By: Brian Gunn
The Way is the first game from developer Puzzle Logic, one it kickstarted back in 2014. It’s attempting to mine nostalgia from games like Flashback and Another World, while also being a bit more streamlined for modern audiences. Does it succeed, or is it only worth a go as a walk down memory lane?
The Way is sort of a mish-mash of genres ranging from adventure games to puzzle platformers, and thus suffers a bit from trying to serve too many masters. The basic adventure game stuff works well, and there’s some light shooting involved that’s somewhat satisfactory, but platforming leaves a little to be desired and feels imprecise at times.
Pixel art will always have its detractors, but The Way might convince anyone that hates it to reconsider. The environments in particular are fairly gorgeous and imaginative in design once the story gets more and more involved in the alien world. It can sometimes be a little too heavy on details actually, with some areas fraught with danger that’s easy to ignore as you gawk at everything else.
Sound design is adequate. There’s no voice acting, and the sound effects themselves often feel like they could be more prevalent. For instance, you’ll encounter many enemies but very few of them seem to make any sort of sound, which does them no favors when it comes to being memorable. The music is well done, however, echoing many other mysterious alien world soundtracks in games but still managing to stand on its own.
Humanity has advanced a decent amount in the world of The Way. They’ve visited other planets and even encountered obvious signs of alien life, and Earth seems pretty automated.
Our hero is one of the lucky few that got to study those alien planets, enough so that he thought they held the secret to eternal life. He never finished his research, however, and returned home. Eventually his wife died, and he decides it was time to return to the unexplored world in hopes to revive her.
While at first you’ll be doing some relatively mundane things like fooling security systems into letting your steal a spaceship, you’ll soon arrive on that alien world trying to suck out the game logic of each new area, which doesn’t always gel with how straightforward the start of the game is.
Most levels are presented as large open-ended puzzles where you’ll need to interact with objects in a similar nature to point-and-click adventure games. However, in order to solve all of them you’ll have to do your share of jumping and shooting as well.
While some areas are more transitional linear areas, the big puzzle levels are often fairly nonlinear in how you approach solving them. As such, once you’ve got all the pieces falling together, it’s incredibly satisfying.
Still, there are some design decisions that feel as dated as the game’s inspirations. Nearly all of the shooting gets old quick, especially the re-spawning enemies or tedious moments like needing to feed a man-eating plant another animal and waiting for just the right moment to do it.
It also gets too platforming heavy at times, particularly in the transitional areas or what passes for the game’s boss fights. With the game’s action-oriented mechanics not always being up to snuff, it can be easy to fail, especially in a game with one-hit deaths.
There’s a checkpoint system at least, but it bounces between being incredibly forgiving and re-spawning you right where you screwed up and exhausting where it makes you repeat several steps of a boss fight.
The Way is a good attempt at bringing the Another World formula into the modern day, though it does have a few rough aspects as well. It’s gorgeous, has an engaging story and some clever puzzles, which should make the trip worth it for most.