Eastward (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Eric Ace 06.01.2022

Review for Eastward on Nintendo Switch

Eastward is an indie game that was amazingly made by a team of people rumoured to number only three. When players look at its visuals that fact becomes even more impressive for how great it looks. Developed by a team named Pixpul and published by Chucklefish, it represents the first title for the developer. Following a pair of characters, the grown-up miner John, and Sam, the strange young girl with magic powers, as they escape from underground to the ruined world above.

Eastward is the type of game that is hard to hate. It has extremely bright and vivid sprite graphics, a cute young girl as one of the main characters, and overall it radiates charm. Yet, despite the tremendous effort and product of this small, new developer, the longer this goes on, the more its flaws become impossible to ignore. Of the bat, it begins with a great high note, complete with an animated opening of the hero John; a mute miner who finds his partner, the young girl Sam floating in a tube deep underground. The world is ruined, and only those who live underground are rumoured to be safe. After bashing his way through some small dungeons with a frying pan as a weapon, the two are excommunicated from their town, sent to the "darkness" above.

Surprisingly, the world above is actually green and alive, yet not all is okay as players will rapidly find out. There is a dark poison called 'Miasma' that at any time will come out and wipe out a town. It is oddly dark, given the bright colours and the absolutely light-hearted nature of most of the game. The story hints at Sam having a darker role in what is occurring, but as interesting as this is, is rarely touched on to its detriment. This all sets up the general plot and setting of Eastward yet despite having all the necessary parts there for a great game, it ends up falling short.

One of the biggest problems is the story and characters themselves, and how badly paced it all is. To be clear, some of the side-characters are remarkably well done for how short you get to know them, such as the evil town mayor who practices his pompous speeches to himself, or random characters with their bounces and movements. The issue is there are so many, they take so much time, contribute nothing to the plot, and Sam and John are left with very little to them.

Screenshot for Eastward on Nintendo Switch

The gameplay revolves around Legend of Zelda-esque adventuring of figuring out simple puzzles in rooms, and killing everything that moves. There are some fun puzzles since the pair can split up, such as having Sam hold a switch while John advances forward. It is nothing to write home about, but it is serviceable, if the only real comment that some dungeons over-stay their welcome with their general one-way nature and inability to leave until it's finished. The real problems arise in that 15 to 20 hours in… and nothing ever happens. Sure there are a few off-screen deaths that really pique some interest, but this is forgotten about literally five minutes after it happens.

Far too often some new characters that few will care about come on, you hear their life story for half an hour and then they go away with nothing contributed to the plot. Most egregiously, John has next to zero characterization, and Sam's can be summed up with 'plucky, energetic girl.' Far too often after a dungeon its back to town for some pointless story with a character players will never see again, going on and on about banalities - it's enough for even patient players to want to grab the Switch, shake it, and scream "Get to the gosh darn point already!"

There is a lot to like here, like the cooking mini-game, where it's oddly cute watching the various ingredients get bounced around in the pan, or the often referenced 'Earth Born' which is a fully playable RPG in the vein of the original Dragon Warrior, with rogue-lite gameplay with various shifting classes and slowly increasing usable items. This is very good for its simplicity, and clearly demonstrates the team's ability to make a good game.

The major flaw of Eastward is perhaps it puts too much of the background forward, and in turn buries the core narrative. No one is going to care about these side characters, but when its 20 hours in and you still know next to nothing about Sam and John, that is a major problem. Especially when rolling into a new town and having to deal with the same thing over and over. The narrative was set up so great for some real growth and story here, but was largely lacking.

Screenshot for Eastward on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Eastward absolutely radiates heart, which is why it is tough to be hard on it. So many little things, from random sprite movements, to the cooking, or RPG mini-game, are charming, yet, the core element of the game - the story - takes far, far too long for any payoff. Instead, it drones on and on in meaninglessness that torpedoes the pacing of the game. While the action and exploration are interesting, it's slowed down too much by banality.

Developer

Pixpul

Publisher

Chucklefish

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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