Bringing together the writer of the Danganronpa series and having them work with the director of the Zero Escape franchise will bring fans rushing to whatever the pair are working on. These incredibly popular visual novel puzzle games are mainstays of the genre and with World’s End Club seeking to combine their talents into an entirely new property, fans were quite eager to see what would come of the game. With a toned down narrative and more childlike focus, those familiar with the previous two properties may want to keep their hopes in check.
The Go-Getters club, an afterschool group of middle schoolers, is traveling on a bus on an apparent field trip when suddenly an apparent meteor strikes Tokyo, setting the world on a path towards apocalyptic ruin. When the children wake up not only is the bus driver missing but they have all been transported to a strange underwater amusement park that was abandoned a year prior and affixed with a strange bracelet on each of their arms. A mysterious creature appears and informs the children that they must play a “Game of Fate” if they have any hopes of escaping and they must complete a Task on a wristband to do so. The only problem is, only one person from the club can win and everyone’s Tasks are on different wristbands, meaning that not only must they compete against one another but they cannot trust each other since only one of the group can survive.
Although this death game may seem like a perfect start, and it just so happens to be one as well as players will quickly see just how far certain members of the group are willing to go and how manipulative they can be, things quickly come to a conclusion and move beyond that aspect to an entirely different type of story that is unfortunately far less interesting and plodding despite the amount of twists that the game tries to throw in. This is primarily due to the fact that many of these twists not only feel thrown into the plot as something of an afterthought but other larger questions that players should have about what is happening in the world or why things are happening as they are either brushed aside or simply not answered.
One element that still does remain fairly strong in World’s End Club is the cast of characters as well as the actual narrative that is tied to these characters. The core plot as a whole works fairly well thanks to the cast and they truly help carry World’s End Club as they are developed throughout the story. It is interesting to note that the game does feature “story” and “camp” sections where players will generally learn more about members of their club as well as make various choices that can send the story down a branching path. That being said, not every character is a winner in this regard and it does feel like the cast could either have been trimmed down to give the strongly written characters more time to shine or polish everyone at least a little bit more and perhaps avoid more of the gameplay aspects of the title as a result.
The third aspect of most chapters comes in the form of “Acts” where players will then need to partake in some of the simplest gameplay mechanics around. To avoid spoiling things, players will eventually find members of the Go-Getters club awakening special powers that can then be used to solve puzzles or take on a potential threat. The problem is, none of the puzzles are actually challenging in any regard nor are they even that creative. While it is possible that the game was designed with a younger audience in mind, even playing on the hardest difficulty available will be a slog for even most younger gamers.
Along with puzzle solving and reading through plenty of dialogue players will also find that they will need to navigate through a number of platforming sections as well. The issue with these however tends to be the fact that the controls are a bit too rough and a failure will often result in instant death that even frequent checkpointing does little to alleviate. Combining simplistic puzzles with roughly designed platforming sections often resulted in any gameplay outside of the actual visual novel elements of World’s End Club being more annoying than anything else.
Visuals & Audio
With World’s End Club being released on the Switch the developers have managed to make the most out of the console’s ability by using a colorful and creative art style that is not only fairly unique in a way that blends anime aesthetic with comic styling but also makes sure that all of the character designs have a memorable enough appearance to them. Sure, there may not be any significant mascot character like many have come to expect from one half of the team but the designs are still handled incredibly well with the game running smoothly throughout.
It also helps that NIS America has provided a very satisfying English dub that makes sure every character, even those with smaller roles, have voices that chime in to keep players invested in the gameplay, though if players prefer the Japanese voice track, they can choose to swap between the English and original Japanese dub whenever they choose. Along those same lines World’s End Club also has a fitting sound track with plenty of variety to fit the wide range of experiences that the characters end up experiencing throughout the twisting story of the game.
World’s End Club may have a great start and a decent enough story after that point which is held up by some solidly written characters but unfortunately with many twists actually detracting from the story, it ends up being a fairly forgettable experience. To make matters worse, any narrative that may start gaining momentum is often stopped thanks to the inclusion of some watered-down and oft boring gameplay segments.
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