Wicky wicky wild wild west
West of Loathing is a point-and-click adventure that doubles as a turn-based RPG. The artwork consists of crude stick figures, drawn in a typical western setting, with a stubbornly black and white color palette.
If you’re looking for challenging combat and state-of-the-art graphics, you can stop reading right now. This, obviously, isn’t for you. The game doesn’t have much to satiate either of those desires. What it does offer, however, is a biting sense of humor that more than makes up for any of its shortcomings.
West of Loathing (PC)
Released: August 10, 2017
Seriously, this thing is just insanely funny. I can’t stress that enough. What’s even more impressive is that it’s actually somewhat family-friendly too. The closest thing it has to vulgar language is when the bartender of a town named Breadwood insists on calling you a “cakesucker” because the locals enjoy cussin’ as much as they like their “bread and bread-related products.”
Most of the jokes here are a bit too sophisticated for actual children but just dumb enough to tickle my own inner child. There are so many puns that it’s almost overwhelming. I found it damn near impossible to play this game without a stupid grin glued to my face at all times.
There’s a lot of content available here too. I’d estimate my playthrough at just shy of 11 hours, and there are still locations left I never even got around to visiting. The world map populates as you speak to various NPCs who offer rumors or send you on specific quests. Traveling between different places consists of hopping on your horse, selecting your destination, and then watching as a dotted line slowly plots out your journey. Nine out of ten times, you’ll find this animation interrupted by either enemies to fight, treasure to dig up (assuming you have a shovel in your inventory), or random goodies that you can collect freely.
The combat here definitely leaves a bit to be desired, but it does eventually open up, about midway through the story, to provide more depth. While most of your actions are turn-based, you can use items and certain abilities without wasting your chance to attack. New abilities are gained by reading books that you’ll find scattered across the land, and these expand your options during battle substantially. In some of the more difficult fights, activating them can be the difference between success and utter failure. There are, eventually, multiple ways to approach your attacks, but it still manages to be the one major blemish on an otherwise stellar experience. It’s not broken or anything but just a tad generic.
The puzzles, however, are phenomenal. The main storyline is fairly simple to tackle, but the side quests can often bear delightfully twisted brainteasers. From mundane tasks like filing paperwork in the proper order just so you can convince the bartender to sell you a glass of whiskey to helping a man fused with a cactus cure their loneliness, the game did a wonderful job of consistently pushing me into actually wanting to complete even totally optional missions.
West of Loathing may not be perfect, but it never needed to be. What it gives us, instead, is one of the funniest goddamn games I’ve played all year. I may be a bit late to the party, but I’m really glad that I gave it a chance. Anything capable of making me smile this much is an absolute blessing. This is something truly special, and I can’t wait to see what the developers at Asymmetric have in store for us next.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]