Originally released back in 2016 after a successful Kickstarter campaign The Way is a 2D puzzle platformer developed by Puzzling Dream. Their vision was to create a new game that took inspiration from classic titles like Another World, Heart of Darkness and Flashback. Seeing these games remade and re-released they soon realised that there were no new games that have a similar spirit and gameplay so decided to fill this void by creating The Way. Now in 2018 developer and publisher Sonka look to bring a newly remastered version of the game to everyone’s favourite hybrid console. The remaster has added a number of neat features like voice acting, improved graphics, HD rumble and a music player. Notably they have taken on board players feedback and tweaked elements of gameplay and level design, the question now is has this improved over the original experience enough.
The Way Remastered tells the story of space explorer team member Major Tom, I can only assume this is a gentle nod to the character of the same name created by David Bowie in the late 60’s. He was an astronaut who casually slips the bonds of the world to journey beyond the stars. Our Tom is grieving from the loss of his beloved wife and is battling to come to terms with her death. During one of his many expeditions he discovers some ancient writings that testify to the existence of a method for obtaining eternal life. Desperately hoping to get his beloved back, he decides to return to the alien planet once again to decipher the code. The game opens on a cold rainy night with our protagonist digging up the corpse of his loved, cryogenically freezing her before stealing a ship and heading for the stars. It certainly is an intense introduction to the story and sets the foundation for his emotional and heartfelt journey of hope.
Graphically the game looks stunning with its charming retro pixel art style which is very reminiscent of the games it is paying tribute to. I was instantly taken back to 1992 playing Flashback on my Amiga 500 and being blown away by its character animations and how realistic everything felt. The Ways outside world is colourful and amazingly detailed with 200 screens filled with lush alien flora and fauna. You encounter a host of creatures along the journey, most of which are trying to eat you unfortunately. This in turn is all a stark contrast to the modern, dark and dingy interiors of the numerous buildings, spacecraft’s and caves you will investigate.
The soundtrack can be dark and eerie in places adding to the tension of being seemingly alone on an alien planet, Panu Talus has really grasped the concept and excelled with this. I find using headphones is the best way to play allowing for all that’s going on to be heard much clearer compared to without. The newly added voice over is of reasonable standard but is still accompanied by subtitles, so if you are playing in handheld mode with the sound off you can still follow the story easily.
While character animation is great I often found the controls were a little ridged and frustrating but that seems to be true to all games in this style. The difficulty level is high and many, many times I jumped to my death by missing a platform or not noticing an incoming attack. Something that was definitely prominent all those years ago when playing Flashback and honestly nothing to do with my gameplaying skills. It is slow paced for the most and accuracy is key when hitting that perfectly timed jump or attack so thankfully the game responds well even with the Joy-cons.
As you progress through the near 10 hour story Tom learns new abilities to help you get around the planet and solve mind-bending puzzles, these range from a simple lazer blaster to sophisticated alien tech giving the power of telekinesis and more. The acquired powers are essential for when you reach an ancient temple and are presented with the gift of eternal life in exchange for proving yourself by completing three trials. Each of the trails entail completing a number of puzzles and collecting the corresponding crystal. A great addition to the story arc is in the form of collecting memory remains, there are seven in total and once each is collected a short flashback is played filling in the story around Tom’s relationship with his loved one.
At the end of the day this newly remastered version builds on an already solid foundation, its a fun retro space adventure with an emotional story. The finished product truly shows that the team behind it had a deep love for Delphine Software’s releases of a similar ilk. The pixel art style is stunning and is backed up with a great soundtrack. While some of the puzzles can become frustrating at times I didn’t find that it detracts from the game, if anything it just made me want to give it another try so that I could reach the end goal and see out Tom’s journey. The Way Remastered is a worthy addition to the ever growing indie collection that the Nintendo Switch has to offer.