First creation of Pixpil – a studio based in Shanghai – the adventure game Eastward appeared on Switch and PC on September 16, 2021 with certain ambitions. And there is no doubt that it is a good game. However, to fully enjoy it, and not face disappointment, you still need to know what to expect before you lay your hands. on this title with various and familiar accents. So, let’s take this step for the wonderful and threatened worldEastward, in order to discover the why and how.
Let’s go discover the world
It all starts in an underground place that locals call Cocotte Island, supposed to be a refuge from external threats. A mysterious and sparkling young girl named Sam spends her time with her friends in front of a video game. After all, a classic occupation for a child. And like any individual of her age, the little girl is dreamy but above all curious about the world around her. Especially since in her, deeply buried in her memory, are hidden memories of a time gone by where colors still had their place, where the blue of the sky was visible and the grass could be approached, touched. She knows it, at least she feels that what she has seen many times in a dream is more than a mirage, and that it lies beyond the borders of her dark land. Inspirations for travel and discovery unwelcome by those around him, who, faced with fear, have found refuge in contempt. Only, no matter how disparaged someone is, the curious woman has and will always have by her side a man with whom she has a relationship comparable to that which a daughter has with her father, John the minor. A passive man kindly obeying orders given to him and who seems to exist only for Sam.
The idea here is to show that the real strength in a post-apocalyptic world like Eastward is found in relationship with other people.
The two, contrasting one from the other, form a complementary duo, to say the least explosive. Circumstances will lead them to leave their home. Thus, they will embark on an odyssey, on a road-trip during which they will meet various characters (men or machines) with whom they will create more or less close links. These encounters can be seen as the real engine of the game. The idea here is to show that the real strength in a post-apocalyptic world like Eastward is found in relationship with other people. In short, this is the main resource of humanity. This title is indeed presented as a concentrate of human experience: there are the joys of friendship, the pain of separation, the search for one’s own happiness.… From there to saying that what Pixpil offers is a simulation of life in an apocalyptic world there is only one step.
It is pleasant to go to meet this small world which punctuates the adventure, to know their small personal stories. This gives rise in particular to particularly funny situations, as long as one is open to the kind of humor offered. However, once the game is over, there is a certain feeling of unfinished business. Some elements or characters are unfortunately not sufficiently developed. A few more details would have been welcome.
Premium to originality?
Going into Eastward for the very first time, one would mistakenly believe that he has a deep connection to the models he is inspired by, The Legend of Zelda is one of them. Yes, a large number of elements (other than the gameplay) from this famous series have been reused, such as the materialization of vital energy by hearts or sound signals to signify that a passage has been unblocked. It is the same for other universes, as well video game as cinematographic, to which it is referred either by means of replicas, or visual elements. One of the most glaring examples is obviously found in Sam’s favorite game which not only refers to Earthbound (by title), but also to Dragon Quest. An in-game game that can also be approached by players, provided they have the necessary tokens to start the game. Many references, of course, but make no mistake, it is not simply a question of copying ideas here and there or playing with the nostalgia of some. They are aiming, it seems, for a few goals (at least two). We will explain them below.
There is a desire to demystify the role of the hero, to place him in his right category, that of an ordinary human
It is true that such references can bring a smile, thereby rekindling some memories (if any), but, it cannot be denied, to some might seem somewhat unpleasant. Indeed, by dint of being confronted with things known, seen and reviewed, the question of the identity of the software arises: is it a simple copy or does it manage to detach itself from the source of its inspiration ? Well yes. In fact, the different winks are part of a work of recovery. He is closer to his predecessors, reappropriates the codes, to better detach himself from them. Let’s say there is a sort of desecration of this type of Zelda game. He is no longer a hero called by fate, but an aging anti hero who does not have a sword but a pan, evolving as he progresses, as his main weapon. A significant choice that plants, or at least, definitely binds Eastward not to the simple pastiche, but to the genre of parody. There is therefore a desire to demystify the role of the hero, to place him in his proper category, that of an ordinary human. And in addition to this possible desire for diversion, the reason, other than homage, which could justify the massive use of pop-culture would be linked to a desire to anchor the software in a realistic framework, to bring fiction closer to our own. world in order to perhaps concern us more through the messages conveyed.
A touching beauty
From a graphic point of view, Eastward is a real gem. The pixel art decorations are so well worked that it is more than pleasant to browse the universe offered by the title. But not only, the artistic realization manages to infuse it with a je ne sais quoi, not to say soul, which manages to carry the atmosphere, or rather, the atmospheres present throughout the adventure. This bewitching quality is due to a perfect balance between light and dark, perfect for bringing forth the melancholy appropriate to the world in question. This beauty then presents itself as a necessity. The contrast can only appear more striking.
The same goes for the soundtrack: the musical composition, very solid, accompanies the game to perfection, whether in moments of sadness, humor or during epic phases. However, one can imagine, it can be wearisome by its repetitiveness.
A thrilling adventure?
As has already been said above, the software opens the doors to an unknown and forgotten world where humans live in small communities here and there, living in the city or in a slightly more rustic environment. All of them have their stories and queries to submit. And our duo, considerate as they are, don’t hesitate to help them. Here they are as he embarks on various missions, which, it is true, may seem tedious, even unnecessary. For example, running around looking for ingredients for a culinary challenge is not very interesting. Unfortunately, no choice, these are required parts of the game and not side quests. This is totally consistent with the type of experience offered (see the passage on the importance of relationships above), but not very enjoyable, it must be said. At least, it is possible not to derive great pleasure from it, especially when one has to attend long dialogues. The opposite is obviously possible. In fact, it all depends on what the players are looking for. On our side, we were only relatively satisfied, even if this kind of imposed tasks is not without interest, since they allow to create attachment and affect. These moments of peace and conviviality oppose the brutality that exists in reality, outside the refuges that humans have created for themselves, protecting them from the evil which ravages the land, the miasma. And therefore, when this little illusion is shattered, one can only feel concerned and caught up in the misfortune that befalls the characters. Something that can only be true, especially if we are particularly attentive and absorbed by what is put in front of our eyes. Finally, this is indeed the case if one is sensitive to such a spectacle. In this arrangement, we gladly let ourselves be carried away by the poetry of the title. A poetry, both pictorial and textual, not always joyful.
As for the fights, they engage the players against a varied and whimsical bestiary at will, can be eliminated with a stove or weapons that can be collected and improved during the game, such as a gun or flamethrower. Also, the various bombs proposed will not be neglected. To defeat the bosses, which offer a certain challenge, it is necessary, in the classic way, to work 3 times. This type of confrontation is pleasant and interesting, in particular thanks to the adversaries, who decide between themselves by offering something unique. Some are even quite impressive like the last boss.
Inside the dungeons, puzzles are obviously part of the game. But nothing too difficult. To complete them successfully, in most cases it is necessary to alternate between Sam and John. Yes, it is possible to play both characters. And both have their own usefulness, abilities, and moments of glory. Unlike John, Sam has psychic powers, which can be used to immobilize enemies, among other things.. Which is very practical.
The path will occupy you at least a good twenty hours, perhaps less depending on your success. In order to achieve this without great difficulty, you will also have the possibility of making different dishes, which will give you variable health points depending on the quality of the food. Eh yes! What could be more saving than food?