Review: World’s End Club (Switch) ~ Child-friendly Horror?

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One of my favorite game developers is Kotaro Uchikoshi and when he and his team are working on a new game, my hype levels rise up. I loved his Zero Escape trilogy and his new series AI: The Somnium Files was amazing, and I can’t wait to play the sequel next year! Anyways, I was quite bummed when World’s End Club released as an Apple Aracade exclusive. Since I’m not an Apple user, I was unable to play the game and I didn’t want to buy an Apple product for just one game. Thankfully, the game released late May of this year on the Nintendo Switch. I have already finished this game for a few weeks now, but I wanted to let the game sink a bit before I wanted to review it since I felt that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to be critical enough. Now, is this game worth your time if you enjoy Kotaro Uchikoshi’s work or should we skip this one and wait for the sequel to AI: The Somnium Files? Well, let’s find out together in this review. . With that said, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of the article.

Child-friendly horror?

In this game, you take control over Reycho and his friends from the Go-Getters Club. On their school trip, they are waiting to a strange show about a murder game. In this murder game, you have to do preform a certain task to win. But, how do you know your task? Well, for that, you have a look at another person’s bracelet. Only one person can win, and death is on the menu when you fail this task.

Now, why am I explaining this TV-show? Well, because it doesn’t take long before the Go-Getters Club plays their own task game. Of course, things go horribly wrong since the tasks are interconnected and mayhem ensues. During this game, you discover that this game doesn’t really have “wrong ends” but rather game overs. These game overs aren’t that punishing, and you can restart quite closely from where you failed.

Now, after the task game took place, the Go-Getters Club escape and discover that very strange things are happening all over Japan. They quickly form a plan to get back to Tokyo, so they can try and piece together what happened during their task game, and maybe save the world in the process. All the while, strange things happen and people start developing strange and unique powers.

Most of this game is voice acted, and I think that the voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of the game. It fits the atmosphere extremely well, and the additional emotional accents that the voice actors placed in their performance made me connect with the characters even more. Surprisingly, the writing is rather light-hearted all the while it’s dealing with various horror subjects.

If I have to judge this game on the story alone, I would have to say that it’s a 7/10 story. I think I mainly expected a darker storyline after watching the trailer, and while I didn’t get that in this game… The more light-hearted writing of the story and the structure, well it just worked nicely. I think, that if you go into this game with the right mindset that you are going to experience a story that’s more fit for a Saturday morning/afternoon cartoon than a horror game. So, yes.

While researching for this review, I wasn’t surprised to see that various other critics were ripping this game apart. While I think that some critics judged this game a bit too harshly, I have to agree that this game isn’t the best it could be. I think the story could have worked better if there was a bit more character development and that the ending wasn’t twist after twist/surprise after surprise. The pacing of the end was a bit TOO much.

Jumping over different paths

Since I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, I think I’ll keep the story analysis for another article. In summary, the story is good but flawed. It could have been so much more, but it tried things that made the story float between a child-friendly Saturday afternoon cartoon and a Zero Escape-style game. And it’s neither one.

Let’s move on to gameplay. This game is quite linear. In this game, you have to platform your way through various obstacles and go to the end of the level.

These levels are quite varied due to the different powers that the members of the Go-Getter Club have. This game is going to test your reflexes and understanding of each and every member’s abilities. During the levels, you get to know the in and outs of the abilities of each character so that at the ending of the game, you can be tested if you truly understand the abilities and finish the final challenge the game throws at you.

During these levels, you can also earn cards for 100% completion. Some of these cards are extremely trivial to get, but others are quite tricky and require you to backtrack a bit sometimes. Apart from adding some additional lore, I haven’t found another use for these cards then just being a collectible. And without really trying, I got 27/30 cards when beating the game. And if only I was able to quickly see in which levels I have missed a card.

