When you tell me a game from the minds of Japanese developers Kotaro Uchikoshi, Takumi Nakazawa, and had Kazutaka Kodaka is coming, I’m sure no one will know what to expect. World’s End Club houses a brilliant story of friendship in a post-apocalyptic setting. What starts as something so familiar turns into a grand adventure to save those close to you and challenge fate. Sadly, this is delivered at the expense of some rough moments of gameplay.
World’s End Club begins as a group of friends known as the Go-Getters Club head out on a field trip only to be interrupted by a meteor strike that shakes the world. When the group wakes up, they find themselves in an underwater theme park where they must play a “Game of Fate.” If you’re familiar with the developer’s previous works, this opening acts as a callback to some of their earlier works regarding setting and tone.
However, this doesn’t really reflect the game’s narrative as a whole. In truth, these themes are short-lived as the group sets their sites on traveling to Tokyo to find any survivors. This explores new themes from this team that couldn’t be explored in their previous titles but at the expense of a few liberties in writing caused by such a large cast of characters.
Each member of the Go-Getters Club is unique, and it’s hard to even see them as friends based on how different they are. Thankfully, the story takes breaks during camping segments that allow players to interact with characters individually. In retrospect, this is the only way players will fully understand this large cast of characters and how they all get along.
Players will witness the story through the eyes of the newest member of the group, Reycho. This character doesn’t speak but is dubbed the leader of the group for being the most capable. Throughout the narrative, each character will understand their true strengths, which evolve into a special power. This allows players to play as the other characters during gameplay segments.
This is where the experience takes a dip. World’s End Club wants to deliver a “gaming experience” to players through platforming, light puzzles, and boss battles. However, this is probably the most insufficient area of the design. It lacks in concepts of the genre, with jumping having a slow response that takes some getting used to. Further, the challenge is brought to zero as nothing you do can end your game. For example, in a chase scene, in the beginning, as you chase a character around, but no matter how long you take or which direction you go, the character being chased will wait for you.
While the themes change, the gameplay is consistently the same. You move boxes, you jump on stuff, you take out enemies using whatever ability you learned in that area, and you get to a boss. The bosses are all timing-based and have a life bar. The challenge is further removed with Game Overs only sending you back to the beginning of the boss or just right before you died.
These gameplay elements really slow down the narrative as there’s no real reason for it. I would have preferred puzzle-based exploration with the platforming section wholly removed. In the current state of things, the gameplay hurts the experience considerably since it’s all so limited. Strangely, you even have a few interactive puzzles that simply pop up in the beginning and never come back or become more complex, so it’s not clear why they are even here.
The narrative is why you’ll stay because it is incredible. The characters and their personalities are as corny as they are brilliant. The story tends to rely on hope as a possible anchor to continue, but sometimes hope is hard to grasp in this world. This is where the experience of these developers shines, and we get a genuinely unique adventure with dull blocks of platforming.
When it comes to the Switch version compared to the mobile version, you can expect an actual ending that will have you at the edge of your seat. Yes, this version doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and we get the entire narrative. However, the gameplay sections just worsen in these areas as you want so badly to have your questions answered.
There are a few strange options within the game, such as the auto text being a little broken. If you have the auto with the voice dialogue turned on and press the advance button to read further, the text will move on even before the audio is done. Also, the loading screens between the tiny areas of the game show the mobile roots. Thankfully, the English audio is well done for most characters, but there are a few who I’d like to mute. It’s also an option to play with Japanese audio.
World’s End Club is a product of some of the greatest minds in adventure storytelling. The story of the Go-Getters Club will emotionally move you in many ways through the narrative, only to be held back by unresponsive and limited platforming gameplay segments. It acts as a way for this team to step outside of their comfort zone while still being influenced by their strengths to create an unforgettable story of friendship and hope. Sadly, it requires players to look past quite a bit to fully enjoy.
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