Aaru’s Awakening Review

Some say that there is no such thing as love at first sight–that initial attraction and infatuation appeal only to our aesthetic pleasures, and that true love only rises when passion no longer clouds our judgment. Romantics and idealists may dismiss the notion, but the deep-rooted frustrations of Aaru’s Awakening may drive them to reconsider their sentiment. This unusual game craves your affection, each of its radiant hand-drawn environments singing love songs until you’re entranced. You may initially fall for this superficial beauty, but the game soon reveals its true form as a vindictive suitor, grossly untrustworthy in its controls and devoid of the fundamental assets of any good platformer. I am sorry, Aaru’s Awakening, but I must cut this relationship short, and I am afraid it’s not me: it’s you.

I offer no insight into Aaru Awakening’s actual development process, but it’s easy to assume that visuals were prized over all other elements. Even the hub from which you access the game’s levels is ravishing. It exquisitely represents the passage of time from dawn to night, each quadrant of a central orb depicting an abstract landscape that looks drawn by colored pencil. Within the side-scrolling stages, cross-hatching and asymmetrical markings provide texture and depth, while moving elements like lava floes and falling rocks are drawn frame by frame. It is through these techniques that Aaru’s world comes to life underneath its unnatural magenta skies.

What a phenemonal-looking boss. What a tedious level.

The playable hero is Dawn’s champion Aaru, a bearlike creature with a mane that stretches from head to tail, and he, too, moves with a charming hand-drawn inelegance that befits his illustrated world. Alas, the gracelessness of movement that makes Aaru initially joyous to watch in action becomes the game’s most prominent failing. When a platformer requires finesse and quick response, as Aaru’s Awakening frequently does, fluid animations and controls are vital. Aaru is anything but fluid, however, changing positions mid-air with all the precision of a sloth that has been dropped from a fourth-floor window. Aaru would be a delightful hero in a meandering adventure, but Super Meat Boy he is most certainly not.

As if to make up for his lack of leaping prowess, Aaru can rush ahead in a single whoosh, and can also propel an orb from his body that he can teleport to–and it is around these two mechanics that most of Aaru’s Awakening’s maddening puzzles are formulated. Navigating the game’s spaces is a trial in and of itself, due to a wholesale absence of genre basics–the kind of basics we take for granted in the best platformers because of their ubiquity and necessity. We expect to be able to quickly identify what objects are collidable and which are background art, for instance, particularly when we need to make snap mid-air decisions. Here, the foreground and background blend with the gameplay layer. Is that branch sticking outwards a platform, or just a visual detail? Will I pass in front of that barrier, or will I collide? That Aaru’s Awakening requires you to even ask such a question rather than for you to immediately know is a colossal problem.

The writing is lovely, but the narrator slurs her words in odd ways.

Without the fundamentals in place, any cleverness apparent in Aaru’s Awakening’s platforming challenges dissipate. What the challenges may even be is often a secret until you are dropping from a great height when the platform beneath you crumbles, or when a ramp has propelled you forward. You may not be able to tell whether you will fall to safety, or impale yourself on a bed of spiked rocks, until gravity makes the decision for you and the spikes rise into view, too late for you to do anything but succumb to death. Now you know for the next time–but when you bear the burden of this game’s inconsistent movement and clumsy animations, it’s difficult to build enthusiasm for a next time. And that’s an issue: Aaru’s Awakening is, by design, a trial-and-error platformer in which you shave off as many seconds from your completion time as possible. Your reward for success is the chance to show off your skill on the game’s online leaderboards. I might have enjoyed chasing the competition had the challenge been to overcome tricky puzzles and perform perilous leaps, rather than to wrestle with my controller.

