Can the power of gods bring about a happier future, or are humans doomed to wallow in their misery? In this review, we examine whether WILL: A Wonderful World has what it takes to rewrite the status quo of visual novels!
Not Just Cut-And-Paste
At first glance, you would be forgiven for assuming that WILL: A Wonderful World is just a mere visual novel with puzzles strewn about. In actuality, the game subverts the genre quite a bit by using its story segments as the puzzles themselves.
WILL: A Wonderful World follows ‘Myth’ – a young girl whom wakes up with no recollection of her past. She meets ‘Willy’, a talking dog, whom informs her that they are both gods with the power to change the fate of humans.
This is where the main puzzle mechanic of the game is introduced. Every ‘puzzle’ is either based on one character’s story, or multiple characters’ stories that are somehow related. Within each puzzle, players have to swap around certain phrases to change the parameters of events that occur.
Setting up the ‘correct’ sequence will avert the misfortune of some characters, thus giving them a better future. For example, players can swap a loaded gun from one story with a piece of dried fish in another story – which ultimately prevents a man from being shot. In another puzzle, swapping around the types of blood available in the blood bank will save the life of a critically-injured patient.
For the most part, this mechanic is really innovative. You can experiment with multiple combinations in one puzzle to explore various futures – although only one is usually the ‘best’ future. Most puzzles become extremely satisfying when right solution clicks in your brain. Like the main character Myth, you’ll feel great when you manage to prevent a tragic accident from occurring.
Overall, the gameplay of WILL: A Wonderful World is something quite special for its $14.99 price tag.
A Tale Of Woe
Of course not. You want to know if its STORY is worth your time and purchase.
WILL: A Wonderful World starts out slow – but it genuinely surprised me as everyone’s stories (including Myth’s and Willy’s) twisted into a chain of misfortune and perseverance.
I won’t dive too much into spoilers, but this game will tug at your heart-strings. You have high-school student Li Wen, whom struggles with a developing crush for her new art teacher. Elsewhere, the Mexican migrant Alicia gets exploited by human traffickers and goes missing – prompting her brother Carlos to follow her trail into Hong Kong’s underworld. You even get to follow the story of a stray cat named Spottie, as human society kicks him around.
Every story twist only piled more misery onto the main cast – dragging them far away from their original goals. Each new tragedy only motivated me to continue reading – to find out if these poor souls would ever reach a better future. The writers did a fantastic job of gripping my attention, and I really wanted everyone to earn a happy ending somehow.
One thing to note is that some stories can enter fairly dark territory, despite how innocent the visuals look on the surface. Themes about suicide, physical mutilation, and gun violence rear their ugly heads very often. I honestly wouldn’t recommend this to even young teens – as some of descriptions can be too unnerving.
Overall, however, the game’s plot is a hidden gem. It’s on par with some of the biggest visual novels out there – despite only taking about 15 hours (and some heartbreak) to complete.
Reading Between The Lines
The story scenes and character art are another story, however. They’re beautifully illustrated in a manga-like style that isn’t too Japanese, Korean, or Chinese. The game sparkles with personality whenever these artworks pop up, and characters’ profiles also exude their personalities to a tee. I could seriously sense the effort put into them.
The game’s music is also pretty serviceable. While the background tracks of puzzles and menus are nothing special, the climax of WILL: A Wonderful World really featured some strong stuff. I’m not ashamed to admit that my tear ducts were filling up near the game’s finale.
Except for one or two odd (but hilarious) presentation choices, WILL: A Wonderful World is a beautiful and coherent package. While likely made on a tighter budget, its development team managed to transcend those limitations remarkably well.
A Couple Of Smudges
For starters, there are some rare instances of broken English from time to time. For a Chinese visual novel, this is understandable – but it can be a slight annoyance for those fluent in English.
The biggest issue I had with WILL: A Wonderful World was actually the difficulty of its late-game puzzles. Some solutions were complex to the point of aggravation, and others required huge leaps of logic. As new puzzles added more and more interchangeable phrases, the number of possible solutions also became a little bit annoying to discover through trial-and-error. Some puzzles even featured EIGHT possible results, in total.
Trying to fully complete all puzzles (i.e. getting a star on each story) may also become an unpleasant experience for some – as it entails having to pursue all the bad endings, as well. This can feel somewhat cruel, as you’ll be subjecting everyone to gruesome and unnecessary harm multiple times. Near the end-game, I even discovered an optional secret future for Alicia, but it had little purpose aside from landing her in a fate worse than death. I felt like the developers may have gone just a little bit overboard when they were writing the story.
Thankfully, however, these nitpicks were nothing more than microscopic smudges on a gorgeous canvas. It was possible for me to gloss over them because I was so engrossed in the stories unfolding before me.
All in all, WILL: A Wonderful World is a must-buy for visual novel aficionados. The innovative concept of shifting phrases to alter reality is a fun twist in execution. Every character has an engrossing tale of sorrow to tell – which culminates in an overarching message that’s heart-crushingly powerful. While the game is already worth the price of admission at $14.99, you should definitely dive in if it ever goes on sale.
The game certainly isn’t perfect, but neither are most outcomes in life – as Willy succinctly declares in-game. For me, the beauty of this remarkable visual novel was ultimately nestled within its visceral and hopeless depiction of mankind. Although the journey through its pages was painful, it was worth chasing the light shimmering at the end of the tunnel – in order to grasp a better future.
- Unique puzzle twist on the visual novel genre.
- The visuals and music are subtle, but fantastic.
- The stories and main plot are full of compelling twists.
- Some late-game puzzles can get difficult to the point of exhaustion.
- The English translation can be rough in some places.
- Going for 100% completion feels cruel, as you’ll have to witness many bad endings.
VERDICT: This soup is bittersweet in the best way possible. You’ll never forget it.
A review code for Will: A Wonderful World was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.