To the east are equal parts Zelda, EarthBound, and himself

To the east It’s not subtle about his influences – Chinese developer Pixpil has lovingly drawn inspiration from all sorts of media and combined it into a pixel art RPG that somehow remains undeniably himself. You will read a lot on the internet about The legend of Zelda‘sand Landinfluence, and all of that is certainly there; after all, there is a character referred to as Mother, a playable RPG called Born on earthand a Zelda-style pixel heart meter. To the eastThe world, which spans a variety of cities and biomes, also pays homage to the post-apocalyptic world of Studio Ghibli, the spirit of children’s adventure films like The Sandlot and The goonies, and the ritualistic mystery of the hidden grimoires.

A little more than anything else To the east it is To the east – a game where you play as a duo of connected characters. The game begins with John, the best miner in a post-apocalyptic underground city, unearthing a white-haired boy named Sam. Quiet John, who never says a word, welcomes Sam, a naive and strange girl, as they quickly become inseparable. John worries about Sam, who is too young to do it herself despite her special powers, and they quickly become friends.

published by Stardew valley Chucklefish editor, To the east pushes John and Sam to the surface of their world, forced out of the ground into a landscape that has been largely devastated. While everything underground was colored in shades of brown, these new environments are vibrant and often dilapidated. Yes, the world is much more dangerous up there, but it is also warm and lively, colored in shades of green, blue, pink and yellow. Similarly, places like Greenberg and New Dam City are populated by quirky and welcoming residents, at least what’s left of them, struggling to survive in their doomed cities. It is from here that John and Sam realize they must head east by train to the end of the world, hopping from city to city in search of an answer to their problem: a mysterious miasma that has been swallowing entire towns.

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It’s a treacherous journey, but John and Sam are equipped to survive. John, for his part, has a dependable skillet that he uses to beat up enemies, and also to cook elaborate meals made with ingredients found (and bought) everywhere. To the eastworld. Sam has a supernatural ability that allows him to shoot energy bubbles that can stun enemies, which is useful for both fighting and solving environmental puzzles in the game.

To the east It is a single player game, so you will play with each character simultaneously. For much of the game, John and Sam travel one behind the other in sync; You switch them from the first position to the second by pulling the trigger on your controller. John and Sam can also be played independently of each other, and this is where To the east innovate. Using each character’s abilities, such as John’s bombs or Sam’s frying pan and stun, is essential to solving the puzzles in To the east dungeons and outdoor environments. Puzzle in To the east They are not mind blowing, but they are satisfying. They often require you to move with precision and clarity to solve them successfully, sometimes against the clock.

John and Sam’s skills are also key in some of the To the eastThe most challenging boss fights, at times when hitting enemies with the frying pan (later John will also acquire a pistol, flamethrower, and gear weapon, along with different bombs) is simply not enough. These boss fights are often simple in theory: dodge blows, stun enemies, and land a hit, for example. But, like puzzles, they require precision that can be difficult to master; sheer simplicity is clever and deceptive.

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I found some of these fights to be more challenging due to the disappointing shortage of hidden resources. To the eastspaces of. Rusty ovens and old refrigerators, which are also being reclaimed by nature, are placed in cities and dungeons to encourage cooking, filling your heart meter. Are They were useful to me when in town, full of salt, To the eastcurrency, to buy ingredients such as meat, dairy or vegetables. But those were about the only times I found enough ingredients to make something, and I never had enough cash to stock up for longer trips.

A dilapidated ship on a blue background.

Image: Pixpil / Chucklefish

That was a shame, because To the eastKitchen mechanics became one of my greatest joys. Different ingredients can be combined in dozens of ways to create different meals: hamburgers, hot pot, cold noodles, grilled fish, fruit salad, and fried rice in between. There is also a slot machine-like mechanic that can add extra perks to meals. Cooking is essential to John’s story too – the guy loves to cook and he’s very good at it. (It’s also, presumably, the reason he’s wielding a frying pan.)

To the east progress for more than 30 hours; my total playtime for this review was 37. But as each new area opens up, subsequent puzzles and mechanics continually repeat. For example, by the time you’ve become familiar with puzzle navigation by controlling John and Sam independently, To the east will enter a timer. Or maybe you are dodging a train during a boss encounter as it drifts back and forth on the tracks. In the next stage of the fight, you will dodge the train while the monkeys on board drop explosive bananas. In the third stage the tracks are on fire. To the east continually introduces new, challenging and chaotic mechanics to deal with.

To the East - The player controls a pixelated sprite in a lush forest and approaches a train station in the middle of a lush, lush forest.

Image: Pixpil / Chucklefish

Running in the background of To the eastThe main narrative and gameplay is a playable RPG called Born on earth, available in arcade machines found in cities. It is referenced heavily throughout To the east, the story that acts as a mysterious parallel to that of John and Sam, whether you decide to play Born on earth or not. The dual narrative feels natural and essential: To the east itself is a tribute to nostalgia in retro games, and the characters love Born on earth in the same way that we could see Land. There are also many opportunities to play the arcade machines mentioned above. Pixpil describes Born on earth as a “monster collector JRPG”. It has surprising depth for a game within a game.

Like the rest of To the east, It’s delicious. Details like Born on earth they are what they do To the east special for me. Not only is the game challenging and clever (and sometimes punishing), but the worlds are built in depth. Both in their dungeons and in their places of reprieve, To the east it’s worth continually exploring.

To the east It will launch on September 16 on Nintendo Switch, Mac, and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on Windows PC using a pre-launch download code provided by Chucklefish. Vox Media has affiliate associations. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.