Overall, these levels are quite good and enjoyable to play, but I feel that the game is a tad bit too easy. I rarely felt challenged, and I felt that I was breezing through the game without too many issues. And I even played the game on Normal mode so, I think, “I could play the easy mode without even trying”. Together with the controls, I didn’t have a lot of problems playing through this game. I did have to get used to the some things.

For example, the activation of the powers and actually using them has a bit of a delay… Which I didn’t always calculate in during battles or platforming sections. Another example is that seeing the death animation and the game over screen can’t be skipped… So, getting back into the action take a while.

But the biggest mistake that this game makes in terms of gameplay in the platforming is the lack of depth. You have this whole group of friends who can use various powers, but each level or section only focuses on one character. And if another character is using his or her power, it’s controlled by a CPU. I wish that the game did more than just scratch the surface on what’s possible.

In typical fashion for these games, the path splits at various places in the story. Surprisingly, you can only play the other paths when you have seen the normal (false) ending. So, when you decide, make it count since you won’t be able to go back.

The Journey in more ways than one.

The Go-Getters Club goes on a long journey back home, and during the game we visit various locations. Visually, this game looks quite well. While I felt that very occasionally, the 3D models and the 2D backgrounds didn’t match too well… Overall, the visual presentation is amazing.

I really liked the visual presentation of all the characters and the various locations we travelled through. At certain moments, I even felt that it was a real location. Although, I will for always wonder how this whole group is going to sleep in that small tent.

In terms of animations, I think this game is close to perfection. I didn’t have any moments that I felt that the animation could have been improved. Maybe a bit more clear loading screen? But, that’s a minor complaint. All in all, the effects and the visual presentation in this game gets two pats on the chest and a thumbs up from me.

In terms of the soundtrack, this game has a lot of amazing tracks. I would have to say that I love 99% of the soundtrack. There are a few tracks that I felt that really didn’t hit their mark or felt a bit annoying in terms of melody, but these moments are so few, I didn’t mind at all.

As usual, I was listening to the soundtrack while writing this article, and I was surprised to learn that the iOS version and the Switch version have unique tracks. And they are amazing. Yet, the sound mixing isn’t the best in some places. There were several stages where I had a hard time hearing the additional atmospheric sound effects due to the music being too loud. Thankfully, you can adjust that in the options.

It’s a shame, since the sound effects really add to the atmosphere of this game and make it that more enjoyable. But, the game recently updated, and I feel that it has improved a little. And that brings me to the UI. In terms of the UI, this game is almost perfect. The only thing I don’t like about the UI is that it’s a bit too tricky to get back to the map menu when playing a stage. You have to go around to the main menu first.

Another extremely minor gripe I have with the UI is that when you talked to everybody during the camping sights, I still get a notification box asking me that I’m sure that I want to skip talking to everybody. Maybe the wording there isn’t the best, but it confused me the first few times. I have played this game with the English (USA) translation, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this game is playable in VARIOUS different languages like Dutch, French, Spanish, German…

Overall, this game runs at a steady framerate. Very rarely, I felt that this game lagged a bit. These moments nearly always happened during boss fights with big attacks that almost covered the whole screen. Speaking of which, sometimes I felt that the hitboxes were a bit janky. I had it in my notes to talk about it, but I struck it through since, after some testing, it’s a very occasional problem that maybe the recent patch solved. I didn’t have the time to test it again for this review.

Now, before I either ramble too much or go into spoiler territory, I think it’s high time that I write the conclusion of this article. I covered most of what I wanted to say, so, let’s wrap this one up.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Amazing soundtrack

+ Nice visuals

+ Charming story

+ …

The bad:

– Lacking depth in terms of gameplay. All the while, it’s an addictive game to play.

– While the story is charming, it could have been so much better.

– Unneeded collectables.

Final thoughts:

Reviewing this game was extremely tricky. There are some many things I liked, but there are various things where this game falls flat on its face. I totally understand the mixed reception this game is getting, since it’s a game that isn’t going to click with everyone.

Personally, I really enjoyed the game, but I always had a nagging feeling that this game could have been so much more. I think this game could have benefitted from a more tense story and more difficult puzzles where you could switch between characters.

