Back during the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis days, the cinematic platformer was a unique genre for the gaming masses. You had games like Flashback, Out of this World, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, and Heart of Darkness: games designed with the focus less on storytelling, and more around enveloping you in the game’s world. Sadly, because the designer wanted to create an atmospheric experience with more realistic animations, the controls and combat in these games often suffered. The whole experience became one of trial and error, as the creators of these games wanted you to experience the game exactly the way they intended. Understandably, not a lot of companies latched on to this style of game, and they went by the wayside around the late 90s. We may still get cinematic experiences like Heavy Rain and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but there hasn't been anything like the cinematic platformers of the 90s...at least, not until now. Introducing today’s Kickstarter game: The Way.
The game’s story centers on a guy who was part of a team of space explorers. He recently lost the love of his life, and he doesn’t fully accept this loss. After remembering some alien glyphs from one of his previous expeditions, he sets off to an alien planet to bring his loved one back to life. As far as storylines go, it seems to be a fairly simple one, but that might be for the best. If this game wants to succeed in bringing back the vibe of cinematic platformers, it has to have a story that isn’t in your face. It has to let you, the player, get enveloped by the alien world. We still want to care for the character in spite of the story not being in your face, so the developers have to tackle that correctly or else we won’t feel invested with the protagonist and his goal. This will definitely be a difficult goal to manage, but I bet they can balance out both main story elements and world immersion.
The Way is, like I mentioned above, a cinematic platformer, which will require you to traverse across this alien world performing tasks and solving puzzles – but the Kickstarter also states that there will be combat in the game. Usually, the combat is pretty simple when it comes to these kinds of cinematic games, requiring you to do little more than duck down when needed, shoot, and make sure the enemy falls to the ground first; look up gameplay footage of Out of this World and Flashback to get an idea of what you might be in for. Your character will also obtain an alien artifact that will have multiple uses for the player, like being able to teleport, raise a shield in front of you, and telekinesis. The Kickstarter video has some footage of that artifact in motion.
If you look at the game’s graphical presentation, it is all done in sprite work. I have read that gamers are tired of indie developers using sprite work for their games instead of full 3D polygonal worlds, but I think the sprites work. We have seen what 3D cinematic platformers look like, and they tend to look rather ugly – see the recent Flashback remake for example. Meanwhile, The Way is a very good looking game with healthy doses of bright colors, slick animation, and beautiful levels. The music from the trailer sounds very atmospheric, and the rest of the soundtrack will hopefully immerse you and make you feel alone while on an alien planet.
This game has some promise. My only real fear is that the controls could be clunky rather than intuitive, forcing the player to fight with the game while he tries to play. It would be a shame if this game was difficult because of the stiff and delayed controls. The Way has already reached its funding goal of $15K, so there is no worry of this game not getting funded, but you can still help it reach its additional stretch goals for releases on iOS, Ouya, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One. If you have wanted to help Kickstart a game that was different from the vast library of first-person horror experiences, sandbox MMOs, and Metroidvania-style games on Kickstarter, why not give The Way a try?
(If you want to support them, here is a link to their Kickstarter)