I had first heard of The World Next Door due to its association with VIZ media, a large company in the anime and manga industry. This is VIZ’s first time putting their name to a video game like this, and given that I like anime and visual novels, I had to give it a look.
Cool battle system. For having such a large visual novel side to the game, The World Next Door has a pretty cool battle system. It basically takes the form of a match 3 puzzle, but the battles actually take place on top of the puzzles rather than being off to the side like in similar games. This allows for some pretty cool battle mechanics, with some matches activating electrical traps on the ground and others shooting off fireballs or black holes from where they were activated. Because enemies are chasing you on this same board, there’s also the added element of movement, making the battles far more interactive than just matching tiles together. I quite enjoyed this battle system, even if it did come with some problems (more on that later).
Great story/gameplay balance. Considering that The World Next Door is a blend of two genres, the balancing between its two sides should be of upmost importance. Fortunately, the game does a great job in that regard, providing some excellent balance between its story and gameplay elements. The game was constantly jumping back between the two, but it never felt erratic. This is because the story segments were kept short, yet interesting enough that they never really grew annoying. It was just enough to tell a decent story while also not going full VN — it’s a rather nice way to introduce newcomers to the genre without overloading them.
Laughable difficulty. I may have praised the game’s cool battle system, but as it stands, it is stupidly easy to clear. In fact, throughout my entire playthrough I do not think I ever dropped below 100 HP out of the maximum of 250. This is due to a couple of reasons, one being the absurd amount of HP drops you are given both in-battle and out. Not only do the green tiles matched while in-battle give you HP, but the game places healing wells outside of most battles anyways, so you’re pretty much always at full HP.
Aside from the HP drops, it is also quite easy to manipulate the game’s AI. The basic enemy AI just follows you around and can be easily lead into traps and other attacks, making no effort to avoid them. Most of the levels are also open enough to allow for enemies to be lead in a circle, making it very easy to dodge their attacks. Granted, this is a visual novel hybrid and emphasis is placed on its storyline, but the gameplay should at least be challenging to a certain degree.
Lackluster sidequest design. Outside of its main quest, The World Next Door also has a variety of sidequests that can be taken advantage of in the game’s hub world. Unfortunately, these sidequests are pretty lazy in their design, most taking the form of simple fetch quests. There was one that had me searching for a lost baseball cap, another that had me fetching a character’s lipstick from some other character, and another that had me helping someone find their lost manga volume. They were all pretty basic and really just felt like they were tacked on to give the game a sense of substance where there was none. Fortunately, these were all optional, so you do not have to pay them any mind if you so choose to.
Iffy character designs. Given that the game is trying to go for that “anime” aesthetic, it certainly does itself no favors in the character design department. While there are a couple nice character designs here, the majority felt like something ripped straight off of Tumblr or DeviantArt. Granted, this is a more subjective claim and there is definitely a crowd that enjoys this type of art, but it just felt cheap and off-putting to me.
It does have its shortcomings, but The World Next Door is a pretty nice experience overall. The combat is cool, the storyline is interesting (even if simple), and the balancing between the two was very well done. Even so, the puzzle difficulty, sidequest design, and character art are all a bit on the weaker side, but I still give the game a positive recommendation regardless. The couple hours I spent playing through it were enjoyable if anything.
You can buy The World Next Door on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.