One of the things I love most about my Switch is that it’s giving me the opportunity to discover and enjoy a whole swathe of darling little indie titles that I’ve missed over the years. Hot on the heels of porting their breakout 2D platformer Teslagrad at the end of last year, Rain Games have now brought the vastly different follow-up World to the West along for the ride as well. Inspired by old-school adventure cartoons and European pulp comics (think Tin-Tin), WTTW combines action, exploration, puzzle solving and a cast of wacky characters to prove that teamwork really does make the dream work.
The story of WTTW is fairly simple; four unlikely heroes are brought together by fate to put a stop to an evil aristocrat’s nefarious plan for world domination. It begins by introducing you to each of the four playable characters and their back-stories, before weaving their narrative arcs together in Tarantino-esque chapters. You’ll play much of the game as varying combinations of the adventurers, using their unique abilities to support each other in solving all sorts of puzzles and defeating a multitude of different enemies.
Tesla Tower? More like Tetanus Tower!
The first cab off the rank is Lumina, a young Teslamancer who finds herself in a foreign land after accidentally activating an old teleporter. Thankfully she can wield her Teslastaff (I’m seeing a theme here) to defend herself and ‘blink’ short distances to escape danger. Next up is Knaus, an orphan boy who is forced to work manual labour in dangerous and thoroughly deadly caverns. Once he discovers that his heartless boss is lying about their circumstances, he is cast out with nought but a shovel to fight off the bloodthirsty creatures roaming in the dark. His small stature and aforementioned shovel allow him to tunnel underground to avoid enemies and fit through small gaps in walls. Perhaps the most dashing of our champions is the mind-bending mercenary, Miss Teri. Her fashionable blue scarf allows her to zip across large gaps and after finding a hypnotist’s mask; she is able to take control of the wildlife in the world, each with their own unique abilities. Last but definitely not least is the aristocratic strongman, Lord Clonington. His brute strength gives him the power to smash through locked doors, smash massive boulders and of course, smash bad guys. Oh, and for some reason, he is the only character able to climb up ledges?
Any game that has a ‘flex’ button is alright by me
World to the West is a very basic but surprisingly robust 3D action adventure, with gameplay similar to that of early Legend of Zelda titles or more recently, Oceanhorn. After being dropped into the rather large overworld, you’re only given very ambiguous advice on how to proceed and then left to your own devices, which can be quite refreshing after playing games where you’re almost spoon-fed your objective. As you gradually uncover more of the map, you’ll find totem poles scattered throughout the land serving as save points, character swap areas and mercifully, fast travel nodes. Although there is some combat present, the bulk of the game will be spent exploring and finding solutions to puzzles or platforming challenges. Where this game really shines is the ways in which each adventurer can use their abilities to conquer problems, which often have more than one resolution, to cater for your preferred play-style. Aside from a few abstract conundrums, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything too taxing in WTTW and depending on how much of the beautiful cartoony world you want to explore, it will give you around 10-15 hours of gameplay.
As impressed as I was with World to the West, there are a few minor issues that cropped up during my time with it, which just soured the experience slightly. The chief issue would have to be that towards the end of the game, it can become quite repetitive. Although activating a totem pole creates a fast travel point, it only does so for the character that touches it, meaning that in order to get all four adventurers through, you have to traverse the same spaces four times. Further to that, I love being able to switch heroes to suit the situation but this can only be done at a totem pole. This can completely break the flow of gameplay since I have to backtrack in order to get whoever I need to progress. It would have been great to see a switching system that allowed you to change who you played as on the fly, but I get the feeling that this would significantly shorten the amount of time it would take to complete the game. Also, while I appreciate the bare bones approach to guiding the player, a door that only opens once you’ve nabbed a hefty amount of certain collectables scattered throughout the world blocks a late stage area of the game. These MacGuffins are not indicated on the map in any way (even the ones you’ve found previously but been unable to reach at that point), which needlessly pads out the final acts of the narrative as you wander around trying to remember where you saw them.
Give ’em the ol’ razzle-dazzle
I’m actually really glad that I waited to play World to the West on my Nintendo Switch. The easy to play nature and pulp style plot of the game combined with the portability of the console means that I can simply pick it up and play whenever the fancy takes me. Although definitely flawed, WTTW can stand tall amongst its peers as a simple yet enjoyable adventure puzzler. I highly recommend picking it up for a bit of light gaming on the way to work or introducing younger players to the genre.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code supplied by publisher