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May 29, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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World to the West

Developer: Rain Games

Publisher: SOEDESCO

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Windows), Wii U

Review copy supplied by publisher.

 

There’s nothing worse than wasted potential. You’ve probably seen at least one film where you’ve immensely enjoyed the first two thirds, only to see everything fall apart at the end, turning a potential favourite into just another average piece of trash. Sadly, it can happen to games as well, and it especially sucks when it happens to a charming little indie game.

World to the West has a lot going for it. A spiritual successor to the 2D platformer Teslagrad, you play as four unique characters in a top-down action adventure, reminiscent of several Legend of Zelda games, including A Link to the Past. The story, inspired by European adventure comics, sees the characters come together from different lands to explore the world, fulfil a prophecy, and defeat an evil businessman. It’s nothing especially ground-breaking, but there are some funny moments, especially in the first two acts. Finishing the story will get you around seven to nine hours of total playtime.

The gameplay emphasis is very much on puzzle-solving, using each character’s abilities to navigate the map. Lumina can use lightning powers to dash across gaps and activate switches; Knaus can dig underneath soft ground, crawl through small spaces, and use dynamite; Miss Teri uses her scarf as a grappling hook and for hypnotising animals; and Lord Clonington is a brawler who can break down barriers with his strength. Although the puzzles aren’t highly difficult, they still feel rewarding to solve. The world can perhaps be best described as “semi-open”: while you are free to explore much of the world, the main paths needed to complete puzzles are heavily telegraphed, while certain sections require you to unlock new abilities. There is some combat which is fairly basic, but it can be avoided in most circumstances.

However, you don’t control all four characters at once, at least not initially, and this is pretty much where things fall apart. Throughout the world are totem poles, which act as checkpoints where you can fast travel to other parts of the map. A character can only use a totem pole that they have discovered themselves, so getting each character to a certain point means navigating an area as each character. This isn’t much of a problem in the early stages of the game, when all of the characters are split up and have their own quests to complete, but once they’ve all met and the map opens up, it becomes an exercise in tedium. See what I mean by wasted potential?

Much of the game’s charm comes from its visual design, with a distinct cartoon-like aesthetic and cute character models. While there isn’t much texture to it, perhaps hamstrung by budget limitations, it does give the atmosphere a whimsical feel; I would have no problems whatsoever with giving this game to a young child. Unfortunately, said budget limitations have also resulted in a distinct lack of polish, with a number of glitches and poor translation (Rain Games being a Norwegian studio) being present during my playthrough. The PS4 version I played also appears to have had a visual downgrade, with certain visual elements present in the PC version being missing.

I really wanted to like World to the West, but its flaws are numerous and glaring enough that what began as a fun little romp through a fantasy world slowly turned into just another average indie game. If the navigation was more streamlined and the niggling issues were sorted I would be much more comfortable recommending this game, but at the moment it’s a tough sell. And that sucks.

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