REVIEW: astward (Switch), A Retro Resurrection

REVIEW: astward (Switch), A Retro Resurrection

REVIEW: eastward (Switch), A Retro Resurrection

On the surface, Eastward is a collection of many parts that were popularized in other classic games. Its combat, gameplay, and exploration are similar to 2D Zelda. It borrows its quirky world, character design and the mixture of childishness, drama from Earthbound, and the recent phenomenon of Undertale. Its central characters are a gruff older man with his precocious young ward. This arrangement is reminiscent of many other games, including The Last of Us. Despite all these similarities, Eastward pulls off a remarkable trick and creates an entirely new experience.

John is a quiet miner who meets Sam, a young girl with magical abilities who becomes the second playable character. They live in a trailer in a desolate mining community. Each day they fear the life-threatening miasma that has ravaged the surface world. John and Sam get into trouble for their belief in the surface life. They embark on an adventure that takes them beyond their small world. They meet kooky characters, fight all manner of monsters, and they discover another way to end the world.

Eastward’s gameplay involves a simple loop: you arrive at a new location, get invested in the locals, see how John and Sam fit in their new world, then move in and out from these hubs of human activity to discover the areas of the land that aren’t yet reclaimed. Although combat with enemies appear simple, their speed, resilience, and number increase in unexpected ways.

John is your primary damage machine as he can get weapons that can damage most enemies. However, Sam can use her special abilities to freeze enemies and shoot energy for a second, but she is generally less combat-ready. You can also split the pair to solve environmental puzzles, but they must always be on the same screen. These puzzles are reminiscent of the similar tandem puzzles from Mario & Luigi’s RPG on the DS and GBA.

The post-post-apocalyptic world of Eastward is absolutely gorgeous. Although the GBA-era 2D art style is often called “pixel art,” Eastward’s visual style does not feel intended to evoke the vague identity of pixel artwork, which is a term used mainly to describe minimalist visual representations in games.

REVIEW: astward (Switch), A Retro Resurrection
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