Would I recommend this game? Well, I do. I do recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure games. I hesitate to recommend this to people who love platformers, since the platforming in this game isn’t “strong enough” when you compare it to games like A Hat In Time or Mario. I really feel that this game set a nice baseline of what’s possible and can be enjoyable for a potential sequel, spin-off or future game set in the same universe… Or a game with similar mechanics.

Scoring this game will be even trickier. Since if I score it high, it might give off the wrong impression that this game is flawless while it has obvious flaws. And scoring it too low, might scare players away, while I really think this game is worthy of being played.

So, I highly recommend that you give the demo a shot and if you like and enjoy what you see… Go ahead and play the full game. If you do have second thoughts, I’m glad you gave the game a shot, but I think this game might not be for you.

As a I said before, I enjoyed my time with this game, and I’m so glad I have seen it through to the end since the pay-off is truly worth it. And yes, the Go-Getter Club will never fall apart like how this game never falls apart, although it has flaws. Once this game hooks you in, you’ll go on an amazing journey through Japan… Sort of. Kind of Japan.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 75/100

First Impression: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) ~ Apes With Tanks

21462-rise-of-nations-windows-front-cover.jpgOfficial website

Since my childhood I have been playing a lot of RTS games. From Rise & Fall Civilizations At War to Age Of Empires, I have played a lot of them. And I have to admit, I’m not great at them. Whenever I would play online against other players, I get easily defeated. Yet, I enjoyed my time with these games quite a lot. I love to play skirmishes or various matches against the computer. Now, one of the favorite RTS games is Rise of Nations. And that’s the game we are going to take a look at today. A game where you take your civilization from give or take the stone age to the modern times of today. So, let’s not wait longer and let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. The reason the first impression is simply because I never finished the campaigns, so yeah. I haven’t seen all the content of the game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Apes with tanks

Rise of Nations has been developed by Big Game Studios, the studio that also worked on the second expansion of Age of Empires III. While this game has a “Conquer the world” campaign mode where you play as for example Napoleon conquering Europe, I haven’t played a lot of that mode. And that has a simple explanation, I already talked about in the introduction of this article. Now, for this article I have played parts of the first campaign of Alexander The Great.

Now, for this article I have played the extended edition of the game that is on Steam at the moment. The core gameplay of this game is extremely similar to games like Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires. If you have played a RTS game in the past, you will feel right at home in this game.

Some mechanics do work differently in this game. First of all, the way to claim land. When you start the game, a certain part of the map is colored in your color. You can expand this area by building more cities or defensive buildings. You are unable to build any other buildings outside of that area. It’s quite important that you plan out your city structure well, since it’s a factor in how much wealth you will earn from your trade route or the ability to build even better wood cutting or mining camps.

To increase the population limit or the efficiency of certain buildings, you will need to upgrade at the library. There are 4 trees you can update. The military level which allows you to create even better military units, the science level to have even better buffs to your economic output and military, the economics level to have your resource gathering be even more efficient and stockpile better and the civic level which allows you to build even more units and cities. On top of that, you have to worry about advancing through the ages. You go from the early stone age to the middle ages to finish in the modern ages.

The way you gather resources in this game is also quite different. In this game you don’t have to worry about re-seeding farms or finding now ore veins for your villagers. All the resources are infinite. Now, there are certain restrictions. You can only build up to 5 farms per city. The placement of the building is also quite important. For example, if you place a woodcutter camp in the middle of a forest, more villagers will be able to cut wood for you. If you place it at the edge, less villagers will be able to cut wood for you.

Now, with all of this, you need to keep in mind that if you enter enemy territory, your units automatically get attrition. So, if one of your camps or buildings falls into enemy territory, you will loose slots or loose that building entirely.

Another mechanic in this game are the merchants. Spread over the whole map are certain bonus items. Sometimes they can be presents like the relics you can find in Age of Empires III but without the guardians. And sometimes they can be rare resources that can give certain buffs. On this Wiki page, you have a list of all the different buffs you can get.

