Playing Rain Games’ World to the West feels like listening to a familiar song, sung with a new voice. Or rather four new voices, as each of the game’s four playable characters adds their own personality into the mix. While you can still hear the old familiar tune underneath it all, it is well worth listening to.
Or, to put it another way, World to the West may be riffing off of the Zelda games and similar top-down action adventures, and yet it doesn’t feel derivative at all. If anything, it adds to the genre by splitting up different gameplay mechanics, making each of its four unlikely heroes play noticeably different. Oh, and the game’s light-hearted cartoony style will probably charm your fake mustache off, so there’s that.
Sharing the same universe with Rain Games’ previous title, Teslagrad, World to the West follows four different characters whose fates appear to be intertwined. Teslamancer Lumina can control electricity and zip around fast as lightning. Knaus the orphan escapes a weird underground labor camp by digging lots of holes with his trusty shovel. Miss Teri can mind-control other creatures and bridge gaps with her shawl. And finally, the wonderfully pompous pugilist Lord Clonington likes to solve problems with his head… as in “head-first into the next wall.”
Each one of these four protagonists plays differently, and thus you get to traverse the world in various ways. Most of the time, this doesn’t necessarily involve combat. Considering that clobbering the local fauna generally yields very little rewards, it is best to avoid the game’s grisly grues, bloodthirsty murder-squirrels, and mad mandrills altogether. Instead, it allows you to do hide, avoid, or even ride these monsters.
In fact, if World to the West has one weakness, it is the combat. A few confrontations cannot be avoided, and when the game pits you against multiple foes, your squishy characters die a little too often for my taste. Granted, this is kind of the point, but some of the surprisingly tough boss fights still made me want to pull my hair out. It’s not that they are too hard, but that the controls could be a tad more responsive and some fights just don’t allow for too many mistakes.
The environmental puzzles are a lot more fun and some of them are delightfully inventive. They might not be too hard to figure out, but often require making use of each character’s abilities in interesting ways. Slowly uncovering the whole world map and unraveling its mysteries feels truly satisfying.
You can switch characters at the totem poles which serve as checkpoints, but each individual character has to make their way to the totem pole to unlock it. This sounds like unnecessary repetition, but since everyone has to take a different path, this doesn’t feel aggravating at all, even if it affects the pacing somewhat. Still, with each new unlocked ability, there are new ways to get around, sometimes creating new paths for other characters.
World to the West is a quirky, masterfully designed action adventure with a lot of heart and a unique voice. It manages to enrich that old familiar tune with a few new melodic twists and turns, and even if it doesn’t quite manage to be a full-blown symphony, it is utterly charming and definitely worth your time.
You can purchase World to the West (for Windows/Mac/Linux) from GOG, Steam, and the Humble Store for $19.99. The PS4 and Xbox One versions will set you back $24.99, with a Wii U version to be released soon. If you’re a fan of physical releases, the developers have got you covered as well. For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developer Rain Games on Facebook or Twitter.