Set in the artistically stylish and hand-drawn world of Lumenox, balance is kept by four powerful entities across the realms of Dawn, Dusk, Day and Night. Aaru, the quadruped champion of Dawn, has awoken from his slumber and set forth across the realms to quell the trouble brewing by the troublemaker Night. Each of the realms are fully realized across challenging 2D platforming environments that will surely test your patience, most of the time to the point of frustration.
The extra set of legs doesn't make Aaru anymore agile than other platforming characters, but he does use two main abilities throughout the game. Charging allows Aaru to break through blocked off sections of the level, crumbling walls with relative ease, and leap across gaps to narrowly avoid spikes. His teleportation ability is something that I haven't experienced before in other platforming titles. At any point, you can send forth an orb throughout the environment and it will freely bounce around before stopping, more than likely ending up in a pool of death like sludge. Before that happens however, you can trigger Aaru to teleport to the location of the glowing orb.
Precision is required when using teleportation as you aim the orb through small gaps in the environment that Aaru naturally can't pass through, or bounce the orb perfectly over a bed of spikes and bounce off walls to a safe location. Mouse and keyboard controls allows for precise aiming, but I had no problems using the right analog stick of a DualShock 4. The default gamepad settings are simply unacceptable, using up on the left stick for jumping and requiring all of the abilities to be manually remapped. Worse, the gamepad setting doesn't save when you exit the game.
There is no concept of momentum when using teleportation, so you'll instantly drop when you teleport. I expected to continue moving in the same direction as the orb was traveling. I found this especially jarring because while moving through the environment, you will be affected by slopes and moving platforms that carry your momentum.
Let me be clear: you will die many times in your attempt to reach the end of each stage. You can also expect to die many more times if you try and top the leaderboards. On some of the earlier levels, I was able to keep my death total in the single digits. Before, however, long I noticed my total began to climb into the double digits...the high double digits. The trial-and-error and almost twitch-like gameplay ensures you won't survive the first time through unless you take it slow. Each stage is comprised of three possible medals based on target timers, but collecting them is absolutely optional. After completing a stage, I attempted to place higher on the leaderboard, once reaching as high as second place with a time only a couple tenths away from the leader.
Aaru is extremely fragile and most of the time a single contact from an enemy (though not all) will prove costly. Poisonous bee stingers will injure Aaru, obstructing your view, but the combination of spikes, pools of unknown substances and even direct sunlight are deadly. Using teleportation is key, but you'll skills will be tested, sometimes in mid air, forcing you to change directions, and charge through a wall without skipping a beat. Checkpoints are generous and well-placed, usually right before many of the more difficult sections.
With actual combat kept to the bare minimum, boss encounters deploy a unique premise of teleporting inside matching color orbs. Once all three are triggered, you'll be transported to a separate room and have to complete a unique puzzle or avoid incoming attacks.
As challenging and frustrating I found some of the stages in Aaru's Awakening, I felt a sense of accomplishment seeing my name listed on the top ten. Bosses slow down the relatively fast-paced stages, too slow for my likening, but still provide a unique take on platforming encounters.Note: Aaru's Awakening was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.