During the 20th century, a popular theme throughout entertainment focused on the power of friendship. The Goonies and The Breakfast Club are very different movies, but both found success using a simple formula. By putting a group of misfits through a tough situation together, they form an unbreakable bond that audiences can resonate with. The most recent example of this would be Stranger Things. I have a hard time imagining a group of pre-teens defeating monsters from other dimensions using slingshots and baseball bats. Still, because the power of their friendship is so strong, nothing can stand in their way.
World’s End Club is heavily inspired by these movies and shows and never tries to hide it. For example, we follow the main characters during one scene as they walk down train tracks, which immediately made me think of Stand By Me. Another moment involves someone reaching down into a sewer, only to get their hand bit by something. It happens quickly, but it instantly made me think of the horrifying opening scene from Stephen King’s It. World’s End Club tells a solid story with its charming cast of characters but is eventually brought down by its gameplay and overuse of twists near the end.
World’s End Club is available now on the Nintendo Switch for your regional pricing.
Story – The Worst Field Trip
This game begins as a group of kids known as The Go-Getters Club wakes up in an underwater museum with wristbands stuck on their arms. They are quickly introduced to Pielope, a mystical figure that has trapped our heroes in a Game of Fate. Pielope informs the crew that there can only be one winner, and that person will be able to escape to the surface. Whoever loses, however, will be turned into sludge.
The opening section is eerily familiar to the Zero Escape series. People are locked in a strange place and must work with or against each other to survive. However, World’s End Club successfully subverts expectations with its first major twist and allows itself to stand apart from its contemporaries. After the Game of Fate ends, The Go-Getters realize that everybody on Earth has disappeared while they were gone. Their goal now is to travel across Japan towards Tokyo to discover the truth.
The story constantly surprised me with new twists and ideas; it was hard not to obsess over. Whenever I put the controller down for a break, theories ran through my mind as I tried to put the pieces together. But as it neared its conclusion, I found myself getting frustrated. Whenever it felt like a satisfying ending was close, the game always had one more twist up its sleeve. The narrative was doing a wonderful job keeping me entertained until it just had me rolling my eyes. While overall a fun and original adventure, it felt like it was trying too hard near the end to surprise me.
While traveling from city to city, you will have plenty of time to know the crew. Each one has a unique personality and relationship with the other members. Some characters like Pai and Aniki have a surprising amount of depth, while others can’t seem to break out of certain stereotypes. Mowchan, for example, is the larger kid in the group. He spends most of his time complaining about how hungry he is and describing local cuisine. While he has a few other quirks, his personality is incredibly one-note, and the humor wears off fast. I was impressed with most of the cast’s backstory and growth, though.
Gameplay – A New World
The game is divided into three different sections: Camp, Story, and Action. During Camp or Story events, you won’t even need to hold the controller if you decide to enable the auto-scroll feature. While there aren’t many gameplay elements during these moments, the player is provided with branching story paths to explore. For example, as you travel across Japan, The Go-Getters will want to split up multiple times, and it’s up to you to choose which group to follow. These choices don’t ultimately matter, though, as you must go back and explore every path before unlocking the ending.
Action sequences are platforming sections that take place between story events. Unfortunately, these moments in the game are by far the most tedious and frustrating. Characters move too slowly, and the puzzles are straightforward.
You will face some enemies during these sections as well that require precise accuracy and timing to defeat. Our heroes don’t have health bars, so a single hit from any enemy, including bosses, requires you to restart from a checkpoint. While World’s End Club‘s story is delightfully engaging, it’s unfortunate that these sections have the potential to turn a player away from it entirely.
I did enjoy one element of the Action sequences, though. Throughout the adventure, you will have the opportunity to play as each member of The Go-Getters. I was shocked when it first happened, but everybody in the group actually has a hidden ability that unlocks when others are in peril. These powers can range from being able to throw really well to being able to breathe fire. So whenever a character was about to unlock their “Buddy Skill,” it was kind of exciting to see what it was.
Graphics and Audio – Playable Anime
World’s End Club has a really charming aesthetic that makes it feel like a playable cartoon. While the hand-drawn backgrounds were not fantastic, I thought they were better than those used in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The game runs really well during story beats but once again suffers during platforming. I noticed it would freeze up slightly during action sequences, making it harder to execute precise platforming.
I am also a huge fan of the character design. Each character is unique in their fashion and body language. It’s impressive that you can look at any member of The Go-Getters and learn a ton about them before they even speak.
The music throughout World’s End Club fascinated me. As you boot it up for the first time, you will hear a slow and dark drone, similar to the intro of a metal album. But the score is incredibly malleable and can fit into any given scene. As a result, it effectively elevates and adds humor to the lighter moments while also having the ability to heighten my stress or emotional levels.
There is one major issue with the audio, however. As mentioned previously, there is an option that allows you to turn on an auto-scroll feature. The entire game is voice acted, so ideally, you should experience the story without manually continuing conversations. Unfortunately, the auto-scroll feature often cuts off the dialogue about halfway through and moves on to the next character’s speech. You can access a text log to read what you missed, but it became too much of a hassle, and I eventually turned the auto-scroll off.
World’s End Club was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.