Switch version tested
Review code provided
A wise man once said: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. At the time we all just ignored this guy, thinking he was probably disappointed by the quality of the razzle mag he’d just picked up from his local newsagents. Fast forward a few decades to 2019, and we can finally see what he meant – because Away: Journey to the Unexpected fits right into that timeless adage.
OK, let me be honest from the start. I’d done zero research into Away prior to accepting the review code. I’d simply taken one look at the games cover on the Nintendo Store and fallen in love with the artwork. I mean, look at it – it’s like a cross between One Piece and Hilda by way of a rainbow explosion – who wouldn’t be charmed by such a mixture? But alas, I’m not here to review the cover art, or this game would have already walked away with a perfect 10.
Away: Journey to the Unexpected is the story of a questionable looking boy with no name, who lives in a beautiful little valley with his grandparents. His perfect existence is thrown into chaos when some city folk show up and start digging into the mines beneath the quaint locale and unearth all manner of nasty little mutant monsters, which you must kill without mercy in hope that you’ll be able to save all of your friends from impending doom.
Along the way, the boy can befriend local NPC’s and recruit them into his campaign, allowing you to chop and change between characters to spice things up a bit. This opens you up to some fun interactions with the townsfolk who are all a little bonkers but offer different attack styles to assist in matters that your weapon of choice – a stick – just can’t deal with. How lucky is that?
Now all of this comes very early in the game. You haven’t even had a chance to stop dancing to the awesome J-Pop soundtrack playing over the home screen before you realise you’re on an adventure and you’re already picking up local weirdos to follow you into battle. That’s the pace Away moves at. It is not a long game, and it doesn’t want you to dawdle at any point.
Much like the artwork mentioned previously, the game design is so much fun to look at. There are tons of colours, fun character designs, and monsters are all suitably bizarre, but this isn’t enough of a distraction from the horrible mechanics that make controlling Away: Journey to the Unexpected a real chore to play. There’s also isn’t any real save points, so as soon as you die – which is easy to do because you practically have to make contact with the bad guys before you can hit them with your stick – you are ported right back to the very beginning of the game. Fortunately, the game remembers quite a bit of stuff from before, so you don’t have to have the same conversations again and again, or perform the same actions to build up your party. It’s just a bit of a ballache to have to start over, leaving you feeling like you’ve covered no ground. At least the game isn’t as big as say Zelda, or I’d have probably given up on Away after about 20 minutes.
Sadly the only thing we’re left thinking after a few hours of playing Away: Journey to the Unexpected is “Oh what could have been”, and when there’s so much competition out there on the eShop, that’s really not the kind of lasting impression you want your game to have.
There’s so much to love in Away: Journey to the Unexpected that it’s seriously disappointing when it falls so short of the mark. Giving the game such a low mark feels OTT, but sadly the gameplay just lets it down at such a high level. Away should have been great, but instead, we just wish it would go away.
TBG Score: 4.5/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam
Release Date: 07/02/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, RPG, Action, FPS
Download link: eShop