Putting down the controller is an option, though it’s natural to reach for a gamepad when playing a platformer. Aaru’s Awakening’s controller support is not ideal, however, assigning the default jump move to an analog stick rather than a button. You must also activate the controller in the menus before you can use it, and should you unplug it during play, the game may stop responding to any input, even if you plug the controller back in. Regardless of your control method, the maddening levels may drive you to smash your hardware. The Dusk boss fight, for instance, requires that you rush across a series of platforms, some of which crumble, and some of which drop and then rise towards the spiked ceiling. You must teleport into the globes that float in this stage as well as avoid the poisonous river that waits for you at the bottom of the screen. Aaru’s awkwardness turns what might have been an exciting sequence into a mess, during which you must perfectly execute your dashes and perfectly aim your teleport orbs at the proper angle within unimaginably narrow time gaps. There’s no fun in the trying, and thus no fun in the succeeding.

Those are the kinds of goo-falls that don’t hurt you.

Yet Aaru’s Awakening hints at fun. You fire your teleport orb past a beam of scorching light, teleport again by angling your orb into a thin, winding passage, and an arcing ramp flings you into the sky. What a rush this moment is–a rush then halted when you land in the pool of lava that didn’t appear until you were six inches above it. You destroy a hideous colossal housefly by teleporting inside of it–what a fantastic idea!–only to drown moments later because you must blindly teleport, not knowing what you might find until you’ve closed the deal. Aaru’s Awakening is a dreamy display of artistic imagination that yanks you back to waking life with every awkward leap and every ill-conceived level.

Gaming Deals: Get an Xbox One With Wolfenstein and Extra Controller for $350

Amazon has the best new deal of the day, offering the Xbox One Assassin’s Creed bundle with Wolfenstein: The New Order and a second controller for $350. You can find the deal here.

Below you’ll find the rest of today’s best deals divided by platform:

PlayStation 4

Best Buy has a PlayStation 4 with a free copy of The Last of Us and a PlayStation TV for $400.

The PlayStation Store is holding a Critics’ Choice sale, offering Child of Light for $7.50, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition for $34.79, and many more. As an added bonus, anyone who spends more than $100 between now and February 24 at 11:59 PM Pacific will receive a $15 credit. You can find the full list of discounts on the PlayStation Blog.

Get a $50 PSN gift card for $40 from Ebay.

From now through to March 1, GameStop shoppers that trade in a PlayStation 3 (120 GB or greater) or an Xbox 360 (250 GB of greater) toward the purchase of a new PS4 will receive $125 in store credit. That means you can pick up a standard $400 PS4 for only $275.

Other PS4 games deals:

PlayStation Plus free games for February:

PS4

PS3

PS Vita

Xbox One

Microsoft has launched its “Ultimate Game Sale,” offering Alien: Isolation for $24, The Crew for $40.19, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor for $29.99, and many more. You can find the full list of discounts included in the Xbox Ultimate Game Sale here.

Other Xbox One games deals:

Microsoft announced this week’s deals for Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners. Now through February 23, anyone with an Xbox Live Gold subscription can get Duck Dynasty for $25 and Grand Theft Auto V & Free Bull Shark Cash Card for $59.50. Find the full list this week’s deals for Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners here.

Free Games with Gold for February:

Xbox One

Xbox 360

Wii U

PC

Paying $15 for The Humble Square Enix Bundle 2 will get you eight games from the publisher, including Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Theme Hospital is free on Origin.

You can get 20 percent off at Green Man Gaming with the code: KPMN32-6VRM69-6INRND.

Other PC games deals:

PS Vita

Sony is celebrating three years of the PS Vita with a sale on the PlayStation Store that includes Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD for $7, Limbo for $5, and more.

Hardware

Woot is having a big sale on Razer keyboards, mice, and other accessories.

Amazon prices are accurate as of publishing, but can fluctuate occasionally throughout the day.

GameSpot’s gaming deals posts always highlight the best deals we can find regardless of retailer. We also occasionally use retailer affiliate links, which means that purchasing goods through those links helps support all the great content (including the deals posts) you find for free here on the site. Got questions? Email news@gamespot.com or ask us in the comments!

