[Review] Pawarumi – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: Manufacture 43
  • Publisher: Manufacture 43
  • Release Date: 24/07/2019
  • Price: $14.99 / £13.49
  • Review code provided by Manufacture 43

Neo Aztec Bullet Swarm

Imagine a world in which the conquests never happened. The Aztec and Incan nations could thrive and prosper, eventually becoming global superpowers. Power left unchecked can eventually turn cruel and they were no exception. History has taught us that all empires fall, and with that, a lone warrior, Axo, steps up to fulfill her destiny and drag the empire into the dust. Thus begins the tale of PAWARUMI.

Pawarumi is a bullet hell shooter similar to Ikaruga, which means you will be ducking and dodging quite a large number of enemy ships and their projectiles. What sets Pawarumi apart at first is the Neo-Aztec setting that includes a dash of cyber punk. You control the chosen warrior Axo, as she wreaks havoc on the empire that she used to call her own. This game was funded through a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded in 2017 and after hitting PC, has finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch.

The Match Game

As mentioned previously, Pawarumi is a shoot’em up, but it has a unique twist to it’s gameplay. You begin the game fully powered up with three different weapons, and the way they react to enemies directly changes the way the game plays. The red jaguar “crushes” blue enemies, while it can “drain” green enemies. Crush basically means that it is that enemies’ weakness and will destroy faster, while drain will build your super meter, allowing Axo to deploy a full screen blast. When using the jaguar on red enemies, it will “boost” your health, which is the only way to regain health in the game. This formula works with the same with the blue condor and the green serpent.

When starting the game up, you are given the choice of playing a Tutorial, Practice or Arcade. Tutorial mode shows the basics of the game without going into massive detail whereas practice allows you to play any unlocked level. This mode will come in handy for those who struggle with later levels. And unless you are a shmup expert, you will probably struggle. Pawarumi does not handhold. Even the easy setting of arcade is quite challenging. Part of the challenge comes from the fact that you only get one life and zero continues. The only way to regain health is to boost it from enemies, which is why understanding the colour system is vitally important.

Another interesting aspect to this game is that the difficulty can change the level placement and how many levels you play. Easy features four stages, where Normal & Hard have five, but they are played in a different order. This can provide a bigger incentive for replay value as stages feel unfamiliar and offer more challenge upon revisiting them.

Empire in Ruins

Pawarumi’s graphic design is quite bright, colorful and diverse. Enemy characters stand out well against uniquely designed landscapes. This stark contrast helped to keep from getting lost in the action, which is quite important for a bullet hell. I need to praise the character design in this game as the portraits for each of the antagonists are beautiful and feel full of life. My personal favorite goes to the Warden of Xibalba, as his design is complex, eerie and 100% heavy metal.

Speaking of metal, the soundtrack which was composed by Grégory Desmurs is simply phenomenal. The light moments are very reminiscent of atmospheric alien-like Metroid Prime series while the frantic boss tracks are larger-than-life rock tracks. You can certainly tell that blood, sweat and tears were poured into the creation of these songs, and I for one am more than ecstatic that they exist.

Arm the Cannons

In my playtime with this Neo-Aztec shmup, I found myself more drawn to playing it on the handheld due to being closer to the screen and being able to see all the hundreds of projectiles and enemies on screen. Thankfully Pawarumi runs without a hitch in handheld. I do think that more detail is noticeable when playing docked, but I found myself getting lost in the myriad of bullets while playing on the tv.

Final Thoughts

Bullet hells are a niche genre for good reason. They are hard and usually a bit unforgiving. That’s not to say that this isn’t a good game though, because it is, very much so. Pawarumi brings to the table some interesting design and tools that allow beginners the chance to learn how to play shmups while still having the tough as nails challenge that experts will certainly appreciate.


  • Great Art Design
  • Rock Hard Soundtrack
  • Challenging Gameplay


  • Single Life / No Continues
  • Relatively Short Game


Pawarumi scratches an itch that is very niche, and it does it superbly.


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