What happens when a teleportation-mishap leaves four heroes lost in a strange world, each packing their own unique special powers? Teamwork, that’s what.
From the makers of cool 2D puzzle-'em-up Teslagrad, Rain Games brings a new title to the same universe in the shape of World to the West. The big change this time around is that this is a Zelda-esque top-down adventure-puzzler-brawler rather than 2D platformer.
So what’s the deal here, then? You start off as Lumina – a ‘Teslamancer’ who can teleport short distances in order to cross gaps and wield electricity as a weapon. The intro levels guide you straight into a series of strange places that serve as introductions to each of the characters. In addition to Lumina, there's Teri who has mind powers and can possess creatures; Knaus, who's a shovel-equipped digger who can travel underground; and Lord Clonington, who's fond of fisticuffs and is good at climbing and breaking barriers.
It actually takes a decent amount of time before the team are brought together, at which point the game changes and the adventure kicks into gear, bringing some fun, team based, brain challenging twists and turns as you make your way through the World to the West. We found it a bit of a slog to get to that point, but once you have the full compliment of heroes under your control, half the fun is working out whose skills you’ll need to crack the various puzzles and move forward.
There's a major bad guy who seems to be based in part on President Trump, giving World to the West a fun political angle. The plot isn’t very deep, but it somewhat makes up for being shallow with a good amount of humour. As you progress, the heroes get to use new abilities and upgrades though finding hidden goodies, so it’s worth trekking around the map in order to find all that you can. The combat is good too, and defeating a group of enemies will often give you access to a new location. What's more, there's a nice range of different beasties to battle.
The controls are easy to pick up and fairly intuitive, although the platforming does require quite precise movements at times so that you don't fall off a ledge and are forced to retrace your steps. Speaking of which, because the heroes move independently rather than as a group, you’ll often have to try and navigate areas multiple times using different character powers in order to access some locations which are ‘locked’. However, the path of progression isn't always immediately clear, and will sometimes require trial and error as well as a decent amount of guesswork - especially when controlling the native animals who offer up a host of possible uses.
Meanwhile, the graphics of World to the West are similar to those of Teslagrad – just in 3D. Think cartoony and simple rather than cutting edge; they serve the game well, but won’t win any awards or offer much by way of iconic character designs.
Sadly, some rough edges do hold things back a little. Expect to see the occasional annoying collision bug which may force you to play through the same level trying not to trigger it again. Thankfully, there are multiple save points which can be used to fast travel, but only by the character that discovered them. Others in the group will also need to make the journey to the same point in order to fast travel later, which feels a bit convoluted.
The World to the West is a fun brain-teasing challenge which is worth a look for those who like to mix up their puzzling with some combat and exploration. It's no Zelda-beater, but for those seeking a PS4 alternative, you need only go West.