It can be difficult to find a video game, especially if you only have a few hours to week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.
The World Next Door is a great game that I just want to meet the short run for this column. It combines the elements of action role-playing games with match-3 puzzle gameplay, somewhat reminiscent of the RPG series Quest puzzle. Its story has hints of Persona and Undertale, hitting on some similar themes of friendship, magic, and monsters. It's an intriguing mix, but it can not be done, it does not feel like you're going to have a good time with the characters or the gameplay.
You play as Jun, a human high school girl from an alternate-universe version of Earth that is magically linked by portals with another world called Emrys. Emrys is full of magic, and all sorts of monster-like beings, while Earth is much like our version of it. In the past, when the portals opened up to the world, but in recent years, these tensions have subsided to the point that the day of the world.
At the outset of the game, you can win a lot of money in Emrys. Liza, a high school student demon. Liza takes Jun to meet some of her friends at a magical shrine where they teach Jun to use magic. But before they are able to leave, strange magical creatures start attacking the teens, delaying Jun from getting back to the portal before it closes.
Battling the strange creatures in these shrines is where the game's RPG action and puzzle aspects come into play. The shrines look like Zelda dungeons, a spell of top-down view of a grid of tiles. But when you enter an encounter with enemies, you'll be locked into that space with different symbols. Each represents a spell Jun can cast: one lets her shoot a fireball, one electrifies the floor, another heals her. If three or more of the same symbols are touching, Jun can cast the spell associated with them.
This plays out like a traditional match-3 game; think candy Crush, but with spell casting. You're able to swap any of these, but here Jun acts as your cursor. She wants to move to the symbol you want to swap, then to where you want to move it to. You have enough of the same symbols touching, she then has to stand on one of the tiles in the matching set to cast the spell. This is happening in real time, so you'll have to solve puzzles while dodging enemies and their attacks. It can be a bit chaotic, especially as you start to meet the devious bosses.
The reason I wish the game was so much more important than it was to meet the challenges of becoming more familiar with the gameplay systems and slower pace with more repetition. I also want to spend more time with the world and characters. There are some side quests that let you spend some time with some of the characters.
Still, even with its short length The World Next Door remains a fun and interesting game. It also helps that the developers seem to be actively involved in the game. (The World Next Door already playing an "assist mode" for battles you might find too chaotic or difficult.) playing After After After After After After After After)))))))))))))).
The World Next Door was created by Rose City Games. You can get it for $ 14.99 on Nintendo Switch, or Windows and Mac OS (Steam, Itch.io, Humble Store, gold GOG). It takes about four hours to finish.