Top-down adventure games are almost always compared to The Legend of Zelda. However, World to the West forges its own identity as you control four unlikely heroes in a beautiful and familiar world.
Over the years, there have been many video games based on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. We've seen it adapted as a third-person adventure in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, a turn-based strategy game in Saiyuki: Journey West, and even a Capcom arcade game in SonSon. Although not advertised as such, I'm fairly sure that Rain Games were inspired by this novel as well when they created World to the West. The cast of four characters who work together to achieve their own respective goals each share traits with the heroes of the novel although World to the West is interestingly set in the same universe as Teslagrad which makes it a great tie-in to Rain Games' previous project. Early on, you even see a portrait of Teslagrad's final boss resting in the corner of a room. It's intriguing stuff indeed and if you're familiar with these works, World to the West can be an even more fulfilling journey.
World to the West's cast is its strongest feature. Throughout the campaign, you'll find yourself playing as a Teslamancer named Lumina, a mind-manipulator known as Miss Teri, a muscular aristocrat called Lord Clonington, and a pint-sized orphan named Knaus. Each of these characters has their own array of abilities that you can use to traverse the lands, uncover secrets, solve puzzles, and battle enemy forces. Lumina can warp and shoot electricity, Miss Teri can control enemies, Lord Clonington can break down barriers, and Knaus can fit through narrow passageways, dig tunnels, plant dynamite, and skate over most surfaces. It's quite funny that Knaus is the most capable seeing as he's such a little fellow. Anyway, certain chapters have you play as either one or two characters but the final chapter allows you to swap between any of the four. It's such an enjoyable dynamic that makes World to the West one varied and satisfying adventure.
The humour in World to the West is fantastic and will keep you smiling throughout. From seeing cute miners being punished with just their heads poking out of the ground to reading Lord Clonington's foolhardy statements; you're bound to fall in love with this mostly upbeat and often goofy world. The colourful environments and cheerful animations amplify the lighthearted atmosphere although there isn't much visual variety. You'll mostly find yourself traversing plains and underground caves. There isn't much diversity in these areas and the deserts, grasslands, forests, and towns all blend together to form a mostly unmemorable land. On the plus side, the music is amazing with a selection of folksy melodies and frantic orchestral pieces that always seem to fit the atmosphere perfectly.
Considering the story constantly forces you to change up who you're playing as, I was impressed by how well-paced the campaign is. You're regularly introduced to new abilities and gameplay mechanics which keeps the adventure moving along. Once you reach the final chapter, you'll probably be inclined to traverse the entirety of the map while looking for secrets as each of the four chums. Thankfully, there are plenty of treasures to uncover in the form of health upgrades and tablets that unlock trophies / achievements. These items are scattered all around and usually involve solving puzzles or beating up a horde of enemies in order to access.
World to the West is an ultimately enjoyable game but it isn't perfect. The most frustrating part is when you wander around not knowing what to do. At one point, I was pacing around a small area for what seemed like an hour until I realised that I had to control a crab monster to dig into the ground at a particular spot then move a character to its back so it could lift me up to a higher ledge. How is anyone supposed to intuitively know to do that? These parts get maddening fast. Another substantial issue is the general lack of polish. I experienced a handful of glitches such as abruptly falling through solid ground although nothing was game-breaking. Also, one instruction screen said to push the circle button for a move so I tried about a dozen times before realising that it's actually another button. I wish things like this were ironed out more because they definitely make World to the West seem rough around the edges.
World to the West is an enjoyable overhead adventure featuring a varied cast of characters that are great fun to play as. In the end, the inevitable frustration is alleviated by its lighthearted atmosphere and gentle pacing which results in a wholly worthwhile adventure.
- + Awesome variety of characters and abilities
- + Great humour and amazing soundtrack
- + Fantastic pacing and tons of collectibles to find once the world opens up
- - Not knowing what to do can be frustrating
- - Much of the world looks too similar
- - Currently has a lot of glitches and is a bit too rough around the edges