It was hard to find something I didn’t like about World to the West by developer Rain Games. Though it’s a sequel to Teslagrad, this game has a standalone storyline and takes the puzzle-solving structure of its predecessor out of the 2D world and into an even fuller 3D one.
Traveling through different terrains – from caves to jungles to ancient ruins – you unlock different areas with different characters and travel the map in a team of four, all of whom have different abilities: Lumina (who can teleport), Knaus (who can dig into the ground and crawl around unseen), Miss Teri (who can control creatures with her mind), and Lord Clonington (who is pretty much just strong). It’s the option to switch between these different characters that makes the puzzles so engaging. Your four characters can be spread out anywhere across the map, and you can switch between them at any time. So if you get stuck on a puzzle in one location, you can switch to another character and see if their skillset might solve the problem.
The mysterious interweaving of stories is as compelling as the characters. You begin the game as Lumina, but only play for a couple of minutes before she mysteriously falls down a hole, and you don’t see her again for several more chapters. The characters’ stories are woven together in interesting and unexpected ways, and the characters themselves are diverse and charming.
But most of all, the game is just pretty. Some of that has to do with the interesting places you go (the graphics are pretty good, nothing special), but a lot comes from the music, which changes and sets the mood depending on the location. The creatures and terrains you encounter are different, whimsical, and strange. The colors are bright. The characters are expressive. And the map unfolds around you in unexpected ways as you unlock new characters and locations.
All that good stuff aside, I would have appreciated just a little more handholding when it came to learning the character abilities. At times I didn’t even know I had certain abilities until I did some button-mashing, and there could be a bit of a learning curve once I found them. Usually that wasn’t an issue (you just play around until you figure it out), but with some of the abilities, like the Hypnotist’s Mask, it can take a bit of time to figure out all the quirks. A couple more helpful prompts would have been nice.
Obviously I’m reaching to find flaws – World to the West is quirky, entertaining, and surprisingly intricate. The puzzles are challenging without becoming frustrating and the world is immersive and believable. It definitely deserves a 9.
World to the West will be released on May 5, 2017 for PC (Steam, Humble Store and GoG), PS4, Xbox One and Wii U.