Gaming Deals: Get an Xbox One With Wolfenstein and Extra Controller for $350

Amazon has the best new deal of the day, offering the Xbox One Assassin’s Creed bundle with Wolfenstein: The New Order and a second controller for $350. You can find the deal here.

Below you’ll find the rest of today’s best deals divided by platform:

PlayStation 4

Best Buy has a PlayStation 4 with a free copy of The Last of Us and a PlayStation TV for $400.

The PlayStation Store is holding a Critics’ Choice sale, offering Child of Light for $7.50, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition for $34.79, and many more. As an added bonus, anyone who spends more than $100 between now and February 24 at 11:59 PM Pacific will receive a $15 credit. You can find the full list of discounts on the PlayStation Blog.

Get a $50 PSN gift card for $40 from Ebay.

From now through to March 1, GameStop shoppers that trade in a PlayStation 3 (120 GB or greater) or an Xbox 360 (250 GB of greater) toward the purchase of a new PS4 will receive $125 in store credit. That means you can pick up a standard $400 PS4 for only $275.

Other PS4 games deals:

PlayStation Plus free games for February:

PS4

PS3

PS Vita

Xbox One

Microsoft has launched its “Ultimate Game Sale,” offering Alien: Isolation for $24, The Crew for $40.19, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor for $29.99, and many more. You can find the full list of discounts included in the Xbox Ultimate Game Sale here.

Other Xbox One games deals:

Microsoft announced this week’s deals for Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners. Now through February 23, anyone with an Xbox Live Gold subscription can get Duck Dynasty for $25 and Grand Theft Auto V & Free Bull Shark Cash Card for $59.50. Find the full list this week’s deals for Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners here.

Free Games with Gold for February:

Xbox One

Xbox 360

Wii U

PC

Paying $15 for The Humble Square Enix Bundle 2 will get you eight games from the publisher, including Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Theme Hospital is free on Origin.

You can get 20 percent off at Green Man Gaming with the code: KPMN32-6VRM69-6INRND.

Other PC games deals:

PS Vita

Sony is celebrating three years of the PS Vita with a sale on the PlayStation Store that includes Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD for $7, Limbo for $5, and more.

Hardware

Woot is having a big sale on Razer keyboards, mice, and other accessories.

Amazon prices are accurate as of publishing, but can fluctuate occasionally throughout the day.

GameSpot’s gaming deals posts always highlight the best deals we can find regardless of retailer. We also occasionally use retailer affiliate links, which means that purchasing goods through those links helps support all the great content (including the deals posts) you find for free here on the site. Got questions? Email news@gamespot.com or ask us in the comments!

Star Citizen Crosses $73 Million in Funding

The crowdfunding campaign for PC space sim Star Citizen has now reached $73 million, up by $1 million in a little over two weeks. If funding continues at this pace, the game could eventually raise $100 as its creator Chris Roberts’ hoped it will.

At the time of writing, funding stands at $73.4 million from more than 760,000 backers. Star Citizen is already the most successful crowdfunded project, of any kind, in history.

All additional funds raised for Star Citizen will towards expanding the scope of the game.

In other Star Citizen news, developer Cloud Imperium Games has recently detailed the game’s incredibly deep mining occupation, explaining how players will be able to make money by searching for and mining valuable materials in the deep reaches of space.

For more on Star Citizen and Roberts himself, check out part one and part two of GameSpot’s interview with the legendary designer.

Star Citizen Crosses $73 Million in Funding

The crowdfunding campaign for PC space sim Star Citizen has now reached $73 million, up by $1 million in a little over two weeks. If funding continues at this pace, the game could eventually raise $100 as its creator Chris Roberts’ hoped it will.

At the time of writing, funding stands at $73.4 million from more than 760,000 backers. Star Citizen is already the most successful crowdfunded project, of any kind, in history.

All additional funds raised for Star Citizen will towards expanding the scope of the game.

In other Star Citizen news, developer Cloud Imperium Games has recently detailed the game’s incredibly deep mining occupation, explaining how players will be able to make money by searching for and mining valuable materials in the deep reaches of space.