One of the mechanics I really love and miss in a lot of other RTS games is the automatic exploring. Seriously, I can let any unit automatically explore the map without me having to worry about it or me always giving it a path. The times I forgot to explore the map in other RTS games… Man, I’m unable to count that anymore.

As you can see, there are many layers on top of the gameplay. The game is very complex and expansive. And I haven’t talked about how you can conquer and take over cities, set the unit production to loop, the fact you can take out your enemies in many different ways, the ability to rename your cities, the unique wonders and their bonuses… The features that set this game apart from other RTS games are just amazing and make for a very unique experience.

Visual fluff

This game can be very challenging. Depending on the difficulty of the AI, this game can be quite easy or quite difficult. While I’m able to beat the computer on Normal, I always have trouble when the computer is on hard mode. Yet, the issue I have with this game is that the normal mode provides just a bit too little challenge for me and the hard mode provides a bit too much challenge for me. Whoops.

Something I really like about this game is the fact that the visuals change when you change through the ages. You see the building style change when you advance through the ages. And not only that, the sound design changes as well. For example, when you get to the industrial ages, you start to hear chainsaws in the lumber camps instead of saws.

Up close, the visuals can look a bit dated. But, that’s completely normal. Since near the end of the game, there are so many units on the screen, I’m glad that they aren’t too detailed. The ending of a game can be so extremely hectic, I can barely keep track of what’s going on. I remember a multiplayer session with my best friend. In the end of that session we neglected our economy and idle villagers because the warfare required most of our attention. At the end of a match, you are able to make 4 big upgrades. One of them is instant creation of units. With this upgrade, the warfare gets so crazy, you have to focus on it.

Some elements of the UI in this game can be expanded and collapsed. For example, when you expand the resource menu, you have quick access to the market where you can trade resources. You don’t need to click on a market to do that. You can also see if there are open spots for mining, farming, wood cutting… And when these get in your way, one simple button click and they are hidden.

Not only the visual presentation and sound design changes through the ages, the animation does as well. When you reach the industrial ages, the miners you jackhammers instead of pickaxes to mine.

The sound design is amazing, it really captures the enjoyable chaos that happens on screen perfectly well. On top of that, the sound effects for male and female units are different. Yes, when a female unit dies, you hear a woman scream. And guess what, you hear a male scream when a male unit dies. This attention to detail is just amazing.

Couple this sound design and amazing visual design with an amazing orchestral soundtrack and you have an amazing visual presentation. In the original version, I had issues with the soundtrack. It never played during gameplay. While playing the Extended Edition, I haven’t encountered that issue once.

Perfection?

Now, is this game perfect? No, there are some things I would change in this game. One complaint I have is that there aren’t too many differences between the nations you can choose to play as.

Due to the various amounts of game mechanics, this game can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren’t into RTS games, just don’t play this game as your first RTS game. This game isn’t easy to get into because the various amount of layers upon layers of complexity in this game.

Due to the length of some rounds, I honestly got a bit bored at the end. This game is a lot of fun to play but near the end, I found that the game became a bit too repetitive to my liking.

Also, compared the to original game and the extended edition, there hasn’t been a lot of additions. Thankfully, the community picks up the slack from the developers in the Steam Workshop.

Some achievements are rather grindy in nature. I have close to 60 hours of playtime in this game and I’m not even halfway to the achievement of killing 50K units. Yes, I have killed 8K units during my 60 hour playthrough.

And to be honest, that are all the negatives I can talk about. Maybe I discover a few more negatives when I’m trying out the campaign mode again soon, but I highly doubt that. This game is quite a lot of fun if you are into RTS games. Once this game has a hook on you, it barely lets go. This game is one of my favorite RTS games and I’m so glad that it’s available on Steam. And after writing this review (well, first impression) I can’t wait to boot the game back up again and start up a new round.

With that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!