Originally released for PC back in 2016, The Way’s Kickstarter success was fuelled by an affection for iconic puzzle-platformers Another World and Flashback. Those Delphine Software games appeared on multiple platforms in the early '90s and drew attention with cinematic narratives and a distinctive art style. Following an appearance on Xbox One last year, developer Puzzling Dream’s game arrives on Switch courtesy of port house/publisher Sonka bearing the subtitle ‘Remastered’ with some tweaks and extras, but does it do enough to update the template of its forebears for a modern audience?
You play as Major Tom, a bereaved scientist and amalgam of the ‘Fordian’ trinity: Han Solo, Rick Deckard and Indiana Jones. He’s on a mission to find the secrets of an ancient race which he believes can resurrect his recently departed wife. Tom ‘reacquires’ her body and puts it in cryofreeze before setting off on a sombre, dangerous journey to decipher an alien language, plunder temples and save her by any means necessary. This involves solving environmental puzzles using one of four abilities you discover along the way.
You’ll deflect lasers into refractive lock mechanisms and use telekinesis to redirect water by rearranging pipes – that sort of thing. The puzzles are varied and some are downright fiendish. You’ll also be defending yourself against all manner of nasties with your blaster. Pushing the right stick roots you to the spot and pulls up a 360-degree laser sight. Aiming feels precise and firing with the triggers is satisfying with practice.
The locales you visit are diverse and beautiful; you’ll find it difficult to resist pushing the screenshot button. The deserts, caverns and animated waterfalls are rendered in crisp pixel art that sings on both the TV and the console. Discerning interactive elements from background scenery is occasionally tricky and expository text fades up over noteworthy environmental features. It’s a neat effect but things can get pretty busy on Switch’s smaller screen as the text overlaps. It’s readable, but playing on the TV is easier on the eyes, and touchscreen functionality isn’t on this remaster’s feature list.
What is included is voiceover for dialogue that was previously text-only, plus some decent HD rumble effects. Minor gameplay and level design tweaks will go unnoticed by newcomers and only die-hard fans will find enough here to warrant a double-dip if you played the vanilla version. Indeed, the title ‘Remastered’ feels overly-generous, but these additions are very welcome all the same. The voiceover works effectively with the already-excellent soundtrack to drive home the dystopian, Blade Runner-esque ambiance.
The Way wears its many influences prominently. Aesthetically, it’s a crisp callback to the early '90s and the science fiction cinema of the preceding decade. Mechanically, it’s like travelling back to the same period. Let’s be clear: if you’re after clever puzzles and atmosphere, The Way delivers in spades. However, if you’re expecting the fluid movement of Celeste or the SteamWorld games with some added brain-teasers, Major Tom’s finicky platforming will feel antiquated. His movement is staccato, with animation taking priority over input response in some instances. It can be tough to gauge if he’ll survive a drop. Tom auto-grabs at ledges – handy if you mistime a jump, but irritating when you’re descending into a cave and he keeps pulling himself up on an adjacent platform.
All this would be less noticeable if it weren't such a focal point of gameplay, but extended stretches of precision platforming highlight the lack of refinement. Respawns are instant and the game autosaves frequently (although during our playthrough we encountered a crash which wiped two hours of progress – thankfully this was an isolated occurrence). Blundering into a situation without careful planning will inevitably end in disaster and possibly repeating thirty seconds of laborious jumping. No puzzle or platforming challenge is insurmountable – and you can, of course, just git gud – but it’s a sharp reminder of how things used to be for players accustomed to the more forgiving and polished systems in modern games.
For better or worse, The Way Remastered is a faithful homage to the old Delphine Software titles that inspired it and players should expect no more or less. It’s a poignant story with beautiful visuals and intricate puzzles, but your enjoyment will depend very much on your temperament. The Switch version is the pick for newcomers, though it’s hard to recommend if you’ve already played on another platform. Provided you’re comfortable with its slow, cerebral pace and can overlook the stiff remnants of its influences, there is much to enjoy here. However, if you’re after a retro-inspired platformer with all the mod-cons, the competition is fierce on the eShop.