When Rain Games first pulled the veil back on World to the West, I was quite intrigued by it. It takes place in the same timeline as their highly popular 2D puzzle-platformer Teslagrad. However, the new release tells an entirely different story, plays like an earlier 2D Zelda game, and features four playable characters.
Many studios would usually opt for a direct sequel to such a successful game, so I was curious to see what Rain Games would do with a title presented more so as a companion piece to Telsagrad than a direct continuation of its story and mechanics. While World to the West’s gameplay isn’t as tightly constructed as Teslagrad’s, it is still a very fun Zelda-esque romp through an interesting world with enjoyable characters.
The story centers around the four main playable characters. Lumina is a Teslamancer, with powers most similar to those found in Teslagrad, who accidentally gets whisked away to another part of the world after playing around a teleporter with her siblings. Knaus is introduced next; he is an orphaned child that was convinced he was slaving away in mines on the moon by the evil Tychoon, before being kicked out and discovering the world’s surface for the first time.
Afterwards, players are introduced to Teri the assassin, who is betrayed by the aforementioned Tychoon and seeks revenge; she wields a mind bending whip that allows her to take control of the minds of the game’s enemies. Finally, players are introduced to Lord Clonington, a strongman aristocrat who prefers to pummel his enemies instead of talking to them.
World to the West’s gameplay isn’t as tightly constructed as Teslagrad’s, it is still a very fun Zelda-esque romp through a interesting world with enjoyable characters.
Eventually, these four heroes are brought together by a mysterious old woman in order to fulfill a prophecy. While the game’s plot, which is split into chapters, is nothing outstanding, as it does take a bit too long to bring the four character together, all of the main characters are well designed and memorable.
Each character’s style and personality is exuded in their dialogue, and reflect their functionality in gameplay. World to the West’s world (for lack of a better word) does feel very lived in. This, coupled with the different ways the main characters interact with the world’s inhabitants keep story situations from getting boring.
World to the West isn’t the first game to try and emulate A Link to the Past’s feeling, but it is able to put its own unique spin on it by having four different playable character, each with different abilities.
As I mentioned before, World to the West is very reminiscent of titles like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Players look at their hero from a top down perspective, and must make their way through a variety of unique areas, towns, and the occasional dungeon, solving puzzles along the way. World to the West isn’t the first game to try and emulate A Link to the Past’s chemistry, but it is able to put its own unique spin on it by having four different playable characters, each with different abilities.
Lumina the Teslamancer has the ability to blink (teleport), activate dormant electrical platforms to give her a boost in the air, and shoot balls of lightning that can hurt enemies and activate switches. Lumina is the most unique and versatile character when it comes to puzzles, so I found myself using her the most often. Her basic attack did feel a bit delayed whenever I used it, but she was never my first choice for combat — that frustration barely got in the way of my experience.
Knaus is much smaller than the other characters, meaning he can fit into some small holes scattered throughout the world. He also is able to throw dynamite, and can use his trusty shovel to dig underground, allowing him to stealthy sneak past enemies he has no chance of beating head-on. Knaus also eventually gets the ability to use ice skates, which make him move faster and let him traverse water.
Teri the assassin uses a long blue scarf to pull herself across ledges if there is something to grab onto. Early on, she also gains the ability to take control of her enemies’ mind after hitting them with her scarf. Each enemy, which usually take the form of some kind of animal has different abilities and functions, like being able to fit through small areas, explode, or create platforms that allow Teri to reach higher areas. She can also ride some of the bigger enemies like the grues, creatures with large heads and fangs that can devour the player if they are not careful.
Finally, players are introduced to Lord Clonington, who’s the most combat oriented. He can bombard his enemies with a flurry of punches and kicks, and also has a charge that allows to to bust into areas that the other characters can get to. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before when talking about Lumina, combat is one of World to the West’s weakest areas. Attacks feel delayed, and a lack of a lock on or dodging mechanic can make combat frustrating when facing multiple enemies.
He also has the ability to climb small ledges, although I sometimes had a hard time judging which walls the game wanted me to climb. Lord Clonington is World to the West’s most frustrating character, and I found myself not using him unless he was absolutely necessary for progression.
The developers were inspired by classic European adventure comics when designing World to the West, so there is a well-executed pulpy and cartoony nature to all of the environments and the characters in the game. Each of the game’s areas also has a variety of puzzles that require certain characters to solve.
Not every puzzle can be solved on the first pass, which encourages players to return to previous areas with new characters in order to find hidden collectibles. Players also need a certain number of these hidden collectibles to enter the final area, which encourages exploration with different characters.
The puzzles can be a bit on the simple side, but they do make you think and take advantage of each character’s powers in unique ways. A few puzzles even require two character’s power to complete; unfortunately, switching characters isn’t as easy as one would think.
Throughout the game’s world, players will come across a variety of totems with all four of the playable characters’ faces on it. These serve as both checkpoints and fast travel points, but they are also the only place where one can switch characters. If you switch from one character to another, you will go to whatever totem the character you are switching to used last.
This can be frustrating as characters can sometimes be located at totems that are quite a ways away from each other, and must retread the steps player just took as another character to catch up to the other controllable heroes. Even with the different environmental puzzles tailored to each character, making my way through the same area multiple times to get each character to the same totem quickly became boring and started to feel like padding.
It would have been much wiser just to let the players switch between characters on the fly, or at least be able to teleport them to another character’s totem, as it would not have interrupted World to the West’s pacing.
World to the West
I also ran into some glitches while playing on PS4. I got stuck in the walls while mind controlling enemies quite a few times, and even once was able to phase my way into a giant object due to a lack of collision.
Luckily, even during these frustrating moments, the game’s stellar soundtrack soothed me. I remember almost every song in the game, as it did a great job in setting the tone and atmosphere of whatever area it was playing in.
World to the West is a solid Link to the Past inspired experience that fans of that style of game will enjoy, and it was extremely interesting to see the world of Teslagrad fleshed out more through these four new characters. It is just unfortunate that the totem mechanic, which sounds cool on paper, ends up feeling like unnecessary padding that can make the game more frustrating than fun.