Awakening: The Skyward Castle is a solid fourth installment in an already captivating series
The last time we saw Princess Sophia, our heroine had traveled to the Goblin Kingdom via the Awakening installment of the same name, continuing in her dangerous search for her people. After helping the Goblin people reunite with their true king, Sophia was left to make her way to the Skyward Castle, where humans ultimately fled. In this fourth installment in the series, Awakening: The Skyward Castle, we’ll finally come face to face with the humans Sophia has so desperately longed to find, and will head into battle against menacing shadows that wish to stop Sophia in her tracks.
Returning from Awakening: Goblin Kingdom are Sophia’s pocket dragon and owl companion, which serve as a fire-breathing tool and the hint mechanic, respectively. As has been the norm for the franchise, Awakening: Skyward Castle is much more an adventure and puzzle game than a hidden object one, as hidden object scenes are fairly few and far between. When you do interact with them, they’re the expected junkpiles, but your tasks may vary from simply finding items on a list (while interacting with drawers, cloths, etc. that hide items) to finding a particular item in bulk (gears, switches, etc.).
Outside of these scenes you’ll pick up dozens of key items and puzzle pieces that can be used elsewhere, with the hint mechanic doing a decent job of pointing you in the right direction. There are some particularly vague “hints,” giving you an obvious answer but lacking in details for actually fulfilling your task, but this has been the norm for the series from my experience. Furthermore, the map system allows for fast-travel, which eliminates the ample backtracking that would have been present otherwise. I would have personally liked a map marker that would indicate which scenes still contained a remaining task, but this isn’t a deal-breaker.
As puzzles and mini-games have been a major focus in the entire Awakening series, it’s nice to see that the puzzle variety from the Goblin Kingdom hasn’t been lost. There are the expected puzzle types, like tile sliding or jigsaw games, but there are also quite a few that have you interpreting the fictional language presented in the game, performing light math, putting symbols in their correct order and so on. These puzzles, for the most part, are fairly simple to complete, but some (especially those that deal with the aforementioned make-believe language) could do with better instructions.
Making your way through the game’s four main chapters could easily take you four or five hours, and your return to nature is a beautiful experience throughout it all. There’s an odd lack of voice acting in some character interactions, while others are fully voiced or narrated. This lack of some voice acting is unfortunate, as the quality therein continues to be top notch, and other than a few slight click response issues and slow puzzle loading times, the game performs well technically.
Ultimately, Awakening: The Skyward Castle is entertaining for more reasons than just its beautiful graphics, soothing soundtrack and varied puzzles. This installment feels like a culmination of so much time and effort dedicated to the series, as we’re finally able to meet humans and learn more about Sophia’s actual history. If you’re a fan of the original Awakening games, there’s no reason to not continue on in Sophia’s journey now – but a newcomer to the series really should begin at the start to avoid any confusion.