Manufacture 43’s Pawarumi is a retro-futuristic top-down shoot-em-up set in a Neo-Aztec, pre-Colombian universe. Playing as Axo, the pilot of the legendary ship Chukaru, it’s your responsibility to defeat the armies of the mysterious “Council” as you seek the truth behind everything you do.
If this premise sounds pretty ambiguous and bare-bones, that’s because it is. The story is largely insignificant, acting only as a vague guiding light through the countless battles you fight in. Although uncovering Axo’s story across the three available difficulty levels (Easy, Normal and Hard) is somewhat engaging in parts, this plot could have been completely absent, and the game would be just as much fun to play.
Thus, Pawarumi‘s gameplay sits rightfully at the forefront of its experience, with the Chukaru’s three weapons – the Green Serpent, the Red Jaguar, and the Blue Condor – used in a rock-paper-scissors arrangement against coloured enemy ships. Three key concepts rely on this arrangement: boost, crush, and drain. These concepts are introduced in the game’s dedicated tutorial, with the on-screen UI serving as a constant reminder of how each works in practice.
“Boost” replenishes the health of your shield when you use the weapon corresponding to an enemy ship’s colour against it. “Crush” applies double damage to the ships that are weakest to the weapon in use, with the Red Jaguar strongest against blue enemies, the Blue Condor laser most powerful against green ships, and the Green Serpent quickly toasting red ships. Conversely, “Drain” involves using each weapon against ships not of the same colour or weakest to them, increasing your Drain meter and allowing you later to unleash a devastating super attack using X.
With a variety of enemy types to fight against and pleasantly challenging boss battles, Pawarumi easily engages its players and demands a keen eye and attention to detail in order to be successful. It is an enjoyable shoot-em-up, however, it does also pose what some players may find to be an unrealistic challenge, with the damage taken from enemies often far exceeding the health regained by utilising the “Boost” mechanic.
If you find yourself hit, it is difficult to recover, and if your shields are completely drained, it’s game over with no options to continue or restart the level. This leads the gameplay to feel repetitive, as the only variation offered is the order of the levels between each difficulty. Practicing each level in the available practice range is therefore recommended if you want to master each level, and set new high scores on the leaderboards.
With the game’s performance issues taken into account, some defeats feel increasingly unfair, even more so when struck down during a particularly crowded battle. Though jitters are most noticeable during the bridging cutscenes (which, by the way, feel heavily repetitive due to reusing the same artwork), the limited FPS makes the Chukaru feel sluggish and unresponsive during combat and does not make avoiding incoming shots easy. Playing the game handheld only serves to aggravate these issues further, with the small screen quickly filling up with bullets that seem almost impossible to avoid, even when braking hard with ZL and snaking through shots. For the best experience, playing docked is a must.
While Pawarumi offers a decent shoot-em-up experience, and its three difficulty levels will keep you trying again and again, it is let down by its performance issues and repetitive gameplay. Its lack of player-friendly progress retainment systems to negate the impact of these issues is a serious shame.
Pawarumi is an enjoyable enough shoot-em-up, but performs poorly on the Switch. Its repetitive artwork, backing audio and narrative sequences make it gripping to play until beaten, at which point, it lacks any replay value.