Back in the 16-bit era there was always a push for the latest cutting edge graphics trickery one could find. From layer upon layer of parallax scrolling to Mode-7 scaling and rotation to rendered backdrops, there was no shortage of new ideas to make a game stand out from the pack. A few of them are still remembered fondly (or hated fiercely) to this day: Out Of This World and Flashback. These two titles focused on special animation techniques to give the main characters a wide range of motion. Both also encapsulated the “lone human in a strange environment” isolation that was made famous with the early Metroid games. They forced the players to be cognizant of their surroundings, since a simple fall could often result in death, making them some of the most difficult games as well. So, with the steady stream of indie games releasing on the Switch it was only a matter of time before we got a game in this vein, and that is The Way Remastered.
The game begins in a cemetery, with your main character overlooking a grave while the rain mercilessly pours down around him. Right from the start we realize that this is a distant future, with holographic computers and strange and new technology. Although the game doesn’t really spell out the story for you, most of it can be gleaned from the surroundings, some of which you can interact with and look at. You soon learn that the man you’re controlling can’t accept his lover’s death and decides to find a way to revive her. He had previously explored an alien planet that could possibly hold the answers he seeks, so your adventure begins with him smuggling her body onto a spaceship and leaving for the new destination.
You start the game with very limited capabilities. You can run, jump, and climb as well as interact with certain things like buttons. Right away you’re presented with challenges and you’ll have to solve various puzzles to proceed. The spaceship is locked in a security base so you’ll have to infiltrate the facility and disable the lasers and robots guarding the place. This involves various tasks, such as overloading the circuits to blow up some of the computers as well as balancing out different levels of fuel for the spacecraft. The game leaves it up to you to figure out the various problems, but does an admirable job of nudging you in the right direction if you’re paying attention.
As with any game of this type, pretty much everything can kill you instantly. If you fall too far you break your neck. If security catches you, you’re vaporized. Basically you’ll be doing a lot of trial and error as you proceed through the game. The nice thing is that you instantly respawn with very little backtracking at all. This makes this type of gameplay loop less frustrating since you can immediately dive back in and try again.
A couple of fantastic things stood out to me as I played through the game. First up, the use of HD Rumble simply has to be commended because I think it’s some of the best in any game I’ve played so far. It’s especially great in the Pro Controller, where small little vibrations perfectly match the on-screen action. Everything from the roar of a motor to the small button press of a switch can be felt and it really adds another dimension to the experience. The HD Rumble was a bit too strong in handheld mode and sort of ruined the subtlety, but it’s still a great feature.
It’s also been a long time since I’ve played a game of this nature. I had played games of this type back in the 16-bit days and I always felt they were pretty to look at, but a slog to play through. I was worried The Way Remastered might fall into that trap, and indeed at first I was a bit put off with some of its finicky controls (you need to be precisely in the right spot for a button press for example), but I must admit this game avoids many of the pitfalls that plagued earlier attempts. Instant respawn is a Godsend, but also the game isn’t focused on brutally punishing the player at every turn. Most of the time I lost a life was due to trial and error, and the deaths usually made sense. You truly are a fragile being and pretty much everything can and will harm you.
I also really love the feeling of isolation presented throughout the game. You’re not stuck in cinema scenes or lengthy conversations. It’s just you and the surreal environments, which will have fantastical creatures and dangers to avoid. You do get a laser gun early in the game and it’s easy to aim and take out enemies from afar. Your character is somewhat small on the screen, but that means more grandiose environments and massive structures in the backgrounds, making you feel small in a huge world. While there is some backtracking here and there, the game’s story is linear, so eventually you will move on to new locations.
Graphically the game isn’t anything too amazing, but it gets the job done and I appreciate the look it’s going for. The soundtrack really helps set the mood and you’ll hear all sorts of ambient tunes that fit perfectly with the various situations. This version added in some voice acting, but honestly it’s not needed, and in many respects somewhat repetitive at times. It doesn’t hurt the game, but it doesn’t really add anything to it either.
My biggest problem with the game is that I had played about an hour in and it crashed on me, sending me all the way out to the Switch home screen. I rebooted the game and much to my surprise there wasn’t an option to continue! I had to restart the game from scratch. It turns out I encountered a nasty bug that not only halts the game, but erases the save data as well. Luckily a patch is on the way to remedy this awful situation. In the meantime, if you already purchased the game or still want to play it right now, there is a workaround that should allow you to keep your save data.
I actually really enjoyed my time with The Way Remastered. It tells a touching story with minimal dialog and I really love the exploration nature of the game. There are even achievements that pop up depending on your actions. At one point I kept jumping and hitting the ceiling, when all of a sudden an achievement popped: “Stop hitting yourself. Your head probably hurts like hell”. I got a good chuckle out of that, and several other witty things throughout the game. If you like your games heavy on the exploration and don’t mind copious amounts of trial and error, this one should fit the bill nicely.
The Way Remastered was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.