I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have lived in the Wild West of the 1800’s here in my home state of California: the gold rush, the building of missions, and every man for himself. With wonderful games like Westward, I can play cowgirl and never have to worry about getting bit by mosquitoes.
Westward is an iPhone version of the PC simulation/strategy game developed by Sandlot Games, although this version was developed by Binoteq.
It’s easy to learn how to play. In fact, the whole game feels a little like a tutorial with help and explanations along the way. You follow the life of a young couple as they head out to the American frontier to make their mark on the world. They dream of easy living in the Wild West, but are soon swindled by a Russian con artist.
Your cowgirl and cowboy are not to be defeated, however, and they team up with others who have been tricked and begin the tough job of building a town from the ground up. In the process, you and the other settlers have to learn how to manage resources like food, water, lumber, and gold as you construct various buildings and woo additional settlers to your town.
While I found Westward to be an enjoyable experience it was not without flaws. Sometimes the screen is a little difficult to manipulate. I could not always make the people go where I wanted them to go. And sometimes it’s tough to execute the directions you are given. I could not always get my “good guys” to fight the bandits because I couldn’t drag them where they were needed. To me it felt like the controls were not working as precisely as they could have.
The music and sound effects are quite good, and perfectly complement the Western theme of the game. Both music and sound effects can be turned off or turned down separately. However, they are not controllable with the iPhone “off” button. You have to go into the “Options” section of the game to control these. The graphics are beautiful but a little hard to see at times because of the size of the screen. The faces are not really clear and it is sometimes hard to tell exactly what you are looking at when asked to build something or go somewhere.
I wasn’t expecting to get hooked when I began playing Westward, but as I played, I found myself really enjoying the process of helping the characters build their town and overcome obstacles. This is largely because the story line is so clever and engaging, with lots of humor in the form of subtle jokes and references to old movies and other funny subjects.
If you liked the classic Oregon Trail game or you enjoy simulation/strategy games, you’ll find that Westward is a good value. This game has a lot to offer in terms of characters, setting, story, strategy, and length of gameplay. So, I would say it is worth the money to those who enjoy this type of game. And, after all, Westward does give you a chance to experience the western frontier without suffering the pains of being a pioneer. I really don’t know how they survived without a hot shower every day.