To say that Metroidvania style games are well represented on the Switch is a massive understatement. The genre boasts an impressive lineup of higher profile indie titles such as Hollow Knight and the Ori series to more obscure hidden gems in The Mummy Demastered and Salt and Sanctuary. At face value, Alwa’s Legacy may seem like more of the same, but several aspects of its design help it to stand out among its peers. Unfortunately, the manner in which it’s distinct is not always a good thing.
One of the early noticeable strengths of Alwa’s Legacy is its presentation. The expressive chibi-style character sprites and beautifully drawn and colorful backgrounds come together to form one of the more impressive looking sprite based indie games released on the Switch. The charming music feels like a fusion of 8-bit and 16-bit sound that gives the game a unique feel. Alwa’s Legacy is not just glitz and glamour as it features a particularly strong control scheme. The controls for the main character Zoe feel responsive and her jump is very precise.
This is fortunate, as while Alwa’s Legacy has some basic combat and puzzle solving mechanics, particularly within the five dungeon areas, it has a much larger focus on platforming compared to other Metroidvanias. Early on, Zoe gains the ability to create blocks and bubble platforms and these abilities are used extensively for puzzle solving and to create interesting platforming challenges for the player to navigate. These abilities feel satisfying and intuitive to use, which is important for a game that heavily focuses on platforming.
It’s somewhat refreshing to see a focus on platforming in a Metroidvania and it’s certainly something that helps Alwa’s Legacy stand out. However, there’s a reason most Metroidvania style games are unwilling to dip into platforming as heavily as Alwa’s Legacy does. Designing stages around platforming can potentially make backtracking a pain, unnecessarily stretching out the search for collectables or simply trying to figure out where to go next, a problem that is present early on.
Zoe eventually gains abilities that increase her mobility and make backtracking less painful, but getting to that point can be difficult without the use of a guide. Alwa’s Legacy offers very little guidance on where to go next. As a result, one can expect to spend a lot of time bumbling around the vast overworld trying to figure out where the next objective is. Due to the more involved platforming, this process can quickly become tedious.
Adding an increased focus on platforming is not necessarily a bad thing but without the care necessary to integrate it into the Metroidvania formula, it can become as much of a detriment to the design as it is an asset. Alwa’s Legacy is a very solid game with a lot of great things going for it, but it’s shortfalls prevent it from getting a full throated recommendation.