Review: West of Loathing (Switch)

I love West of Loathing because it took what few expectations I had of it, scooped them up and whisked me away to the realization that it is more than the sum of its parts. At first blush it is a Western (as in the theme, not the genre) role-playing game with stick figures and a healthy sense of humor. At second blush… well, it’s still all those things, but it’s also endearing, clever and quick-witted. It’s a game I didn’t realize I wanted to play until I played it, and I have an inkling it might charm you as well.

You play as a customizable (well, up to a point, obviously) stick person who sets off from their family farm to strike it rich out West. And… that’s kind of it. This isn’t some sweeping adventure of derring-do or self-discovery; it’s about a bumbling and goofy cowpoke doing what they think they’re supposed to because nobody tells them otherwise. West of Loathing focuses on the person-to-person interactions to tell its irreverent story – it’s all about the journey and not the destination… and stuff.

So, you meander to various areas and explore admittedly neat locales that all look like they fell out of your high school Trapper Keeper™ – child-like representations of snake-filled canyons and rustic old west towns. The presentation definitely complements the wackiness, and vice versa. The best way to describe your interactions with people, places and things is ‘goofy’. There’s nary a moment of seriousness to be found, and in this case that’s a great thing. The writing is superb and pithy, with your character being able to dish out the jokes as quickly as they become the butt of them. Dialog is an important part of West of Loathing, as you can often earn experience or work your way out of fights with the right comeback.

Speaking of combat, it is of the typical turn-based, “you stand on one side of the screen while the bad guys stand on the other” type, and never veers towards anything I’d call deep. In this day and age there’s a lot of new and sometimes complicated systems for gamers to wade through, so something this simple is tantamount to a breath of fresh air. Indeed, it helps to put the focus on other areas of the game – since I knew what I was doing in combat without putting a terrible lot of thought into it, I could focus on the funny parts. Even so, the fights were still fun enough that I usually jumped into battles when given the chance.

The most rewarding aspect of West of Loathing is in the minutia; those moments where you interact with just about everything and get a joke out of it. In the very opening minutes of the game you collect needles in haystacks, find that your mom has a pie safe (to keep the pies safe, obviously!) and a book that teaches you how to “walk stupidly.” Which you can actually do if you choose to. Watching a stick figure do the worm across the screen rarely gets old.

If you look at each element of West of Loathing on its own, there’s nothing that would necessarily carry an entire game. Put together though, they provide an experience worth having because there’s just enough exploration, combat and witty banter to go around, and even hours in it doesn’t get stale. So get on your googly-eyed horse (I know you’ll pick the googly-eyed horse!) and ride into the sunset, er, eShop and give West of Loathing a go.

West of Loathing is available for PC, Mac, Linux and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: Review code for West of Loathing was provided by Asymmetric. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.