A Portland Game Studio Makes Its Debut with an Anime-Inspired "Puzzle Battler"
Releasing March 28, The World Next Door is a top-down action puzzle video game that takes artistic inspiration from anime and Japanese role-playing games. You play as a teenage girl who finds herself trapped in a foreign land and has to battle her way home. “It's a narrative-driven puzzle battler, taking multiple genres and mashing them together in a really cool way," explains developer Corey Warning of Rose City Games. (Catch the full trailer here.)
The release marks a giant milestone for the local fledgling studio. Some background: Corey Warning and cofounder Will Lewis created Rose City Games in 2015. At the time, Lewis had been running the nonprofit Portland Indie Game Squad since 2011. (Check out our 2016 interview with Lewis.) Lewis describes that organization, which still operates today, as “a huge community of programmers, artists, musicians, and writers [who] want to learn more about how to get into [game development, as well as a] platform for helping people find each other and make games together.”
While Lewis was running PIG Squad, Warning was moonlighting in the mobile gaming industry. When the two met at a PIG Squad event, they quickly began collaborating on future events. Among them: a weekend programming marathon, or “game jam,” involving dozens of small teams competing to develop game prototypes for the Cartoon Network. That well-received event upped the duo's reputation and scored them a meeting with entertainment company Viz Media, which tapped them to create a video game that was in line with Viz's stable of popular anime titles, including Sailor Moon, One Punch Man, and Naruto.
From there, Lewis and Warning invited roughly a dozen artists to participate in a three-day free-form design event—similar to their game jam experiences—to brainstorm ideas for a unique new game, create sketches of characters, and develop concepts for levels and game design.
They also hired a Portland designer known as “Lord Gris" as their lead character artist. "Her style really fit what we thought would be a good match for anime-inspired video games,” Warning says.
With a team in place, the crew set out to create something they hadn’t seen before, and after years of work, The World Next Door was born. Warning, whose 5-year old son has beaten the game, describes the demographic as “primarily girls between 13 and 18." But he's quick to point out that plenty of adults have also enjoyed playing demos of the game at conventions.
While Rose City Games is excited to get their first game to the public, they have other creative projects in the works that will be announced “fairly soon,” Lewis says. As for any sequels to The World Next Door? "We’re definitely leaving it open to expand the universe more if it does well,” Warning says.
The World Next Door officially drops March 28. It will be available for $15 on PC, Mac, and the Nintendo Switch via digital download only.