Go West, Young Travelers
World to the West is a follow up to Rain Games’ first game Teslagrad, and is even set in the same universe. These two games couldn’t be further apart, though. While Teslagrad was a Metroidvania-inspired puzzle platformer, World to the West is a top-down adventure game reminiscent of titles like The Legend of Zelda and Secret of Mana. Its unique draw lies in its four playable characters, all of whom explore the world in diverse ways.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
The game follows the characters in four distinct plotlines that come together once they share a common goal of stopping a madman tycoon. The story isn’t deep, but character-driven dialogue helps shape the party. The four members each have their own motives and special abilities. Lumina the Teslamancer (a direct link to Teslagrad) commands electricity and teleportation in an effort to make it back home. Knaus utilizes his digging abilities and compact size, seeking to rescue his fellow laboring children. Miss Teri yields mind control to possess enemies to do her bidding. And Lord Clonington simply wishes to show off his immense strength and climbing skills. The game does an admirable job of investing the player into their plights and personalities by dividing the story into chapters, each focusing on a different member.
This design also effectively helps you learn how to use individual characters. Their powers are essential to traveling around the top-down environment, which while technically 2D, is lovingly presented in a 3D comic style. Like in similar top-down adventure games, the core gameplay revolves around solving puzzles and fighting enemies. The puzzles are inventive but aren’t too complicated. You can easily tell who is best equipped to solve each. For instance, Lumina’s Teslastaff works well for hitting electrical switches, and Lord Clonington’s strength is a no-brainer against boulders. Miss Teri’s mind control ability lent itself to the cleverest puzzles, since each possessed enemy granted a unique playstyle, similarly to Super Mario Odyssey.
On the other hand, combat is clunky. The characters’ fists, staves, and long-range weapons aren’t as practical in battles. In addition, characters can’t block attacks, and some can’t even kill enemies, at least early on. Luckily, boss encounters were on the easy side. Otherwise, they could have been the most frustrating portions. For much of my playthrough, I was more inclined to avoid enemies whenever I could. And honestly, the main kick of the game was exploration.
The world is large, but rarely daunting, thanks to the detailed map and warp totems that grant fast travel. Continuing with the Zelda comparison, the map is divided into two core parts: the overworld and the underworld. Although they are distinct zones, areas above and below the ground correspond to each other, and you can easily go between them through cave openings. Much of the adventure involves figuring out how to get from one place to another using your maps and powers. It’s invigorating to make progress as you learn how to navigate this finely constructed domain.
Early on, when you are limited to a single character, obstacles that you cannot interact with often impede your progress. But later on, you can play as anyone at any time, effectively opening up the world. In theory, that should be the most exciting part in an open adventure game, but it isn’t as cleanly handled in World to the West. Your characters do not travel as a pack, and you must manually move each person to each location one at a time. In addition, each character has to individually activate a warp totem to use it. You end up retreading the same ground multiple times. It’s tedious and considerably slows the pacing, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, since each character takes a slightly separate route. It’s enjoyable to see the land in new perspectives, and I admire that the developers created a diverse world that was accessible to each party member’s playstyle. That said, I would have preferred the ability to freely switch characters at will or to choose one character and warp the others to his location. The game was surprisingly lacking in puzzles requiring everyone’s cooperation, and the ones included simply consisted of members hitting individual switches.
The main adventure took me about ten hours, though that number would be considerably higher if I had grabbed every collectible. There are 36 batteries to obtain that reveal backstory, and much like Teslagrad, you must collect a certain number to proceed, which again slowed the pacing. Other than health upgrades, the primary collectible is gold, which is almost useless. The only thing I ever spent money on was information on where to find batteries. By the end, I didn’t even care to search for gold.
The visuals are a striking mix of charming, button-eyed comic character design and pastel-like Wind Waker-esque backgrounds, both of which give the impression that the world is popping out of the screen. The game looks stylish, but I unfortunately ran into some issues, like lag and characters glitching during cutscenes. The music, while not memorable, fits the game well with its adventurous overworld tunes, ambient underworld songs, and enjoyable character themes.
World to the West features an ambitious concept, incorporating multiple unique characters into a Zelda-like top-down adventure game. However, the game unnecessarily pads the playtime, requiring you to individually move each of the four characters. Still, each party member’s completely diverse playstyle almost makes up for it, shaping up the game’s strengths of core exploration and puzzle design. It’s not a perfect journey, but fans of the genre may want to consider taking a trip westward.
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was originally written on DarkStation.