Take a good handful of Ori And The Blind Forest, mix in a sprinkle of Hollow Knight, stir gently and you may just be rewarded with the treat that is Ailuri, a hand-drawn adventure full of platforming, deadly monsters and absolute cuteness overload. Our little red panda friend drew a healthy crowd during the recent PAX Australia event, and it’s no wonder why.
The demo provides just a brief glimpse of the opening act, in which our furry hero must evade monsters and traps, but it’s a healthy chunk of what to expect from the puzzle-platformer. Ailuri has a number of different abilities afforded to them, both close combat and ranged attacks. Though still in active development, pulling off each move feels right. There’s also the equivalent of a grappling hook that can attach to certain points to reach higher places. Getting around feels smooth, though I did notice the grapple didn’t always react when I needed it, but ultimately that didn’t matter as I explored freely.
The demo also afforded the chance to try co-op, in which a second player controls a spirit equivalent to the red panda with the same abilities, and working together to get a small rock from one side of the map to the other was a riot. You can absolutely complete the entire story solo if you choose, but I can see co-op being a wise way to help younger audiences reach tougher platforms. The previously released gameplay trailer shows glimpses of some of Ailuri’s other scenarios, like being chased by giant robots, bouncing across purple landscapes and using the environment to your advantage. By the looks of things there will be plenty of level variety come the full release.
Ailuri’s selling point, however, is its visual presentation. Wonderfully hand-drawn characters come to life just as the cartoons of old, vibrant tuffs of red fur standing out from green foliage and dark black enemies. Cutscenes tell a silent story of a pup separated from its parents, guided back by what appears to be spirits of the forest. In-game icons are similarly drawn into the environment in white, calling out where you can wall climb, what button to press and so on. It’s wonderful to see in motion, especially behind the controller, the demo leaving me with plenty to like and even more to look forward to.
We’ve talked about Ailuri a few times in the past, most notably in our Made in Australia article following a successful Kickstarter campaign, but to see it within a social environment, full of eager eyes and curious minds, was a special moment. If you missed it, you can check out the demo now during the Steam Next Fest and or see it in person in Sydney where Ailuri will be in full force during SXSW Sydney October 18–20.