The World Next Door Review – A Magical First Game
The World Next Door is a new narrative-driven, action-adventure indie game by Rose City Games. It attempts to blend visual novel elements and powerful storytelling with a really unique puzzle-battle system that I honestly haven’t seen before. I’m happy to say that the game succeeds in most of what it tries to do. Most, but not all.
Earth and Emrys are two separate worlds connected by a portal that only opens once a year. The protagonist, Jun, is chosen to visit the magical world of Emrys for a day, but while exploring a shrine, her and her friends get trapped and don’t make it back to the portal in time. They then discover that they must activate all four shrines in Emrys to reopen the portal and get Jun back home. The story of the game is entertaining enough. It’s linear and follows a set path, but along the way, you get to choose your own dialogue and even some story choices. The choices in the end didn’t feel like they had enough time to take effect, which in turn made the ending of the game feel very sudden, almost as if the story was supposed to be a bit longer than it was. The dialogue you choose from is pretty straightforward, represented by little faces that tell you the tone of what you’re saying and it’s awesome to finally play a game where you choose your dialogue and it’s written the exact same way when your character says it. With that said, you may have thought that I meant the voice acting perfectly reflects what the choices are, but unfortunately there’s no voice acting in this game. Well, no one’s fully voiced besides one character in the market named Aki, which is a really strange choice since she’s not even a central character in the plot.
The World Next Door features a combat system that I was unfamiliar with, but still very much enjoyed. When you walk into a room with enemies, the floor tiles glow with different colored runes that you have to connect to attack. The more you connect together, the stronger the attack is. There are 6 different types of runes and they all have different effects in combat, which adds a really nice level of depth and strategy to how you fight each enemy type. There are also different special attacks that your party members can do if you manage to get their rune pattern. The fact that there was so much thought put into how the runes work and how much space there is to strategize is something I can really appreciate, especially since it could’ve easily been a really simple hack-and-slash beat ’em up like most other games would’ve done. If you’re good at match-3 games, you’ll most likely love this, and even if you’re like me and haven’t really played many match-3 games, it’s still incredibly satisfying to link together really strong attacks and you might enjoy it as much as I did.
The World Next Door feels like a passion project with more care put into it than a lot of the games on the Steam store page. I experienced a bug with a side quest and later discovered that the devs had patched it out on release so no one would experience it, their quick reactions show me that they really care about this game. But the story, while enjoyable, feels like it ends before it’s supposed to. It clocks in at about 3.5 to 4 hours plus side quests, but feels like another couple of hours would’ve fleshed out all of the plot points. It definitely has replay value since it has so many dialogue choices and since the combat is so fun to experiment with. For that alone I think it’s worth the asking price, even with the very few caveats it has. This game is great and I’d love to see what Rose City could do with a sequel of this game because this universe seems ripe with lore and this game tells me they have the potential to make some truly amazing games.
You can see the trailer for it here! It’s out on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.