For more on Star Citizen and Roberts himself, check out part one and part two of GameSpot’s interview with the legendary designer.

Star Citizen Crosses $73 Million in Funding

The crowdfunding campaign for PC space sim Star Citizen has now reached $73 million, up by $1 million in a little over two weeks. If funding continues at this pace, the game could eventually raise $100 as its creator Chris Roberts’ hoped it will.

At the time of writing, funding stands at $73.4 million from more than 760,000 backers. Star Citizen is already the most successful crowdfunded project, of any kind, in history.

All additional funds raised for Star Citizen will towards expanding the scope of the game.

In other Star Citizen news, developer Cloud Imperium Games has recently detailed the game’s incredibly deep mining occupation, explaining how players will be able to make money by searching for and mining valuable materials in the deep reaches of space.

For more on Star Citizen and Roberts himself, check out part one and part two of GameSpot’s interview with the legendary designer.

Get an Xbox One With Wolfenstein: The New Order and Two Controllers for $350

Amazon has one of the best deals we’ve seen for the Xbox One yet.

For $350, you’ll get the Xbox One Assassin’s Creed bundle which comes with Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and a second Xbox One controller. You can find the deal here.

If you’re in the market for a PlayStation 4, there’s a great deal on those as well. From now through to March 1, GameStop shoppers that trade in a PlayStation 3 (120 GB or greater) or an Xbox 360 (250 GB of greater) toward the purchase of a new PS4 will receive $125 in store credit. That means you can pick up a standard $400 PS4 for only $275.

Looking for more great gaming deals? Check out GameSpot’s deals roundup, which features the day’s best deals for all major platforms.

Get an Xbox One With Wolfenstein: The New Order and Two Controllers for $350

Amazon has one of the best deals we’ve seen for the Xbox One yet.

For $350, you’ll get the Xbox One Assassin’s Creed bundle which comes with Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and a second Xbox One controller. You can find the deal here.

If you’re in the market for a PlayStation 4, there’s a great deal on those as well. From now through to March 1, GameStop shoppers that trade in a PlayStation 3 (120 GB or greater) or an Xbox 360 (250 GB of greater) toward the purchase of a new PS4 will receive $125 in store credit. That means you can pick up a standard $400 PS4 for only $275.

Looking for more great gaming deals? Check out GameSpot’s deals roundup, which features the day’s best deals for all major platforms.

West Coast Port Strike Impacting Nintendo’s New 3DS Supplies

An ongoing labor dispute in ports on the West Coast of the United States is impacting Nintendo’s ability to keep Amiibo and the New 3DS in stock, the company has confirmed.

During a financial results briefing Tuesday, Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata said that the New Nintendo 3DS is already outselling the 3DS XL, but in another statement (translated by Destructoid) during an investor Q&A, Iwata said that sales could have been even better if it wasn’t for the dockworkers strike on the West Coast.

“For the last six months, labor negotiations on the West Coast of the United States have made getting goods to shore slow, as the amount of berths open are lower than usual and therefore the harbors are congested,” Iwata said. “Many of the goods sent to the U.S. have still not arrived to their destinations. However, this has had little effect on Amiibo and software sales as they’re light enough that we can ship by air if we have to.”

Iwata’s statement may also help explain the supply issues with the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D special-edition New 3DS XL system. If you’re desperate for one of those, make sure you don’t buy this microwaved special edition of the system from eBay by mistake.

Watch a ’90s TV Commercial for League of Legends

How would you advertise League of Legends if it came out in the ’90s? Rizenvisual, a video game parody YouTube channel has put together a pretty faithful (and hilarious) approximation.

Assuming your Intel 486 machine is connected to world wide web, it will only take you 3,000 floppy disks and several days to install League of Legends.

If the commercial got you feeling nostalgic, you should also check out the Kickstarter pitch video for Strafe, “the fastest, bloodiest, deadliest, most adjective-abusing, action-packed first-person shooter of 1996.”