Although considered to be one of the most famous and long-lasting works of literature, "Journey to the West" may best be known to mainstream American audiences as inspiration for Akira Toriyama’s immensely popular Dragon Ball series, as well as Ninja Theory’s 2010 action game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The work, attributed to 16th century author Wu Cheng’en, serves as the backdrop for Axion Logic’s West Legends. In the game, you’ll lead a party of four on a westward journey while fighting all sorts of monsters and meeting new characters along the way. With simple drag-based mechanics, West Legends is easy enough to play but lacks genuine excitement and staying power.
West Legends is comprised of a series of levels spread across four different worlds based on places from its literary source material. The majority of stages involve battling waves of enemies, while others offer hidden items and endurance challenges. To advance to other game worlds, you’ll travel across a series of battles stages in order to fight mid- and end-level bosses. Combat occurs in real time and involves tapping on a character and dragging your finger towards an enemy or location on the battlefield. Once a target has been selected, party members will wail on them until they die and wait until given their next command unless they are attacked. With combat nearly playing itself, the player is placed in charge of overseeing the party’s health and activating special attacks. If a character is killed, they cannot be revived and should the entire party suffer a wipe, you’ll have to start the round again.
After successfully completing a battle stage, experience points, souls (currency) and loot are awarded. Managing the party’s inventory, equipping gear, selling or purchasing items and assigning special attacks is done from the map screen. New party members are acquired by defeating them in battle and can be swapped in and out in between combat phases. Battle stages can be replayed at any time, allowing for RPG-style grinding for higher character levels.
West Legends’ visuals are hit and miss. Hand drawn character sprites are colorful, detailed and show off a lot of character. Unfortunately, the assets tend to get in the way of the action. If clumped together, targeting individual characters can be a bit of a mess. They also have a tendency to block the special attack button at the top right corner of the screen if positioned there. There’s a large bestiary of enemies that varies between worlds although the game cheats a bit by changing the shade of their skin color. At the other end of the spectrum, battle stage environments are incredibly minimal, bland and frequently reused. Odd considering the descriptions for each location sound fairly magical and majestic with the reality is anything but.
West Legends is a game that’s “just fine.” It's neither terrible nor extraordinary. The game design is solid and lends itself to the iPad yet the whole thing gets rather tedious. West Legends is better suited to short bursts of play, to give you something to do while sitting on the bus, watching tv or waiting room. Playing for long stretches is doable but not recommended.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.