Have you ever found yourself praying to God, asking for someone to save you from the mess your life has ended up in? Maybe you don’t believe in God, yet when you’re so down with nothing obvious to live for, you ask for guidance and support from anyone who is willing to hear your cry for help? Well, WILL: A Wonderful World takes that concept and flips it, you play the role of a God who has to help a number of interconnected humans who are practically begging for a new direction with their life – sometimes to save them from dying and other times to simply undo a terrible outcome.
From Developer WMY Studio, publisher PM Studios, and our EU physical distributor Numskull Games, WILL: A Wonderful World is nothing short of a crazy and thoroughly entertaining visual novel puzzle game that will have you hooked to your TV from the moment you boot it up and see the rather strange, yet hilarious, ‘caution’ screen. Although I usually do give out an audible “shriek” when something creepy, disturbing, or unusual appears within a game I’m playing, WILL is the first one that actually told me to “ensure I make enough noise to disturb my neighbours”…
So, with the initial tone set, not to mention the hilarious banter that’s still to come, I had high-hopes for WILL: A Wonderful World, but does it keep up this level of humour and quality? Let’s find out…
Where do I begin with WILL: A Wonderful World? From the moment you wake up, you’re introduced to a talking dog named Willy (no, not Willy Wonka…) However, despite having the appearance of a young girl, Willy advises that you and he are Gods, living within your own astral dimension with only one purpose in life, to listen to the cries and requests of the humans and using the sacred pen to re-write their destiny in hopes of a better outcome. It’s a lot to take in considering you have no knowledge or memories of anything prior to the moment you woke up, but after ‘resolving’ a few of the requests which are handed to you, you know what you must do even if the reasoning behind it isn’t quite as clear at the moment.
Over the course of your Godly duties, you’ll be looking after over ten human souls who need a literal push in the right direction, all of which have indirect connections to one another without even realising it. If you’ve ever seen the film Magnolia or played the simply fantastic 428: Shibuya Scramble, WILL: A Wonderful World follows a similar concept – each and every person is connected and changing one person’s fate will ultimately result in the alteration of other people all around them. As such, you’ll be bouncing throughout timelines, jumping between various ‘connections’, and tweaking the outcomes you come to in order to unlock new fates for each of our human pen-pals.
There is clearly more to the story but delving into that will be unfair and practically ruin your experience. All I can say is that the game gets wacky, emotional, silly, serious, and rather funny, sometimes all at the same time! If you love visual novels and quirky tongue-in-cheek humour (why else would you call your dog Willy, his full name is even funnier!), you should do yourself a favour and pick it up for yourself to play through. It’s a hidden gem which I think many people may have overlooked yet really should know about!
WILL: A Wonderful World consists of two major gameplay elements, it’s a visual novel and a puzzle game. The visual novel side is the vast majority of the gameplay you’ll experience, all presented as walls of text to read with little to no actual voices as you read. As well as the humorous banter Myth (our female amnesiac protagonist) and Willy have with one another within their God-home, you’ll also be reading the letters from each of the humans which basically gives you a mini-story leading up to some form of a request for help or terrible outcome.
The letters are received either on their own or as part of a pair or trio, requiring you to flick between each one until you’ve fully read them all and came to their conclusion. Once you’ve reached the conclusion on them all, now the fun begins…
The core ‘gameplay’ of WILL consists of you not technically re-writing the outcome of someone’s life but swapping parts of it with another person, or changing the order in which events take place. For example, you have one person saying that they are trying to kill themselves, so they check their door and realise it’s not locked – meaning they now lock it and then proceed to end their life. However, another person was looking for somewhere to hide but couldn’t enter this apartment as the door is now locked, so they also end up in a fatal situation.
However, once you swap over the key fact about the door, the suicidal person no longer kills themselves as the other person comes into the apartment to seek refuge, thus both people live to see another day.
The sections you can swap are pre-defined but there are numerous outcomes you can come too. Simply having two or three swappable statements in both stories will result in many combinations as you could have as little as no statements on one side and any combination of the remaining ones on the other side, or a mixture between the two. It gets even more advanced when the game introduces split stories (with multiple segments where statements can be slotted in) and statements with numerical values which must be used in that order but can have others slotted in between them. Every new outcome also results in a new conclusion to the letter being magically generated upon completion.
