Remember the beautiful Teslagrad? Maybe not. Yet the game made by the Norwegians of Rain Games sold almost two million copies a couple of years ago. A resounding success for the independent team, which has reaped the fruits of a passionate and careful work. It is not one of those games that we hear a lot about when it comes out or that all the communities discuss for months, but its solidity has managed to make it a phenomenon on Steam. As then, with little spotlight and a little muted, he goes out now World to the West, the new title of Rain that collects the Teslagrad tradition and is ready to challenge all gamers who love puzzles.

To look at it superficially, World to the West could be branded as any anonymous platformer and maybe snubbed without giving it a chance. Usual low poly graphics, usual abundance of colors, usual puzzles and usual simple minimal interaction. And the first hour of play all seems to confirm first impressions. Nothing more wrong. Despite a bland and not very explanatory start, continuing we witness a continuous evolution of the complexity and freedom of choice offered to the player, which reveals the true qualities of the title. Even the plot, of which there is not a minimum of introduction, is discovered and branches puzzle after puzzle, with each step forward taken, intriguing more and more.

In this magical world we will have the opportunity to control not one but four characters and move freely by teleporting us around thanks to particular totems which, once discovered, act as fast travel points and checkpoints. The game map is large and completely different, divided into square areas connected to each other by corridors. Each is different and is home to all sorts of bonuses and threats. All this, however, you will see it after several hours of play.

The western world is magical and populated by strange creatures. Some ugly and dangerous, some pretty… and always dangerous.

In fact, at the beginning we start with only one character, little Lumina, a teslamante (a name that will sound familiar to those who have played Teslagrad), who teleports herself by mistake to a strange temple. Then it will be the turn of Knaus, trapped in a mine by a perfidious deception, and then again of the adventurer Teri and the strong and exhibitionist Lord Clonington. The map is also not immediately available, but it is shrouded in dense fog. Having no clue as to where you have ended up and what is happening in this world, it will be up to you to find out.

The impact with World to the West, as mentioned, is not the best. It looks like the usual platformer that with a trivial excuse makes you jump from one point to another by solving some puzzles from time to time. What is more, the ease with which it starts almost bored. Going forward, however, we understand that it is only a tutorial to prepare us to use all the skills of the four heroes, and both the plot and the game mechanics evolve, increase, become more complex.

In fact, each of the four protagonists has different abilities from the other, which allow him to overcome obstacles (the puzzles that you will have to solve) and continue in the adventure. Why four you ask? Because even using one rather than the other is part of the design mechanics and tools at your disposal to proceed: Knaus digs into the ground and can walk underground, Teri uses her scarf as a grappling hook, Lumina takes shots turning into lightning and Lord Clonington breaks everything with his muscles.

Each of the four characters has different skills for solving puzzles.

These are only the basic skills, while the new and more complex ones you will acquire only later, thanks perhaps to an artifact recovered in a chest. From a simple sprint forward you will come to control animals, launch electric shocks and explode rocks to get to your goal. It is essential to alternate one or the other hero, as often the roads are blocked by an obstacle that only one character can eliminate, thus allowing the passage of all the others. This asynchronous cooperation is basically the heart of the game, and it is only just over halfway through the journey that we will be able to count on all the characters together with all the skills unlocked.

While this is a mystery to be solved, we are not dealing with “Dr. Leyton” issues. More than puzzles and brain teasers, we are faced with a large labyrinth full of obstacles and we can say that the enigma is only one: the entire map. In this case we really need to congratulate Rain for how it was managed and “balanced”, and for being explorable at the right point by each of the four characters.

When you have assimilated the guidelines with which the level designers have made it, it will be natural to understand who you will need and what specific skill to use. Initially you will continue easily, as if the path were marked, with almost obligatory routes and without dwelling too much on how to continue, but the beauty is that once you can alternate the characters without limits, the complexity rises again and the challenge becomes complicated. .

The game has an uphill difficulty curve, which will ultimately test even the most experienced.

The stories intertwine, the map unlocks in full and it’s all up to you. You will risk getting lost or not knowing who the character is needed to continue, which is good as it will make you sweat in the last few bars after the limited-paced start.

The plot is another point in favor of World to the West. There is no initial introduction and in the first part the intent is to leave the player confused, almost disappointed, by the events. But there is the surprise! You are led to visit areas and perform actions without particular reasons, to then discover all the connections that link events and the game world to a much more fascinating and profound past.

What looks like a quiet port town hides many secrets that will lead us to discover the foundations of an isolated and forgotten ancestral civilization, capable of creating magical machines capable of altering time. As it is told, the story is compelling: during the adventures we will discover places and objects that will find their place only later, slowly forming a puzzle that amazes the player. It is certainly not new in the video game landscape, the inspiration for masterpieces such as The legend of Zelda, Ico or others is clear, but this aspect is solid and increases the fun.

We could have dared more in the artistic direction.

Here, however, the limits of Rain Games production also come out. The characterization of the game world and characters is not the best you can see around. There are good ideas, the low poly graphics always have their nice effect and the characters are not completely anonymous, but in other titles we have seen them do better. We could perhaps dare more and make everything more original and iconic, distinguishable from other games. It’s the effect of superficially looking at the game from gameplay screenshots or trailers: it looks like any platformer.

A little better the sound, which offers catchy motifs and cheerful tones, but which loop a little too often, especially when we spend a lot of time in the same area. However, we credit Rain for making a big leap from Teslagrad’s 2D to World to the West’s isometric 3D, and for having done the simple things without risking taking the longest step

Another crucial aspect is the low replay value. Once completed, the adventure of Lumina, Teri, Knaus and Clenington cannot vary the puzzles of which it is composed, having no procedural components. Unless you’ve missed out on some collectibles that help piece together the hidden story of the game world, there aren’t many reasons to start all over again.

World to the West seems to fully embrace Teslagrad’s legacy. As in the first Rain Games title, here too we must unlock the areas of the map, gradually acquire new powers and proceed in the adventure. And in the meantime, discover the mysteries that give life to the world in which we move. There are also elements that recur, in what could become the “Rain Games style”.

Just as Teslagrad was based on games like Braid, World to the West also loses a bit of originality in style, recalling many other titles of the past, a bit in the mechanics, a bit in the appearance. The whole, however, works well and can satisfy anyone who wants to try their hand at a platform / puzzle game, given the difficulty curve that grows at the right pace. It is appropriate not to judge the book by its cover.