Port jobs are nothing new, innovating the gaming world since its earliest days. Home consoles exist thanks to ports of cabinet games, allowing player to bring home titles once exclusive to the arcades. Today, ports are done for multiple purposes, such as preserving innovative titles across console generations, or to seek new audiences on new platforms. The Way Remastered tries to do the latter on Nintendo Switch.
Initially released on the PC back in 2016, the developers Puzzling Dream set out to create an old-school action adventure game. Immediately, the art design of The Way Remastered stands out. Lo-fi graphics and blocked, undefined pixel figures make up the bulk of the visual experience but they stand among detailed and richly crafted backdrops that create a unique and distinct setting. It’s a mix of aesthetics that could only be properly crafted in modern times, and sets a strong tone from the start.
The Way Remastered starts off in a vague yet powerful way. A man stands alone in a graveyard, a dark backdrop surrounding him as he stares at a grave. Rain falls, and the sound of the drops blend with the somber music to set the mood. From here, the game doesn’t introduce a world of tutorials but instead drops you straight into the story while teaching basics along the way. It’s a bold move to start in this way, but it pays off in a big time.
As the game goes on, the story starts settling in. The setting has a sci-fi feel that branches from a modern base quickly into more alien locales. The key themes the plot focuses on are loss and the quest for hope. They are easily read from the visual storytelling, but are accented further when the protagonist narrates his thoughts. All in all, the story of The Way Remastered is told well through different elements to convey it.
After a very linear opening that kick-starts the story, things shift and start opening up more. The game turns out to be a puzzle action adventure where you’re left using environmental clues and contextual logic to find solutions to complete goals. Despite being nebulous, there's never a sense of things coming across as too confusing. Exploration is the key to progression, and the answers are found off the twisting paths, scattered around the area. The puzzles are quite well done, with organic trials and solutions. From traversing the map to unique areas, everything feels like it exists on a coherent plane of thought. Clues leading to progress are all blended into the environment, giving enough information but never signposting.
The pacing is the biggest strength of The Way Remastered. Movement feels slow, your character having a sense of weight that makes him somewhat sluggish. However, this works fantastically with the environments, keeping things moving in a slow, precise motion. Despite these limits on acceleration, the game isn’t afraid to test your reflexes. Surprises around every corner seek to take you out, creating a fair yet challenging experience. This is offset by a quick respawn to put you back at the most recent checkpoint. They appear often, giving you immediately another crack at the obstacles.
However, despite all these praises, I found serious flaws with the game. The first big problem were bugs and glitches. The second boss fight featured a glitch that if you didn’t beat him within a time limit of 2:30 minutes, your entire save data gets corrupted and deleted. This has been later fixed, but it meant that I needed to restart the game and get back to the same point. After that, I encountered another bug, in which I solved a puzzle, but the game didn’t activate the resolution to it and wouldn’t allow me to move on – resulting in another restart.
These unfortunate restarts led to another issue, a lack of replay value. The success of the game lies in its puzzle solving and exploration. While the story is engaging, it takes a back seat to the gameplay which doesn’t feel as rewarding on the second or third time through. I wanted to put the game down often after the first restart, and only kept playing after the second because there was enough potential for me to keep going.
Until I found the biggest flaw in the game, that is, namely the controls. Because The Way Remastered was originally a PC game, the movement system was built around keyboard and mouse. Moving precisely becomes difficult with the thumbstick. While the directional buttons offered more control, it slowed down the playability. A mixture of these two worked well enough, but still there were issues with the controls at times.
Despite the frame of its minimal movement, the game demands accuracy when directing different powers. From a laser pistol to unique abilities such as telepathy, you aim and utilize them through the thumbstick rather than the mouse the game was built around. Early on, the needed accuracy caused delays, but it wasn’t a deal breaker – until my third playthrough in the reflection temple. Asking me to direct a fine beam with this unstable control scheme, I was unable to complete a single puzzle. Where my first two runs failed because of bugs, this last one ended due to my inability to complete anything further.
It was a frustrating way to end my time with The Way Remastered, because it had been so good up to that point. The story was interesting with captivating settings and gorgeous areas to explore. The game also featured a great audio design, with some voice acting accenting the strong background music. The puzzles were difficult but fair, and the sense of accomplishment created true highs. But between glitches and faulty control schemes, I found the game impossible to complete, and that makes it hard to recommend. Had I been able to finish the experience, The Way Remastered could have scored as high as 4.5 stars. I won't discourage you from giving it a shot but know that's it not a game I happily had to punish for its faults.