Jun has become trapped in a parallel world and needs the help of her friends and a little magic to get back home. Combine runes to cast spells and while dodging the attacks of the magical monsters of Emrys, in The World Next Door.
Format: PC via Steam
First playthrough time: 4 hours
All endings play time: 6 hours total
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The World Next Door is a combination of action-puzzle and visual novel. During story segments of the game, the player (as Jun) talks with her friends and other members of another world, Emrys. There are numerous dialogue options, although they have a very minor impact on the story outcomes. Story segments primarily happen during the day when Jun can travel around the small town and complete side quests for characters or collect and deliver items. At night, Jun and her friends descend into magically empowered shrines, where they fight monsters called Grievances.
The combat involves picking up and moving runes in order to create arrangements of three or more of the same rune to launch spells at enemies. Each rune denotes a different type of spell and launching one spell next to another prepared set of runes will empower those runes for a short time. Spells have different effects from creating damaging and stunning areas on the ground, to healing Jun, to slowing and damaging enemies, or other damage effects.
I did have some major issues with the controls during combat. Frequently I would be unable to pick up a rune despite standing directly above it, or be unable to activate a prepared spell. This happened fairly frequently and early on, got me killed on several early combats. Eventually, I got used to the fact that sometimes the controls just weren’t going to work and I had to just keep moving and try something else. There is an option in the settings to prevent Jun from taking any damage during combat. This essentially enables an easy mode where the player cannot die during combat, even against bosses. I was not interested in using this on my first playthrough, but on my second playthrough, I use this feature in order to go faster.
I played through the game a second time because there was a choice at the end, which allowed the player to have two different endings. The first time I choose an ending that did not fully explain everything and I wanted to see both. I thought it was cool that there were two endings, but I was very frustrated with the fact that in order to get to the second ending, the player had to completely replay the game. There was no way to go back to that final choice or jump to any particular day after beating the game. Upon replaying the game, there was no way to skip through the dialogue. The player had to mash the advance button through all of the dialogue again, which was the bulk of the time it took to replay the game.
I enjoyed the surreal characters and environment of The World Next Door. A lot of the characters I found very visually appealing, particularly the enemies. I also liked the inclusion of LGBT+ characters in the story without playing a huge focus on them, just letting LGBT+ characters be naturally part of a story without needing a huge spotlight.
Throughout the dialogue, there are a number of dialogue choices that the player can make. They have a pretty minor impact on what happens, but it was nice to see all the different ways that the player could express how they felt in different conversations. It also made the dialogue feel more back and forth instead of being dominated by the abundance of non-player characters.
Overall, I liked The World Next Door. I liked the action-puzzle gameplay, even though I had a bit of trouble with the combat controls. I definitely liked the characters and environment and the different dialogue options, but I really wish there had been a way to go back and change the ending without replaying the whole game and having to span through all of the dialogue again. I recommend The World Next Door for players, looking for action-puzzle gameplay, and a fair bit of story and character development.
What action-puzzlers do you like?
Let me know in the comments below!
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Categories: Desktop games, Video game reviews
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