I went into World’s End Club knowing how well-received Kazutaka Kodaka’s Danganronpa series has been. With so many loyal fans hungry for more, surely there is magic in this writer’s fingertips. And the premise echoed one of my favourite Japanese stories; a group of kids on a class trip suddenly pitted against one another in a game of survival. If I was going to sink a week’s worth of my gaming time into something new, a Japanese action puzzle game sounded like the perfect way to avoid my MMOs.
Reycho and the members of the self-proclaimed Go-Getters Club were innocently riding a bus on a school trip when they witness a meteor strike Tokyo. When they come to, the kids find themselves in an abandoned underwater amusement park. Strapped to their wrists are electronic bands and a mysterious floating harlequin named Pielope who issues the rules: the first person to complete their goal wins. Anyone who fails will be terminated. This is only the first of several roadblocks the kids encounter as they search to discover the truth behind their captivity and what happened to the world.
World’s End Club is divided into three scene types: Story, Camp, and Act. It weighs heavily on the Story and Camp sections, making this adventure more of a visual novel with some platforming on the side. Most story scenes are just that: reading your way through the antics of these middle schoolers. In between the confusion of their strange surroundings and squabbles, these segments drive the Go-Getters Club forward. A lot of the time it’s what you would expect when a dozen underaged but brilliant kids are left without any sort of guidance. Emotions run high, they break down in tears, and at the root of it all is a tragedy each one claims responsibility for.
Camp scenarios allow player character Reycho the opportunity to speak with his classmates. While gathered around the fire, you can speak with each person and learn a little more about them. Hopes and dreams, fears and regrets. Occasionally you’ll be able to speak to someone more than once. These additional scenes may include other members of the group. Of course, you can skip them if you want or only speak to the characters you like before pushing the story forward. Even if you accidentally end a Camp session, World’s End Club lets you replay any scenario you’ve completed.
There are certain key moments when the Go-Getters Club is divided on its next move. It’s up to Reycho to decide which path he wants to follow. But even then, you will be forced to view the Bad Ending if you want to unravel the whole story. Once I completed that fated path I was able to replay each of those key Stories and select the other option. Any sections where the map showed the paths merged can be skipped. This cut down a lot on my overall time spent with the game and I appreciate it. Not only from a design standpoint but because there were some Act sections where I spent too much time thanks to silly issues.
Sadly, the platforming/puzzle sections of World’s End Club are the weakest part of the experience. Perhaps my biggest issue with them has to do with auto-grab. Normally I don’t mind my characters hoisting themselves up when I approach an obstacle, but when I’m trying to get close enough to hold onto and push/pull a box my kids keep climbing onto the darn things which isn’t ideal pretty much every time it happens.
Collision detection is another big gripe I have. Time and time again I jumped out of target zones or moved out of the way only to find the object attacking me (usually round) had some sort of invisible shield bubbling out an extra couple of millimeters. Nine times out of ten this killed me and pushed me to restart from the checkpoint. I’m not talking about a bomb hitting the ground, exploding, and ripples bonking me in the butt. If I have just dropped down a hole that a giant roly-poly can’t fit through at all, it shouldn’t have been able to kill me. Thankfully checkpoints are aplenty in this game, but if you power down your Switch you will have to replay everything from the beginning of the Act. I learned that lesson the hard way.
Each member of the Go-Getters Club steps up with a unique special ability to get them through the platforming Acts. For the most part we play as Reycho who can throw large objects. There are times when he’s not the kid for the job and one of his teammates steps up. Kansai’s got a mean swing, Chuko brings the heat with her spicy snacks, and Mowchan bowls everything out of his way. The cast isn’t interchangeable. Acts are scripted and give us the exact characters required to complete the level. This could be why some of the levels come across as flat. Most of the World’s End Club puzzles aren’t very deep and easily solved. Even the final boss battle wasn’t as epic as I’d hoped for all the nightmares that monster will give me. For all the hours spent playing this game, I think I would have preferred if the developers had nixed the Acts and just gone full visual novel.
I don’t regret the time I put into this game. A lot of it was predictable but entertaining nonetheless. If the puzzle levels were just a little more balanced. Perhaps a tad shorter and with better riddles to solve, maybe tightened up those issues I mentioned, I’d feel more comfortable recommending this. So much attention went into the overall storytelling. And I don’t mind the predictable parts when the journey makes up for it. World’s End Club fell just a little short of being a really solid experience for me, however I am still excited to see what Too Kyo Games does next.
World’s End Club is out now on Nintendo Switch with a demo you can check out now. The first part of the game is also available on iOS via Apple Arcade.