World to the West is one of those smaller games that brings me a lot of joy. Not only is it a great continuation of Rain Games’ rising talent at making entertaining and distinct experiences with a lot of charm, but it is also a sequel to their last outing, Teslagrad. A lot of the quirks and atmosphere of that past experience are still present, but with a jump from 2D to 3D and a lot of newfound polish and shine to everything under the hood. All of this results in a simple yet endearingly sincere adventure that had my attention.
The game starts in the region of Teslagrad following Lumina, a young and curious teslamancer investigating a tower full of curious artifacts obtained by her father. Unfortunately, one of those mysterious devices is a teleporter that zaps the poor girl to an entire continent far away. While attempting to find a way back home she crosses the paths of three other characters: Teri, a mesmerist for hire who can control animals, Knaus, a young boy who escaped an abusive mining operation with just a pickaxe and a shovel to his name, and Sir Clonington, a boisterous strongman noble that is too eager to punch something to death then have it mounted on his wall. Eventually, their misadventures uncover a plot by an evil business man to obtain an ancient machine of unspeakable destruction, and it’s up to this motley crew to save the day.
The first thing that still amazes me about World to the West is how it feels distinct and vibrant. From its simple yet elegant character and creature designs to its relaxing and enjoyable music to how the tone mixes swashbuckling action, concise world-building and an unbridled early 20th-century mentality of adventure and exploration. If you can imagine a combination of Herge’s Adventures of Tintin comic strips with some electro-punk you will have a basic idea of what this game aims to be.
This reverence for the old is also felt in the gameplay. It’s far too easy to compare the experience to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda games, and admittedly both share the comparisons about exploring an overworld, finding keys and solving puzzles, but that is just on the surface. On the whole, the game feels like a refinement of a bunch of mid-tier adventure games from the 1990s, a remix of different ideas and concepts experimenting to find a new winning formula for fun.
There’s an air of open-ended exploration in the world where certain areas can only be accessed by clever negotiation of the terrain. There’s some character management in play where you switch control between the four lead characters, walking them to a puzzle one of the others can’t solve. Even the individual characters have shades of various game elements baked right into their being. Knaus has the lowest health out of the party but is able to burrow under the ground to sneak past enemies, Sir Clonington’s has the most health along with the ability to punch and piledrive his foes, containing the essence of a melee brawler, Teri’s ability to control animals leads to tricky platforming with cute fox animals and cautious environmental puzzles involving seed shooting plant monsters and explosive canyon dwelling wombats, and Lumina’s teslamancer abilities juggles physics puzzles, sliding tile brain teasers and some key hunting.
But what really helps World to the West stand out from its predecessors is the level of polish that Rain Games has brought to the table. Each character has each and every one of their abilities neatly showcased, the puzzles and challenges have clear and distinct solutions to them, and it never stops being a joy to mix and match the four heroes to whatever situation best calls to them.
There is also a considerable amount of personality in this game compared to Teslagrad since it actually has dialogue between the major characters. I was worried about this at first given how the prior game was stellar at environmental storytelling and I was afraid that the dialogue would fall into the pitfalls of throwaway dialogue or mindless chatter. But things ultimately work out with each crucial box of text being a great continuation of character, making even certain stock types like Knaus’ innocence or Clonington’s brashness feel genuine.
As an addendum I also have to applaud the studio for allowing you to re-map the controls in the options menu. The standard control scheme is fine and gets the job done, but it’s always good to know there are options to help accommodate alternative playstyles.
There are a few problems but they’re mostly minor nitpicks. Fast-travel options in the game are connected to totem poles found throughout the world which you can jump between once discovered. However, only the character that activated the poles can go between them, meaning if you want to get another character to a specific area you’ll have to walk them to it. This lead to situations where I had to navigate an area north of four times just to get the whole gang together to solve some puzzles. When this happens it slows pacing down for a few crucial minutes. Also, there are a few odd spikes in boss battle difficulty that can be a bit jarring.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed World to the West. It was a lovable eight hour distraction full of amiable heroes, interesting puzzles and an atmosphere that instills so much excitement and intrigue. If this game is a sign of what Rain Games is capable of in the future, I will be more than happy to see more of this endearing world that they have created.