Class Reunion - Class of 1969 - Liberty, Mississippi
Title: The World Next Door
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie
Rose City Games
Release Date: 28 Mar, 2019
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I really wanted to like this game. I finished it at launch and felt really disappointed. I've been sitting on this for the past week, wondering if I should write a negative review for a game that seems to have been dead on arrival anyways. But I actually haven't seen anyone bring up my particular gripes, so here goes. The world next door feels unfinished, too simple in its puzzles and shallow for a "visual novel". You have to go into the menus to even see the keyboard controls for this game, and it uses the arrow keys. It also does not register you picking up a block or casting a spell unless you're 100% on top of that block - this is obviously an issue because of the enemies forcing you to move around constantly. It's definitely more pronounced when playing on keyboard; using WASD might alleviate it but you can't edit your own controls. Once I gave up on the arrow keys and dug up an xbox controller, this became possibly the easiest game I've ever played. Yikes. VNs can often afford to let their writing and dialogue carry them, with minimal art and programming required. This game seems to lack in all aspects - even though the usual visual novel standard should be easy to hit even for an indie studio, since most of the burden falls on the writing. But this game doesn't have good writing, and it has laughable voice acting - the other thing that VNs often lean on. (The only "fully voiced" lines are an easter egg, for one of the most obnoxious youtubers I can think of. ) The main story is serviceable but also extremely predictable, expect to see characters feign ignorance about obvious things hours after you've understood them. What is missing is more agregious than what's there, as several points of intrigue never really get resolved. The segments of walking around the town and talking to everyone were the most enjoyable and I almost wish it had a post-game, something like that could have helped resolve plot threads too. It feels like they wrote a much bigger world and only put about 70% of it in the game, but also constantly talk about how cool and mysterious the other 30% is!! To the point where I thought there would be more to the story but then it just ended. with an underwhelming "epilogue" hidden in the credits, so well in fact that I completely missed it the first time. I brought this up with the devs and their response was "that's how we get you to read our names". Well, I've read your names and I'm probably not going to buy a game from any of you again. I make it a point to watch out for new indie gems, but this game is just sloppy - and I think the complete lack of buzz around it is proof of that.. I want so much to love this game! The art style, music and atmosphere are ethereal - I don't think I've come across a video game that looks more beautiful. If a sequel was released, I'll likely get it just to experience the world again. The puzzle/combat system has so much potential, but leaves much to be desired. I'm definitely a story-over-combat type of person, yet I still wished there was more challenge and complexity to combat in this game. I appreciated the freedom to talk to other characters via text as well as the variety of side quests available to take on, but again - soooo much potential yet somewhat underwhelming. What bummed me out the most - being so immersed in the story - was how abruptly the game ended. The ending felt rushed to say the least. I'd recommend the game just because it looks so beautiful. I appreciate how much attention was invested into making the world visually stunning.. I'm really torn going into this review. I gave it a thumbs down, but I didn't hate it. It's a solid 3/5. I've played through twice now, and I'm trying to talk myself into a third run. My overall opinion is, unfortunately, the game isn't worth the $15 I paid for it. It IS worth playing, however, so if you can get it on sale and you're thinking about giving it a try, don't hesitate. Here's a breakdown of what I loved and hated: Pros: - Battles are fought with a take on the Match 3 style games, so it's an easy system for most people to pick up. That kind of accessibility is always appreciated. Some other players have struggled with it on the PC, but I plugged in an Xbox controller and had no issues. (If you find it's still too difficult and you're more interested in the story than gameplay, you have the option to turn on assist mode in settings. You'll still have to go through the puzzles, but you'll no longer take damage. If you're getting frustrated, I'd suggest switching it on to finish the game.) - Visually this game is STUNNING. I love the aesthetic. It felt like a reward for putting myself through multiple play throughs--more on that later. - Music and sound effects were fun. Sometimes you get partial voice acting in games and it doesn't add to the experience. In this case I felt it did. - There was a lot of diversity in the NPCs. You have the option to spend a fair amount of time interacting with the inhabitants of Emrys, and they're interesting. If you're running side quests, you might as well enjoy the dialogue along the way, right? - The story is promising. By the end I was invested and really enjoyed the development of the plot. That's saying a lot, since it tended toward the predictable. The writing was fun, and none of the dialogue ran overly long. In a short game, you need to keep things concise, and the devs did a great job with that. The writing style was fresh and a little funky, which fit the story and visuals perfectly. Cons: - This game is short. I feel like I should get at least 10 hours out of a $15 game, but this one comes in at no more than 5 per play through. That would be fine if there was incentive for playing it a second or third time, but. - There is only one ending (as far as I can tell.) While it seems as though you can change the end of the game, it's very much a Mass Effect 3 situation. Take this with a grain of salt, because I've only done two runs, but you will always end up in the same place, regardless of the major decisions you make. I don't mind games with a fixed ending, but if a game gives me a series of choices, and alludes to alternate endings, I'd appreciate it if the dev held up their side of things and came through with the alternate ending. This might bother me more because I play a lot of VNs, but it sounds like it's a universal complaint. - The ending leaves a lot of loose ends. This was the most disappointing aspect for me. I felt like the dev wanted to do a mobile-style version of a game like Persona, but fell extremely short of the mark. The anime aesthetic, choice-driven plot, side quest options, and mundane interactions (like choosing who you text, or how to spend your day leading up to battle) were promising. The lackluster ending was not. Even the final boss battle was a let-down. If a story raises a series of questions, but only answers half of them, it makes the game feel incomplete. The only thing they can do at this point to make it worse is release a second game that attempts to tie up those loose ends. For the price, it really needed to be a complete game, and no amount of novel gameplay or beautiful art is enough of a band-aid to fix it. My overall take? It was an underwhelming first entry for Viz media into the gaming world. Rose City Games had a great concept with the Match 3 meets anime-inspired adventure game, but they seem to have fallen victim to the idea that a game can be only so many things at once: novel gameplay, beautiful aesthetic, or well-rounded plot. In this Match 3, you can only pick two.. As i said at SXSW; "The world next door is the cuphead of high octane puzzle games" i don't thing anyone laughed. LOVE LOVE LOVE THE ART!!! Also, the game mechanics are easily comprehendable and memorable! Hope to see some dlc maybe for alt endings in the future? Just an idea though!!
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