Westbound is a game that attempts to capture the sense of adventure that early Americans must have felt as they traveled west in search of gold, fortune, and gun-slinging action. Perhaps the developers approached that task a bit too literally, because the game is less about Wild, Wild West action and more about the “are we there, yet?” impatience typically associated with long trips.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a frontiersman riding an ox-drawn wagon across the prairies of Oklahoma. No, seriously – imagine it. Think about staring at nothing but tumbleweeds and distant mountains for hour after hour as you travel to reach something more interesting.
That’s what playing Westbound feels like, because the bulk of gameplay involves doing absolutely nothing while watching a time bar slowly fill up. Yessirree – Westbound is one of those paid timer games that give players an oh-so-tantalizing option: you could wait for the timer to finish in 5 hours and have fun then, or you could pay the developers the low-low price of $1.00 and have fun right now!
Putting aside the inherent problems of paid timer games, that still leaves a burning question: is Westbound a good game?
Well, I’ll admit that the game does have some things going for it. The cartoony graphics and bubbly user interface is exactly what you’d expect out of a game from this genre. Everything is bright, cheerful, and lighthearted – fitting, considering that Westbound is all about daring adventure and exploration.
I suspect that early settlers must have looked westward with excitement and optimism in their heart, but the rough and seemingly endless trail west gradually wore them down until they were devoid of hope and cheer. That’s kind of what Westbound is like. Everything about the game is initially promising and optimistic, but it won’t be long before the long grind and the money-making tricks drain all of your enthusiasm for the game.
The music matches the aesthetics with its playful optimism, but its catchiness will quickly wear off after the sixth or seventh loop. By then, though, you should already be well into starting your own frontier town.
The game starts with you rescuing a dapper mustachioed fellow from the evil clutches of a wagon wheel (His ankle is stuck. Click to free him. Hurray! You get gold). From there, you rescue a pair of incompetent stereotypes from a landslide. The first is a true Southern belle blonde named Ruby Mae, and the second is a potbellied fella’ by the name of Goldtooth. So, you’ve met three people out west so far, and every single one of them has been mortally endangered by minor debris. Perhaps these folks weren’t suited for a life on the American frontier.
Well, there’s no time to worry about that. There’s work to be done, Partner! Ruby Mae and Goldtooth want you to perform tasks that are critical to their survival, such as planting crops and building signs. Every one of those tasks has a time bar, but the developers start you off easy with a mere five second wait. Enjoy it while it lasts, because minute-long and hour-long waits loom on the horizon. What about gameplay?
If you’ve got the patience or the money to stick builder games, you’ll eventually be rewarded with a robust community complete with farms, pubs, and casinos. The hokey, corny graphics are admittedly endearing and I’m certain that some players will undoubtedly get a kick out of decorating their miniature communities, fastidiously arranging their flower pots and chicken coops to achieve some sort of digital Feng Shui. Oh, and speaking of the Chinese, oppressed Asian indentured servants don’t make an appearance. This game is simply too plucky for depressing historical accuracy.
One of the neat things about Westbound is that it has a few gimmicks to speed up gameplay for the cheap and impatient. Certain structures will pop out resources that speed up timers, and you also get rewards by installing titles from in-game advertisements. Oh, wait. Silly me! Built-in commercials aren’t a feature, they’re a major inconvenience!
Overall, I’d highly recommend Westbound if you adore southern accents, decorating, and moronic townsfolk who are likely to die if they ever encounter a gopher hole. If you think staring at a clock while devs blackmail you with the privilege of playing doesn’t sound like fun, then you might want to skip Westbound in a favor of a game that lets you play right now instead of an hour from now.