Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Release Date: 18/01/2018
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Do you remember the game Teslagrad? You know, the delightful little 2D puzzle-adventure from Rain Games that has launched on seemingly every platform?
Well, whilst the title might not necessarily suggest it, World to the West is the sequel to the popular game. It’s not just the name that is completely different, but how the game actually plays has totally changed too – this isn’t a 2D side-scroller, but rather a top down adventure akin to some of the older Legend of Zelda games. Oh, and you’ll play as four different characters that you swap between too, so fans of games like The Lost Vikings will certainly enjoy some of the puzzle structures on offer.
Still, at its heart World to the West is a follow up to Teslagrad, even if it takes place a good while after the events of the original game. Rather than having just one tale to follow though, you instead take on the role of four unique characters that have their own little stories that unfold. These characters each have their own different motivations to begin with, but eventually everything begins to intertwine and you’ll start seeing them become more involved with each other as they get into something much bigger.
Because there are four different stories taking place at the same time, you’ll often see it unfold in bits and pieces. Unfortunately though, it was often a little difficult to keep track of what was going on. It’s not that the plot is overly convoluted in any way, but rather that the pacing and delivery felt a little off and fragmented. Sometimes, things didn’t seem to tie up that well too, whilst going from one event to another with different sets of characters could break the pace a little.
It’s not a huge problem though, because for the most part everything is well-written and entertaining enough. You’ll certainly feel involved in the tale and each character has enough personality for you to feel invested in them – it can just be a little all over the place at times.
The gameplay itself is a lot better structured. World to the West is a charming little puzzle-adventure that sees you working across different environments in a vibrant world as you look to solve some tricky enigmas and take down a myriad of different foes. There’s an emphasis on discovery too, with the player often guided along as to where they need to go but tasked with discovering the route themselves (along with any other secrets that may be hidden). It doesn’t hold your hand too much at all, which actually works; the mechanics of the game themselves are fairly simple, so you’ll never find yourself getting stuck in a frustrating rut.
One of the game’s unique hooks is the character switching – rather than just playing as the one protagonist, you’ll typically have two at a time and will have to constantly switch between them to utilise their different skills to make your way through each chapter. There are four characters in total, so each chapter of the game will always have something different to do. It felt a lot like the classic game The Lost Vikings, which just so happens to be a childhood favourite of mine – it can only be a good thing, right?
Each character’s skills are completely different from one another; Lumina can warp-dash and use magnetic panels for example, whilst Miss Teri can possess any critters you find on your journey. On the other hand, Lord Clonington is bulky and can use his brute strength to get through tricky situations, whilst Knaus is small enough to get to hard to reach areas. Of course, their skillsets are a lot more varied than that and you’ll have to use them in a wide range of different ways, but I’ll leave that for the player to discover in-game. Just know that you won’t see the end of World to the West if you don’t learn how to take advantage of each character’s unique (and often peculiar) skills…
The blend of fun combat and enjoyable puzzles with the varied skillsets of each character come together nicely to make World to the West a neat little game to play. Sometimes you’ll stroll through puzzles with minimal fuss, whilst other times you’ll need to do some serious thinking – there’s certainly a nice little balance as far as the challenge goes. The same goes for combat, which despite being very simple always manages to feel fun. It’s just a good time.
One area in which World to the West really shines is with its visual style, with the game’s world full to the brim with colour and imagination. The character design of both the protagonists and the enemies is absolutely on point too, with each one feeling distinctly unique but fitting in perfectly with the charming aesthetic of the game. Whilst I’ll admit that you’ll probably see better visuals elsewhere on a technical basis, there’s just a real ‘feel good’ vibe to the game’s art design.
Oh, and it looks and runs great on the Nintendo Switch too, which is always a good thing. Some ports to the system have been a bit of a mixed-bag, so the fact that it manages to feel great to play both in the docked and undocked modes is pleasing.
There were a few frustrating bits in World to the West though, the most significant of which being the character-switching system. You can only switch characters when you’re at specific checkpoints, which in theory is fine; other games have done similar things in the past and it has worked well. However, if you switch a character, they’ll be tied to that specific checkpoint, so if you need a different character’s skills to solve a puzzle you’ll have to bring them all the way back from where you used them last. It just feels like a bit of a waste of the player’s time and becomes all the more frustrating the further you progress through the game.
If you’re looking for a vibrant puzzle-adventure that’ll keep you hooked in from start to end, it’s certainly worth giving World to the West a try. It does have some flaws, but the charming world and enjoyable puzzle-solving offer more than enough fun to keep you entertained during its fairly lengthy tale. Just get ready to do a little bit of backtracking…