by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Is this the way forward?
Games often wear their influences on their sleeves, and developers straight up reference the games of old they’re trying to emulate. The Way is a game inspired by action platforming adventure games such as Another World, Heart of Darkness, and Flashback. The problem with trying to bring back what made those games great is that you’re setting a pretty high bar. If you fall short, you look foolish, and although The Way has some good ideas, it ultimately isn’t good enough to reach the lofty heights of those classics.
One thing The Way does have going for it is the atmosphere and style. The very opening scene is incredibly effective, showing a pretty heinous act, then slowly building the reasons around it. The main character, Tom, is alone in every sense of the word for a good chunk of the early game, and the developers have done a good job of driving that feeling home. He has lost his love, but he has an idea of how to bring her back from the dead. The problem is, it will be a very long journey indeed. Digging up her corpse, stealing a spaceship and flying to a distant alien planet is surprisingly trivial. It’s when you get to this planet that things really start to heat up.
Gameplay is a mixture of platforming, combat, and puzzle solving. Sadly, the platforming doesn’t feel precise, and Tom can’t fall very far without dying. Combine this with a number of tricky jumping sections, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration. Combat can be similarly frustrating, and everything that you encounter in the game is seemingly able to perform a one hit kill, sending you all the way back to a checkpoint.
It’s also never entirely clear what checkpoint it has sent you back to, which is down to the immense amount of backtracking you have to do. Sometimes you have to interact with consoles to do certain things, and when you die and respawn at a console, you’re not sure which action you might have done already, what’s unlocked further on in the level, or whether you’ll need to come back here yet again later. Some of the puzzles are better designed than others, while others leave you scratching your head while you bash it up against the problem. Solving a puzzle rarely feels like an accomplishment, especially when many of them can be brute forced.
There are a number of good puzzles though, especially later on when you have extra abilities available to you. You’ll be able to do things like remotely access electronics, and you’ll even gain access to telekinesis, which becomes an essential skill as you progress through the game. Puzzles range from sliding blocks, to timing jumps and memorising codes. Tom is not actually alone for all that long, because within the first few hours you’ll meet an alien companion. He’s able to utilise his new friend in a few ways which will help him progress through each zone.
The planet you travel to is mostly desert, however there are a good range of environments on show here. Before you leave Earth you’re in a facility full of robots and automated defenses, while later on you’ll be facing off against dangerous flora and fauna. There are abandoned labs, villages of indigenous species, underground temples, and there’s even a digital style level towards the end of the game.
This isn’t the way
Each of the various locales will have different types of enemies. Some things will move towards you and attack you, others will be a bit trickier and fire at you from a distance. You’ll have to figure out the best way to get past most enemies, but combat on the whole is fairly easy. You get an energy gun early on which recharges when you stop firing, and further along the road you’ll get a shield which is able to bounce back enemy projectiles.
There is minimal storytelling, however the narrative does come across quite effectively through the use of thought bubbles and notes found throughout the world. There’s a good amount of game here for the price too, and there are even a couple of different endings, however the large variety isn’t enough to overcome the constant backtracking and imprecise controls. This type of game is one from a bygone era, and although The Way does its best to bring it back from the past, there are just too many problems to make it a good modern game.
Good variety, great atmosphere and style.
Imprecise controls, tedious backtracking.