Humor is a funny thing. What might make me just about die laughing might not even phase someone else, and trying to explain why something is particularly funny often times ends up making things less funny.
West of Loathing is a funny game. Heck, it’s probably the funniest game I’ve ever played. However, I know for a fact that it’s a divisive sense of humor, and that some people just don’t get it; I’ve had people tell me this in person, and in online discussion. Me taking the time to minutely explain what makes this game funny may actually make it less humorous, so here is my goal with this review: No spoiler of story, a overview of the mechanics and how they work, and the briefest hint of the type of humor you should expect.
Saddle up: Time to head West!
Title: West of Loathing
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Supplied by Developer
Interface: Keyboard and Mouse
Available on Steam for PC / Mac / Linux for $10.99 price tag ( First Week Sale Price of $9.89)
West of Loathing is a single-player slapstick comedy adventure role-playing game set in the wild west of the Kingdom of Loathing universe. Leave your family farm and head West to find your fortune! Traverse snake-infested gulches, punch skeletons wearing cowboy hats, grapple with demon cows, and investigate a wide variety of disgusting spittoons
First, let’s talk about the part of West of Loathing that anyone seeing the game is going to talk about first: the aesthetic. Right off the back, you’ll be saying ” oh hey, a Stick figure RPG”, and you’re not entirely wrong. West of Loathing is based in the same universe and same style as Kingdom of Loathing, a web based rpg that’s been online since 2003, and has developed a cult following. Kingdom of Loathing has mountains of hilarious stick figure art, from the characters, to the environments, to the items, all done with very conscious tongue-in-cheek sense of satire and love of the genre.
That same style of art and humor have returned in West of Loathing, but now, things are moving. West of Loathing is a 3D Diaroma in the vein of Paper Mario, and don’t let the simple style fool you; there is a ton of depth and richness to the environments. And while the models all have a very distinctive simple style, I was continually impressed by the consistent quality of the animation. West of Loathing’s aesthetic simplicity isn’t the cover for poor quality some people might think it is, far from it. The style in this game has been created very disparately, and more than anything, has a distinct purpose in enhancing the games humor.
Things start off normally enough in West of Loathing. Like all RPG’s, you’ll begin with character creation and choosing a class for you’re cowgirl/cowboy. Youhave three character classes to choose from, and it’s at this point that you realize things may be a bit different than you expected…
Instead of a Warrior, you can be a fierce Cow Puncher, Instead of your typical magic users, it’s a mysterious Beanslinger, and instead of a thief type character, it’s a sneaky Snake Oiler.
Much of West of Loathings humor comes from its self aware subversion of typical RPG elements. Powerful items often are nothing more than an upturned spitoon, or are given punny names, or hilarious grey text. Quests are often funny takes on classic tropes, and more than a few times, there is a good amount of fourth wall breaking, as the game actively talks to you, the player and critiques or downright insults your decisions.
For example, one of your tasks early on is to infiltrate a bandit hideout and steal back the door to the Jail in . You walk up to a bandit taking a nap in bath and are given a few options. You can tap him on the shoulder and ask him to leave, ignore him and leave him to his soak, or shot him. In the head.
The game will comment on your virtue or bloodthirstyness, but more importantly, it rewards your choice with actual gameplay elements. Kill the Bandit, and you get a bloodthirsty perk. Let him be, and you get a Kind Hearted perk. This isn’t the only time this happens in West of Loathing either. Throughout the game, small moments are gameified and your decisions, however small often give you a reward of some type. Small actions might net you a bit of XP, or following up on story ends might get you a fancy new hat. It pays not only to pay attention to everything in West of Loathing, but also to participate with everything. Some might role their eyes at the ideal of calling this game a “Stick Figure Skyrim“, but honestly, I think that’s a pretty good comparison in terms of the amount of content hidden throughout West of Loathing.
At times, the game does succumb to the failures of point-and-click logic, where you can only use item A to unlock door A, even though your own logic makes you think the item B is the answer. Luckily, West of Loathing often times addresses this openly, and makes it pretty clear what you need to accomplish which task. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the thing.
Combat is turn based and straightforward. It’s well designed, and fun, but doesn’t push the proverbial envelope in the same way the art design and narrative humor does, which left me feeling like I wanted a bit more. Combat is still full of puns and jokes, but it does feel like it’s going from a slightly different place than the rest of the game. This is a minor nitpick though, and it really only stands out in a closer analysis of the game.
West of Loathing is a hilarious slapstick romp through a twisted vision of the old west filled with puns, in jokes and self referential humor. I’m not sure that’ll tickle everyone’s funny bone, but I can say that I think everyone should give it a chance. It’s well designed, deceptively full of content and a game unlike any other I’ve played in recent memory.