. At the behest of an older woman, who is most definitely not a secret wizard herself, Zoe will have to become stronger and save the realm of Alwa if she is to stand any chance of returning home. Not only is Zoe’s dialogue pretty witty, but she’s pretty adorable herself in that 8-bit chibi way.
The world of Alwa is absolutely stunning. I’m a huge fan of 2D pixel art, and the color scheme alone is executed wonderfully here. The bright colors above ground contrast perfectly with the cool purples and reds of the dungeons below, and Zoe’s color palette works well against just about any backdrop. But, enough of nerding around about the colors of the world. What most folks are probably interested in is the combat.
Zoe doesn’t have a weapon to start with, but she soon finds a magic staff that she uses to clobber unsuspecting skeletons. As you progress through the story, Zoe can unlock a handful of spells that she uses to scale obstacles, fight baddies, and solve puzzles. For example, there’s a green cube she can conjure and push around to weigh down plates or block fire orbs, and a bubble that she can hop on and ride for an extra vertical boost. If she gathers enough blue orbs throughout her journey, she can actually visit the old woman in the library and upgrade her spells. One example is an upgrade for the green cube that gives it spikes facing away from you. This system allows you to customize how you want to play Zoe and what you want your playstyle to focus on. What I really enjoy about Zoe’s spells is that they’re not all offensive. Many of her spells are utility-based and allow you creative liberties to figure out how you want to overcome platforming challenges.
There are also some really creative uses for the props Zoe’s spells create. At one point, I absolutely could not figure out what I was supposed to do to reach a small pressure plate well below ground. I would have to crawl through a narrow passage, but even though I was small I wasn’t that small. I could conjure the block, but I couldn’t push it. It didn’t occur to me until I came back a few times and the knight charged at my block and pushed it forward so that I could use that momentum to push it down the pathway and land on the pressure plate. I wasn’t even aware that monsters could interact with elements like that! I love that even though it wasn’t an obvious puzzle at first, it definitely required you to put your critical thinking hat on to navigate some of the more clever levels.
If you fail platforming challenges in general, death is something you’ll have to come to terms with eventually, and no amount of bubbles will save you when you run out of mana. The game doesn’t autosave, but instead spreads around green braziers that you can touch to manually save your game. You can also touch the green flames and re-save to replenish all three hit points Zoe’s rocking. Luckily, even if you don’t save before you collect an item or overcome an obstacle, the game still seems to remember your progress and doesn’t make you jump through the gauntlet again to pull the levers or complete the puzzles to progress forward. However, when you do perish, there is a small counter at the lower left hand corner of the screen that keeps count of how many times you’ve died. It’s just like a tiny troll face, constantly reminding you of how badly you suck at jumping.
Though I’ve died multiple times, I’ve never felt brutally punished for it. Yeah, it sucks to have to work your way back through a portion of a level, but you’re not losing anything-just time. Plus, it feels so rewarding to finally make it past a difficult floor. Along the way, there’s a pleasant chiptune soundtrack to keep you company created by the incredibly talented RushJet1. RushJet1 has created an insanely fun soundtrack that I feel really captures that nostalgia of older games, but still feels modern and unique enough to get you tapping your foot every time the menu boots up.
I didn’t have the pleasure of playing Alwa’s Legacy’s title before this (Alwa’s Awakening), but I can say with confidence and un-tinted goggles, Alwa’s Legacy is a fantastic game that can be picked up regardless of your experience with the series. It has an exciting, challenging, and rewarding playstyle that’s accentuated by a beautifully crafted and nostalgic world. What more could you ask for? There’s just so much obvious love and care that has been poured into this game from its developers, and it really gives Alwa’s Legacy a glossy polish that is unfortunately missing from a lot of other metroidvania indie titles we see today.
Would I recommend Alwa’s Legacy? Yes, a hundred times over, yes. It is fun from the very beginning to end, and invites you to explore the contents of its world without hand-holding or a curfew to pull you down. If you’d like to try out Alwa’s Legacy for yourself, you can find it on both Steam and the Switch for $17.99.
A huge thank you to Elden Pixels for providing a copy of Alwa’s Legacy for the purpose of this review.