World to the West Review

I have been playing video games over 30 years but I'm still not fed up with them. And why is that? Because once in a while, between all those mass-marketed products, there are these little gems which remind me of why I fell in love with the video games in the first place. World to the West is one of those games. It's a cleverly-crafted, old-fashioned top down action-adventure which respects you as much as you respect it.

World to the West takes place in the same universe as Teslagrad, the previous game by the Norwegian developer Rain Games. Teslagrad was a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer, World to the West takes its cue from Nintendo-style action-adventures. The game world is obvious homage to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, with overground and underworld of equal sizes. Plenty of puzzles and monsters await for the four adventurers who all are whisked to the same world, that secret place just little to the west. Apparently there was once an ancient machine capable of controlling weather. Now it's about to fall into the hands of an evil tycoon and it's up to our more or less merry foursome to stands against his evil plans.

The trick of the game is that each character has his and her own set of skills. They start with basic abilities but gain advanced skills as the adventure progresses. Lumina the teslamancer ends up in a wrong place after a teleport accident and just wants to return to home. She commands electromagnetic fields and can blast enemies and obstacles with her staff. More importantly, she can traverse by blinking or teleporting. Knaus is exiled from a child labour camp (run also by children!) and wants to rescue his fellow mates. He isn't much of a fighter but can burrow himself to the soft ground and either place or whack dynamite around. He also skates on the water.

Teri is betrayed and dethroned as the lead adventurer of the west world and seeks revenge. By mind controlling different animals she gains access to areas normally beyond her physical skills, which include sprint and overcoming gaps with her silk belt. She can also pocket critters to aid her later. Lord Clonington on his behalf wants simply to show he's the mightiest man in the known world (and probably beyond). He proves it by climbing obstacles, smashing opponents and obliterating rocks with his strong arms.

What's so special about World to the West is that it completely trusts the player who are given the tools but not told how and when to use them. The player needs to understand the range and limits of each character's abilities and implement them to best of his or her thinking to overcome the many obstacles the fantastic four encounters. That's the beauty or the biggest turnaround of the game. I for one greatly enjoyed this purist old-school approach of no tutorials or on-screen hints. It's simply hugely rewarding to unravel the secrets of the game world by all of my own. I can imagine those who are used to the games constantly patronizing them are hopelessly lost. World to the West also keeps things fresh by constantly re-inventing itself. The puzzles that may first seem familiar need suddenly reverse engineering of the characters' abilities.

The game is divided into chapters and in the first eight the narrative dictates which characters are available at any given time. The game opens up from the chapter nine onward and gives freedom to use all of the the fab four. The primary story challenges need the input of each hero, even though you might prefer one of them for scouting purposes. I liked Lumina for her swift movement and offensive abilities. I thereby demand a teslamancer to be a permanent class in all future adventure games!

There's some grinding to do in order to harvest certain items in the latter part of the game but it really isn't an issue here. The game world size is manageable and the uncovered totem poles serve as save stations and fast travel points. Besides, you can buy treasure maps to show the whereabouts of needed items. As always, it's only fun and satisfying to challenge yourself and see what skills and detours are needed to collect the hard-to-reach secrets.

World to the West is presented in stylized and clearly-defined visuals which goes a long way in perceiving the environmental puzzles. The same simple approach extends to the gameplay. Everything is straightforward and easy to grasp. I liked the old-school vibes of World to the West, harking back all the way to the 80's. When I played these kind of games as a kid with home computers, they were called arcade adventures and presented usually in an isometric view. At the same time, elsewhere in the world kids had their Nintendo Entertainment Systems and were immersed with the likes of The Legend of the Zelda. In my eyes World to the West manages to blend the best of both the western and eastern schools of action-adventuring. The result is fun, challenging and rewarding experience which is easy to play but hard to put down.

Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.