Multiple endings and outcomes
Each letter, as stated above, can result in a number of different outcomes ranging from an ‘S’ ranking all the way to an ‘X’. WILL is rather linear when it comes to its actual progression mechanics, requiring an S ranking on the vast majority of outcomes in order to progress the story (due to that usually being the outcome in which people don’t die or hit a wall with their life). However, as you progress further into the game, you’ll gain the ability to manually swap the outcome to one you’ve previously unlocked – such as flipping from an ‘S’ ranked ending to maybe an ‘A’ or ‘B’. This will sometimes result in new pathways being created and/or certain events taking place which will unlock possible endings for another person in need.
Without disclosing too much (as you really should play this game and experience the wacky stories yourself), all of the people you help have some sort of connection to others within the group as well as ultimately reaching their own narrative conclusion. The journey you take with each of these individuals (which also includes a talking cat – which I forgot to mention) is very different and unique, yet they all require the same thing – help and guidance from one another and yourself in order to overcome their issues and problems which have caused their life to veer off down the ‘wrong’ path.
Similarly, there is both a good and bad ending to WILL, one which is missable and may require you to replay the entire fifteen-hour experience should you not make a manual save and become forced to play the whole thing once more. So, one piece of advice – if you want to get the platinum by enjoying what you’re playing without having to worry about missing anything, make a save when a timer appears on the screen. That’s the only advice I’m giving but it’ll save you many hours just to get a single trophy (believe me). However, I’d highly recommend playing the game with no guides for your first playthrough, miscellaneous trophies can be obtained post-game.
I love quirky and non-serious games – AI: The Somnium Files and 428: Shibuya Scramble are brilliant examples of games with a serious undertone yet crammed full of silly humour that really lightens the mood and counters the more intense aspects. WILL: A Wonderful World is similar in that regard as some of the letters and the subjects you read are quite disturbing and emotional, such as suicide, trafficking and murder, but then we have Willy singing for us in exchange for us scratching him and re-writing a letter so that a guy looks at his naked lieutenant and grabs his hand whilst looking into his eyes…
Each and every story, and its multiple outcomes, were all a joy to read and fun to experience. Rearranging the statements, in order to see how simply swapping one event with another dramatically changed the outcome, was always entertaining, even when it didn’t end so well for the writer. As with most visual novels recently, once I began to play the game, I became hooked to the narrative and couldn’t stop playing until I’d earnt the platinum trophy, carefully reading through all the different pathways and experimenting to see just how much I could discover without any guides or help.
Another key point to remember is that although you sometimes receive letters at the same time (allowing you to swap key points to change both of the outcomes), the actual events aren’t taking place ‘at the same time’. For example, one letter has you swapping statements between a young boy and his sister (who went missing when he was younger), but the events you’re adjusting for both people take place around nine years apart. Time isn’t relative in the place you’re living, although some of the crossovers and narrative swaps are at the same time, others span many years.
However, although I’m a fan of making a joke out of serious subjects to lighten the mood, combining realistic events with fantasy ones can go one of two ways. 428: Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel made out of photos set within Shibuya. It’s realistic but a few crazy events happen such as an entire storyline involving recyclable items coming to life and fighting trash on the street – but that was a side-story and not part of the main narrative. WILL has one particular story which concludes in the human having superpowers, a conclusion that came out of nowhere and didn’t really fit with the realistic nature of the game. Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed the story, I just felt it was a bit strange considering the game was realistic with everyone else.
Before you say it, yes, Willy is a talking dog but he’s a God so that’s allowed. Also, the aforementioned talking cat isn’t actually talking to the humans – it’s not Garfield – but again, we are God’s so we can understand cat-talk.
Visually, WILL looks fantastic. A lot of the stories come with hand-drawn CGs which I honestly thought were on-par with the brilliant imagery we saw from Experience with their Death Mark and NG games, with most of the letter backgrounds consisting of bold colours and a shadowed-out model of the writer moving slowly to the side. The artistic design of the letters and the overall design of the game is so clean and detailed whilst also being simplistic and easy to read as you work your way through all of the text. There’s also a vast library of terms that explains everything you may not understand, sometimes with pictures such as the giant panda.
