World to the West is an action-adventure puzzle game being developed by Norwegian developer Rain Games. During my time at GDC, I was fortunate enough to demo the game, which was the game’s playable debut. Before playing, I was able to talk with the title’s creators; their insight into indie game development and World to the West’s development was nothing short of fascinating. When posed with the question of how to make a successful game yet still maintain creativity and originality, Rain Games’ CEO Peter Meldahl said that a game has to contain both fresh elements but familiar elements at the same time; something old and something new. World to the West does exactly that and it most resembles a kind of quasi-version of the Zelda series’ A Link to the Past with it’s fascinating puzzles, which are both difficult but sometimes so simple that it becomes difficult depending on how you process information. The art style is beautiful, and I love how the game is overhead, allowing for vertical-natured puzzles which were a point of emphasis on one of the stages. The music also fits the mood and atmosphere of the game perfectly. To put it simply, the game is incredibly charming.

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There are four playable characters in World to the West: Lumina the Teslamancer, who is primarily an attacker; Miss Teri, who is a mind bender and can both stun enemies and put them into a trance with her scarf-like item and her psychic abilities; Knaus, who is an orphan and uses his shovel to escape enemies, solve puzzles, and travel underground; and Lord Clonington, who was unplayable in the demo but who is burly and full of brute strength. While the demo included individual levels for each character, eventually you will be able to transform between the characters on each stage, opening up the opportunity for additional puzzle solving.

The first stage in the demo featured Lumina, the primary attacker in the game. Most of her stage included fighting enemies and navigating the level. She is somewhat of a witch and has a unique counter move which can be difficult to pull off (although I didn’t have all day to master it!), but it was necessary for the final boss battle, which had a perfect level of difficulty; it wasn’t too easy, but it wasn’t too difficult either. I went through the stage pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it thoroughly. Lumina may seem like one of the simplest characters, but there is a certain amount of depth to her with regards to her abilities that I am very interested to tap into when the game releases.

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The most intricate stage I played was Teri’s stage, who can’t attack enemies but can stun them and use her scarf (I believe it was something like a scarf?) to latch on to wooden poles to cross long distances and her psychic abilities to take control of stunned enemies. Her and Knaus’ stages were the most hectic because both characters lack the ability to attack, which was actually a breath of fresh air compared and very rare in games today, which are so action-oriented. Teri’s level was very vertical-natured with regards to its puzzles, and it actually gave me A Link Between Worlds vibes. In Teri’s stage, you had to take control of squirrel-like creatures who can actually jump between platforms and collect three keys to open three gates, all while avoiding other enemies. It required a lot of navigation and was difficult at times, but a lot of fun, unique, and a great twist on the puzzle solving genre; I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

The final stage I played was Knaus’ stage, which I had the least amount of time with because time was running short. Being so small and defenseless, the only way to protect himself was to use a shovel to travel underground to avoid enemy detection. Things actually got really frantic at times, as I would pop up from underground only to find myself right next to an enemy. You could also dig up plants and even cross over water by digging up a certain type of plant; you had to be careful though, because you could end up digging up an enemy instead. This was the one stage I wasn’t able to complete, but I will be interested to see how Knaus is integrated into the final games’ puzzles and combat when you are able to switch between the various characters.

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While I have compared the game to The Legend of Zelda series quite a bit because of its similarities in the puzzle-solving genre, make no mistake about it: World to the West is its own game. It takes both something old and something new with a charming art style and beautiful music and makes it its own. The game had the perfect balance in difficulty and was a lot of fun to play, which is exactly what a game should be. Meeting the creators behind the game was an added bonus, and being able to get some insight into the development process was a joyful experience. As someone who loves puzzle-based games, I am thoroughly excited for World to the West’s release, which is set to launch sometime in 2016.