The Way was a Kickstarter-backed project that launched on Steam in 2016 and has recently received a remastered version on the Nintendo Switch. The Way Remastered is a cinematic platformer inspired by classic titles such as Flashback, Heart of Darkness and Another World. Cinematic platformers differentiate themselves from the likes of Super Mario by their more realistic approach to the genre. Players aren’t jumping on enemies to defeat them, surviving long falls or changing direction mid-jump. The Way Remastered is a game in this style but did the developers manage to stick to this path or did they end up losing their way? Let’s find out.
The main focus of nearly all cinematic platformers is the story and The Way is no exception. Players play as Major Tom, a space captain investigating another planet with his team, which includes his wife. One day, however, she falls sick and dies. Distraught, Tom digs up her grave and freezes her body. He hijacks a spaceship and heads back to the alien planet they were investigating as he believes there holds the key to eternal life.
While there are cutscenes in the game with a few ‘cinematic’ still most of the game’s story is told through pop-up text that appears as players walk through the world. I like how this is handled as it doesn’t feel intrusive and as the game progresses and Tom learns more of the alien language previous descriptors that were riddled with question marks are now in clear English, highlighting Tom’s progression. The same thing can be said on a visual level with Tom’s outfit that periodically alters as the story goes on and time passes which was a neat touch.
I won’t spoil the story as that would ruin the game but I will say two things. I felt that the mystery and the build-up was very well done. It feels like the player is learning all the secrets of this world as Tom does. One negative aspect of the game is the memories. One of the game’s two collectibles, the other being achievements, memories can be found throughout the world and are flashbacks to a time before Tom’s wife’s passing. These can be sweet but ultimately they did nothing to expand the story in any way and didn’t provide anything new, which I felt was a major disappointment.
Ultimately though, the story is clearly the focus of this game but how does that affect the gameplay?
The Way is a cinematic platformer so almost all of its core gameplay revolves around running, jumping, crawling and climbing ladders. Early on in the game players have a gun but this is later replaced by the game’s core mechanic, a magic orb. Using this mystery orb, players can interact with switches, lift up objects with telekinesis, create a barrier that reflects light and projectiles and leave way-points that players can then warp to. All of these mechanics are really fun (well-pressing switches is what it is) and are utilized well with the game’s puzzles, unlike the gun which just felt awkward to aim and did little for its puzzles.
And considering players have the gun for the first 1/3rd of the game, and some segments towards the end, these are where the game falters. The puzzles where players have the gun are simply repetitive and boring because they rely on a really bad design that pads out the game unnecessarily.
The Way Remastered can have all of its areas easily split into two distinct types of rooms. The first is the linear rooms. Here it is simply about the player getting from point A to point B and solving any problems along the way, either by shooting it or solving a puzzle. These sections are fine on their own and feel like your typical platforming fare. It’s the second type of room, a big open puzzle room, that feels terribly designed. Most of the puzzles simply involving running all the way from one point to another and then back again to press a single button, then repeated ad nauseum.
The perfect example of this are the ruins and the game’s second puzzle room. It starts off fairly bad by having the player move down to the bottom of a shaft to see some symbols and then have them go all the way back to the entrance to use the symbols as a password. But then later players have to find three blocks to open a door. I won’t solve the puzzle but it involves backtracking the same area about three times along the same platforming section. And it doesn’t need to be like this. When players pick up the first orb one door opens which would’ve been fine to use to go back, however, they then remove the stairs players needed to get back up meaning players have to go the long-way-round.
It’s tiring and thankfully once the orb is brought into the picture the puzzles get better. They are presented in a more linear fashion with less backtracking and feel more like puzzles and not time wasters.
The boss battles are interesting whenever they happen although the way the final boss is fought is completely random and comes out of nowhere. It doesn’t feel like it fits with the rest of the game and the style of the other bosses.
Now, I talked in the intro about how cinematic platforms stand out from the likes of Super Mario in terms of design and for the most, the level design of this game follows this design. However every so often the platforming challenges become too precise for their own good. Pixel perfect jumps and platforming that feels unnatural plague some later parts of this game making those segments feel more like your Mario or Ninja Gaiden than Prince of Persia. While it brings variation it also becomes more frustrating than it was ultimately worth and as players die in one hit in this game as well as suffering fall damage it means many retries will be had.
Ultimately the gameplay is pretty bog-standard and peaks in the games second act. The first act is just really dull and the puzzles feel unintuitive and then the final act feels awkwardly designed in places. The game takes and gives out abilities depending on the context of the story, even if it means players have to throw out everything they learned up to that point, and really highlights how the story is the most important feature of this title.
I don’t quite know how to feel about the presentation of this game. On the one hand, the backgrounds look gorgeous. The game cycles through a variety of settings and each one looks beautiful and fitting for this strange alien planet. However, the characters also feel alien and not in a good way. All the models for the player, enemies, and NPC are done in a style that is very reminiscent of classic cinematic platformers but it does not work here. The reason for this is the detailed backgrounds. These characters feel alien in the environment and it took me out of the game. This is especially an issue with the protagonist.
Two examples of this issue to highlight the disconnect but when Major Tom walks down a flight of stairs there is zero depth. He moves into a sprite where it looks like he is walking towards the player but he isn’t. He is walking down and always retains the same distance from the background and player which has the effect of making the background look flat. My second example is that Major Tom’s sprite just walks in front of everything, even when he should not. I can forgive parts of a sprite clipping through the wall but look at this section on the screen. He feels like he should be walking in between the alien and the wall but as the alien is rendered in the background layer Tom just walks on him, like he’s stamping on the back of this poor aliens legs.
Not to mention the odd graphical glitch here and there. For how well some of the graphics are detailed, as mentioned before I do like how Major Tom changes throughout the game, sometimes the wrong one just appears. This was most noticeable towards the end of the second act where the Tom gets a coat on his sprite. This is fine but in certain cases when climbing up a cliff it just reverted back to his first sprite like the wrong one was being loaded. It didn’t happen all the time but enough that I feel it should be brought up.
The music and sfx are fine but nothing really stood out to me. Some ambient sounds were fitting at points but ultimately only one or two songs are truly fun to listen to it.
So while the presentation sometimes benefits from the games focus on the story it is ultimately hampered by poor attempts to mimic its inspirations. Right off the bat, I felt the art style of this game matched that of Another World in terms of the characters but in that game, it worked because the world matched. The same thing cannot be said here as the backgrounds are far too detailed for the simple character sprites and it ruins the immersion.
I had fun with The Way but nothing in this title makes it a must play. It gives off the impression of a cinematic platformer but fails to capture what made those games stand-out and instead feels more like a simple puzzle-platformer that is too predictable in its design. While the game does get better after the first act is over it does not last and the parts were players must rely on a gun are boring. Plus the random introduction and removal of mechanics can catch players off guard and only exist because the story says they have to. Your thoughts on the story will be your own but ultimately I found it to not be worth my play time and while I can’t say the game is bad I think there are other games worth your time before this one. – 3/5