The World Next Door is an interesting combination of puzzle-dungeon crawling and narrative gameplay. While you actively take on challenges in a style similar to more traditional puzzle games, the magical twists it has with its presentation is pretty fun. Other aspects of role-playing games are thrown in to compliment everything else, but the focus is on a plot that tells of alternate worlds and monsters who, like all of us, attend high school and go about their daily lives. It’s enjoyable for anyone that wants to experience something unique with a story to guide them through it, despite having a few missteps and quarks along the way.
You play as Jun, a human visiting the monster world to hang out with friends through a special exchange program between the human and monster worlds. After being allowed to visit, things go wrong and she finds herself stuck in the monster world, with only a limited time to return home before she dies from remaining in the monster world. Helping her out is an ensemble of friends you meet throughout the game, each with their own unique stories and weird personalities. The cast does give off late 90s television show vibe with each character having some sort of standout feature to be recognizable. Though lighthearted often in its story, The World Next Door does have a mature undertone.
Most scenarios will have characters chatting about the fun times they have/had, before transitioning into a life & death situation or deep conversation. There are times when certain events seem to drag on without much happening, especially when the interactions between characters seem a bit mundane. Interestingly enough you can choose responses in most interactions with characters, leading to different lines of dialogue for the same cutscene. This doesn’t change the outcome of events, but it gives them a little bit of variety.
When you finally do get into the gameplay portions of the game after so much story, The World Next Door gets a lot more interesting. You can roam around areas and explore, talking to characters and taking on small quests. Eventually, you can visit dungeons where battles take place and more of the plot gets revealed. Following a similar gameplay formula to puzzle games like Bejeweled or Candy Crush, battles in these dungeons can get tense. You move around the area and try to match up tiles into groups of symbols, which give you the ability to fight enemies. Matching large groups of tiles that match can lead to powerful attacks or big healing spells.
This can be very fun when you’re able to control groups of enemies attacking you in later portions of the games. It’s not without some faults, however, especially during boss fights and against enemies that quickly pursue you. Often you’ll find yourself searching the group for tiles to make an attack, and you’ll usually end up with attacks that don’t help out too much. There can be a large group of lighting spell tiles for a big attack, but it’d be ineffective against an enemy that doesn’t move much and never walking into your spell. This leads to some battles getting drawn out longer then they probably should, but if you’re clever enough to group tiles together beforehand without using them, you can set yourself up well for most situations.
Outside of the magic attacks you can execute with colored tiles, there are Assists that can be done with other characters. Depending on who you assign before entering a dungeon, most of the cast that you meet can help you out in combat, by either attacking or boosting you up briefly. However, it’s not as easy as doing any your other attacks when matching tiles up. You gain assists by matching white tiles and arranging them in a specific way on the board. If you don’t place them in the right way and just group them together, you won’t get an assist and the tiles will disappear.
This feels like an unnecessary extra step to get assistance to happen, even though they can be powerful when you execute them right. This also leads to assists not happening as frequent throughout dungeons as one would hope, often because the layout of battles you engage in might not give you enough white tiles or have obstacles that block you form arranging them right. You might have enough white tiles to call in a powerful assist, but the size of the area or obstructions nearby might prevent you from having enough space to do so. This can get a little bit annoying in some cases but doesn’t prevent you from completing any battles, it just makes you feel more limited when you probably shouldn’t be.
The World Next Door is a short game. You can probably finish it around 6 – 8 hours, even if you take your time to see and do everything within it. There are a bunch of side quests to complete in both the hub area and within some of the dungeons, most of which do yield rewards. For some, however, the condition for completing them and where to begin can at times be vague or unclear, and you might end up completing some of them on accident as you play the game. But is it worth playing through The World Next Door to completion? Yes, especially if you enjoy playing through a game with a story you can latch onto for one reason or another.
This review was based on a digital version of The World Next Door for Nintendo Switch, provided by Rose City Games.