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AWAY: Journey to the Unexpected was one of those games that caught my attention almost immediately, mostly due to the art style and the use of what appeared to be anime cel-shaded cut-out characters. With charming graphics and a great art-style, it was easy to get my foot in the door and see what developers Aurelien Regard and Rayman level designer Jim Gennisson had in store.

AWAY is a first-person rogue-like that uses 2D animation for its characters and world, but set in a 3D environment. The story centers around you playing as a kid trying to find his parents and you start off in your house only to find that you must go on a grand adventure to find them. Your house acts as the hub and there’s rooms scattered around throughout the house that are locked behind star doors with only one path open from the beginning.

The environments are broken up into several areas with a few different paths and ways to go about things, as well as there being some randomization in how levels are presented. With the different areas each one has a main quest for you to complete and in doing so you’ll be able to run through AWAY rather quickly. However, it’s the side quests that really allow you to progress as gaining new comrades and items will make the proceedings much easier for you.

There are items in AWAY called friendship cubes and you can either find them in the world or buy them from certain shops. By keeping these cubes with you, you’ll be able to interact with characters in the world and make them happy through dialogue choices or completing tasks, and they become a playable character. Each one of these characters has a some variety to them with different moves and abilities, and that definitely helps you progress in a much easier fashion.

While you are able to recruit many other allies to play as, the main character was unfortunately not too fun to play as. You only have a stick as your weapon and it only provides you with a basic melee attack. As you progress new abilities are earned, such as charging up your swings and you are able to shoot firework-like flames at incoming enemies.

Speaking of the combat, hit-detection was spotty at best and oftentimes when attacking using melee skills the enemy would hit me even when it seemed like they shouldn’t. By earning the trust of the other characters, you get stars and these stars are what are used to unlock various doors in your house. You can finish AWAY in about 30 minutes, but if you don’t have enough stars once you get to the end, you’re just rewarded with a locked door and you’ll have to go back and ear enough stars before making your way back.

When you lose all your health in AWAY it is ‘game over’ and you start your progress over from the beginning, but since it’s relatively short to make it through again you’re not really set that far back. Every time you do completely a run or end up dying, you rack up more experience and are able to earn some new skills and abilities that really end up helping out. After you get a few of these you’ll probably be able to finish up the story rather quickly. It’ll take several runs in order to see everything AWAY has to offer, but even once you do it’s about five hours to fully complete.

The randomization factor doesn’t really add a whole to your experience as it’s mostly reserved for the small extra areas that you have to to go through in order to hit things like switches to open three caves. These caves are randomly generated, there are still only a set number of setups for the caves and after just a couple playthroughs you’ll being to see the same ones over and over again. The gameplay felt clunky at its best, and as stated before, there were plenty of times that I would swing a stick at a lady and the enemy would run into me first. The animation styles also make it hard to see exactly where you should be swinging or firing and this can become frustrating.

Overall, AWAY: Journey to the Unexpected had some fun moments with the art work of the characters and enemies being very enjoyable to see. in a 3D environment. It added some incentive to keep playing, but the hit-or-miss action and short length made this a title you might want to wait for a sale for. My time spent was enjoyable as this was a nice escape from the doom-and-gloom scenarios many video games paint, although I feel AWAY was more of a testing ground and better things are on the horizon for Aurelien and Jim.

Nuke the Fridge Score: 6/10

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