The Way, a Puzzle-Platformer developed by Puzzling Dream who are seemingly starting their career with this first game. Looking rather similar to Another World/Out of This World, The Way follows an old school style, with pixel art and a focus on story found more within point and click adventure games. Traveling through the world you will acquire new abilities, replacing old ones with newer ones and even gaining a large pet to help you survive the harsh world.
The game starts off with a short cutscene and drag down to the protagonist of the story, a man who lost his wife some time ago who is at her grave. Digging her back up, we will take her back home, place here within a stasis-like pod and plan to infiltrate our old work place. Upon arriving we find out that the protagonist and his Wife were a part of a space exploration team and he plans to return to the world he was investigating, with the idea that eternal life can be found there.
Travelling from earth we land on the other world, meeting both its aggressive wild life and the natives who live among its harsh environments. Gaining knowledge of the land itself and the power that lies within it, spending quite some time here as the protagonist deciphers the texts to uncover the truth.
The game can last upwards of 6 hours depending on how well you can solve the puzzles scattered around, on top of the difficult platforming segments that plague your paths. There are some collectables to find in the game, but there isn’t a vast quantity of them, telling more of the story than anything else. The secrets aren’t too hidden either so they do not add much to the overall playtime.
Like any 2D platformer there isn’t a lot to the game mechanics, A and D move the character left or right with Shift being used for sprinting and Spacebar for jumping. W is used to go upstairs or enter doors with S being used to descend stairs or crouch. You will swap abilities as you progress through the game but those are mostly confined to the mouse, with left click being used for firing or activating the ability and right click to cycle through them.
The Way is at its heart a puzzle game, with most of your playtime being devoted to exploring the separated rooms of traps and puzzles to solve and overcome. Some puzzles can contain up to 6 parts to them, either rearranging blocks to correlate to 6 different pictures or spreading light to the correct points. After each puzzle segment there is a checkpoint, as some puzzle areas do contain death pits or enemies along the way.
There isn’t much focus on any sort of inventory system, you will sometimes pickup an item or two but they are merely for inputting into a certain machine and are rather straightforward to handle. The beginning segments focus more on notes being read for snippets of information, putting emphasis on backtracking to find the right answer, however this dies down quite a bit when you land on the planet.
One concern I have with the game is its checkpoint system, and how spread out these can sometimes feel. Similarly to older games like Another World or Heart of Darkness there are checkpoints after certain events or scenes, but unlike those games The Way does not have “separate boards” and is a continuous background and level. If you pass a load of jumping segments only to die to a creature at the end you will need to redo it all over again.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The music is rather fitting to the game, though this genre isn’t too focused on its soundtrack due to the player thinking more on solutions to puzzles and platforming. I wish the soundtrack had a bit more variety in it, finding the same tracks being used or being too short for the areas they were played in. Sound design is on point for the sci-fi and fantasy styles of the game and I found no quarrel with any sounds I heard.
The story is beautifully displayed to the player, with descriptions of the environment being put into words above the particular objects. We don’t need to Press E on everything we see as the character almost has an inner dialogue whenever he approaches something. It can get a bit jumbled at times when we move through research centres, but this can be seen in both lights as it shows the work the characters has put into it and how his mind must be messed up from all the alien technology.
The difficulty of the game can come into question a lot of the time, with the beginning starting off with some rather harsh conditions. You will need to go back and forth quite a lot to gain a weapon, an understanding for how the game works and how to solve the puzzles which can be very off-putting for a “introduction”. The game just continues to ramp up the difficulty from that point onward, from platforming becoming harder by spacing out the platforms further making jumps almost always fatal and filling the in-between spaces with enemies. Not too far into the world itself you will have to run through several ground plants, with a major possibility of running out of shots by the last plant and getting eaten which seemed to give me more trouble than it should of, considering how early into the game that part was.
A lot of the game tends to stick to a Trial and Error method, with some puzzles giving you no hint as to how to solve them. Sometimes resulting in the player’s death, these types of puzzles are some of the more annoying ones to deal with. Combined with the annoying jumping mechanic that sometimes feels like it doesn’t work sometimes and projectiles going through your shield ability.
Overall The Way gets an 8/10, it is beautifully crafted, both with its art style and the story it is trying to portray. Puzzles and platforming are challenging to the point of frustration but with answers that are rather in your face that it is hard to stay angry at the game. Checkpoints might send you into pits of frustrations when enemies shoot you down or you miss that last leap but finally overcoming the challenges ahead you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Fans of Another World or Heart of Darkness will definitely see the inspiration, from the level design, how the world is created and the monsters that inhabit the levels you traverse.