The visual novel aspects, with Myth talking to Willy, are also well-drawn and presented, although these segments aren’t nearly as dark and gritty as those provided with the letters.
In terms of the audio, there are no vocals from what I can recall. Myth and Willy make generic “beep beep beep” noises as their dialogue appears on the screen, something which is comically brought up in a fourth-wall-breaking moment as Myth asks why they talk like that rather than in actual speech – to which the reply is, you’re Gods… The music however really sets the mood, offering a decent soundtrack to read along to. This is another game in which I wished we had received the digital soundtrack as a bonus as I want to add it to my collection.
Speaking of which, Steam has the soundtrack for purchase (but only if you own the game on their platform) yet it’s not on PSN – I wish more of these visual novel games had their soundtracks for sale on the platform – I’d imagine a lot of them would sell pretty well, especially if bundled with the game as a ‘digital deluxe’ or add-on item.
**Update (I forgot to add this earlier)** In regards to censorship (as I know a number of my readers are concerned about this), the Western version of the game has had a few alterations implemented by the developers themselves. Before the pitchforks come up against Sony, these changes were made when it was a PC and Switch ONLY title, so it’s down to the developer’s choice, not pressure from any corporation.
When localising for NA and EU we changed a few scenes, taking into account cultural and ratings considerations. But, we always worked to ensure the stories themselves weren’t affected.
The above is a quote from the developer’s AMA on Reddit a year ago (HERE). It seems the NA and EU versions were completely looked over, in terms of the narrative, in order to make the game align to the regional ratings and cultural differences. Thankfully the final outcome of the stories hasn’t changed but from what I’ve seen on Steam, a CG has been replaced which originally indicated paedophilia was taking place. I’ve checked and this image isn’t in this version, it’s been replaced with a less graphic one.
I can’t confirm or deny what else has and hasn’t been removed (as I’ve only played the English release on consoles and not the Steam or Asian version) but I didn’t feel like any context or narrative was lost with the content which remains within the game. On a side note, the developers say the NA and EU releases were adjusted (again, this was when it was only on the Switch and that version was ported to the PS4), but I’m not 100% sure if the Steam version still has all of the original content when playing it in English.
A clever puzzle mechanic makes WILL: A Wonderful World stand out from similar multi-story visual novels. Become a God and help out those in need by, amusingly, swapping out aspects of one person’s life with another or simply alternating the order in which certain events occur. Despite the game being rather linear with its main narrative and triggers for progression, there are numerous outcomes to each and every letter you interfere with, temporarily changing the writer’s life until you opt for the best possible outcome. The writing is brilliant, the characters are interesting, and the overall concept of the game is fascinating – what more could you want from a fifteen-hour puzzle-based visual novel?
Out now on the PS4, Nintendo Switch and Steam digitally, via our friends at Numskull games physically, or an importable Limited Edition (which is limited to 450 copies and includes a 7″ Willy) direct from PM Studios (although if you’re in the UK like me, the price of shipping is almost as much as the game!).
WILL: A Wonderful World£34.99
- - Brilliant writing, over ten separate stories which intertwine with each other as you swap key statements to change the outcome
- - Great use of humour in order to balance out the serious tones used within some of the stories
- - Visually the game looks great, beautiful hand-drawn CGs and creative letter designs
- - The main narrative around Myth and Willy is really interesting and was fun to experience
- - Despite the lack of vocals, I was hooked on reading every last word of every story the game presented to me - all visual novel fans should play this game
- - Despite the realistic nature (let's ignore the talking dog and cat for reasons I mentioned in my review), one of the stories ruined it by introducing an unrealistic super power - why?
- - Although the ending was satisfying and rather emotional, it left me with a lot of questions which I'm not sure will ever get answered - I hope there's some sort of follow up
- - I loved the game in general but I craved for more interactions between Willy and Myth - if there's a sequel at any point (and I really hope there is), I hope we get more Willy in it as everyone loves more Willy!