This Impressions is Spoiler Light- I Skipped Anything Major, but There Are a Few
The World Next Door is a fairly recent indie game from Rose City Games (published by Viz Media). It is story heavy puzzle/action game. Gamers take control of Jun who wins a lottery to visit a parallel world, Emrys, only for Jun to get stuck. The problem is humans cannot remain in Emrys for too long, or the magic that fuels the world will kill them.
As I said, the game is story heavy. Emrys is a parallel world to Earth, and every twenty years a portal opens between the two. For many of those years, the worlds would fight, before finally making peace. Now humans get entered into a lottery with random winners getting to explore Emrys during a festival for the day. Between the portal openings the two worlds have managed to connect via the internet, and Jun, who doesn’t much fit in on Earth, has become close to her online friend, Liza.
When she arrives, Liza convinces her to stay a little later than most and explore and meet more of Liza’s friends, only for Jun to miss the portal closing. Liza and her friends agree to help Jun find a way back home before the magical core of their world kills her. The story is interesting, and I enjoyed the characters a great deal. Each of the people that join the “Human Saver’s Club” has their own developed personalities, and while I liked some more than others, none of them fall flat.
The story also talks a lot about the world of Emrys and their connection to magic and a few things that have been going wrong (like two missing people for instance). All in all, I enjoyed the story aspect of the game and getting to know the characters a great deal. So it’s a little disappointing how incomplete it all feels.
I don’t think you get enough time with the individual characters to really flesh out their unique stories and personalities. What is there is so well done that I found myself wanting more, and being slightly disappointed that I didn’t get it.
There is also a pretty massive problem with the ending, in that it’s not really there. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending feels rushed and then any missing information is provided in a slideshow during the credits. It’s not… great; as far as the end to such a story-driven game is concerned. The developers have acknowledged the problem and plan to add more, so I give them credit for that. However, unless they are going to tack on more side missions as well, then both story and character development will feel incomplete to me.
Despite that, I still greatly enjoyed what was there. I honestly enjoyed playing through the game just as a visual novel and really want more, not only in terms of this game but from the team themselves. I see the potential for greatness as far as plot and character development.
The gameplay also suffers a bit. As I mentioned it’s a puzzle game, with the battles taking place on a grid and you have to match up tiles to cast spells. This is not a bad gameplay design, it’s just not executed perfectly. Jun has some issues with grabbing pieces to make matches and casting. Both of these problems have once again been acknowledged, and an update should come soon.
For me what is really problematic is the balancing. Once you get to a certain point, the gameplay became too overwhelming for me, with way too many monsters on the field and the control issues as I said. Some of the grids are super limited and don’t make for great combos, and Jun doesn’t actually level so what she was in the first puzzle is what she is in the last.
The game does offer an assist mode that turns off damage and just makes it a puzzle game. I appreciate this, especially again with such a compelling story, it ensures that no one is punished for not being great at the game. However, I would have liked to see something in-between the two extremes. Still, it’s not a deal breaker, and I am actually curious to see how future updates change things.
Aside from story and characters, where this game really shines is the art style. Much like the personalities of the characters, each of them has their own unique and super awesome look. I found myself thinking, “Oh, that’s my favorite,” every time a new character came up. The game not only has an excellent art style but uses color very well. Each area you visit has its own design and palette that keep the game from feeling stale, while the overall look of the game is bright and pops. It is a treat to look at from start to finish.
The music is solid, and the sounds in the game work well. There is little voice acting, with a language that reminded me a bit of the Sims, though less annoying. It comes up enough to keep the dialogue from being completely silent, without throwing too much at you.
So bottom line? I really liked this game. I have my issues with it, again with it feeling a touch incomplete and needing some gameplay work, but even with that, I enjoyed playing it. It’s a joy to look at, the story that is there is well done, it has fantastic characters, and it was just fun. It could have used a little extra here, and maybe polish there, but nothing that is even nearing a deal breaker.
I am excited to see how future updates work with the game, and if you are someone that likes story-driven games, I would recommend it. Even if you didn’t happen to like the gameplay, I would still recommend it as you can turn damage off and enjoy the story. I also really can’t wait to see if the developers do anything else in the future *fingers crossed* because if they build from here, I will likely enjoy the hell out of their games.