by Joseph Leray
"Aaru's Awakening" is a hand-drawn 2D platformer from Lumenox Games, an eight-person indie outfit headquartered in the moss-covered lava fields of Reykjavik, Iceland. Or maybe their studios are in in a hollowed-out glacier, powered by geothermal energy, sulfur, and Egils Gull. Either way, Iceland is fabulous.
Perhaps more importantly, though, "Aaru's Awakening" is in some ways the most inventive platformer I can name off the top of my head, and not only because the hero is a rooster-bearcat hybrid.
Even wildly divergent platformers like, say, "Braid," "Gunpoint," "Fez," and "Super Meat Boy," all share a foundational bedrock of running and jumping. Art styles and design choices not withstanding, getting from point A to point B is pretty similar in all these games. "Aaru's Awakening" in contrast has a kind of teleportation mechanic that gives its beaked protagonist a sense of fluidity and rhythm not seen elsewhere.
Here's how it works: a left-click charges and releases a ball of light toward a reticule, and a right click instantly teleports the eponymous Aaru wherever the light ends up. Quick-witted players can use it to cross gaps, sneak into tight spaces, or explode enemies. It can be tough to combine the teleport with Aaru's basic jumping and charging abilities, but it's a neat little control scheme, and how well Lumenox exploits it will determine their first game's success.
What I particularly like about "Aaru's Awakening" is that it almost feels like a side-scrolling shooting game, but instead of bullets, you get to shoot a mythical rooster-bearcat around warm, auroral fantasy environments.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter