The World Next Door by Rose City Games
There comes a time in every teenage girl’s life where she needs to put on a mask, travel to another world, and spend her time hanging out with monsters while desperately trying not to die.
You Ever Feel Like You Just Don’t Fit In?
The World Next Door casts players as Jun, a lonesome teenage girl who finds herself selected to journey to Emrys, an exciting parallel world full of humanoid monster people whom she quickly befriends. However, when a monster attack leaves her stuck in Emrys, she and her new friends have to scramble to solve the mystery of the sacred shrines that surround the world, or she might never make it home.
I can already hear the anime fans in the crowd either salivating or face-palming with equal passion.
All My Friends Are Monsters
Right off the bat, The World Next Door establishes a fun, lighthearted tone thanks to both its visuals and its writing. Jun and her friends are an immensely likable cast of characters, and thanks to some positively beautiful artwork for each of them, you really get a feel for what they’re all about. Whether it’s Rainy the merman quivering at the thought of more danger or demon-skulled Horace shouting about how badly he wants to blow stuff up, you’d have to actively try not to fall in love with these characters.
This is a good thing, because about half of your time in the game is devoted to chatting with your crew. Conversations take on a visual novel format, and you often get at least two or three choices for how Jun decides to react to her friends emotionally.
While these choices ultimately seem to have little effect on the game, it can be fun to see how everyone reacts to different responses (especially the sarcastic ones). You’re also occasionally limited in how many people you can talk to before the story advances, which encourages you to give the game another play-through to see what you can find out that you maybe missed the first time.
Magic Is Like…So Last Year
The other half of the game comes in the form of Zelda-style dungeon crawls where Jun and company investigate Emrys’ shrines. Moving between rooms often leads to encounters with creatures called Grievances, and Jun must fight them by using newfound magical abilities activated by runes.
In short, spells are cast by matching sets of at least three runes and activating them, which triggers one of several different spells to be cast. Some fly out at enemies, some stay still and damage any that come into contact with them, and one can even heal you. There’s also the possibility to combine spells by placing sets of runes beside each other, which powers them up.
While the combat is initially fun, it, unfortunately, ends up quickly becoming the game’s Achilles heel. For starters, the controls for rearranging the runes are fiddly, and often resulted in me either grabbing the wrong runes or placing them in the wrong spot.
An even bigger problem, though, is how small the arenas you find yourself fighting in are, as it often makes it virtually impossible to both arrange combos of spells and avoid getting bum-rushed by enemies, especially in later levels when there are up to three attacking you at once.
It’s frustrating, because it’s a system that has potential, but ultimately I found myself wanting to just get back to the story.
We’re All Special in Our Own Way
Other than the combat, the only other major complaint about The World Next Door is that I wish there was more to it. The story ultimately ends with more questions than answers, and while the conversations with the characters are funny and charming, it feels like the decisions the game has you make don’t amount to much. Hopefully, a sequel comes along at some point with a bit more meat on its bones, because I’m legitimately interested in seeing where everything goes.
As it is, The World Next Door is an adventure that’s rough around the edges and quite short, but largely compensates with a lot of charm and heart. If you can look past the awkward puzzle sections, you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy about your time in Emrys.
The World Next Door is available via the Nintendo Game Store, Itch.io, and Steam.
Watch the official trailer for The World Next Door below: