What a wonderful world.

Title: WILL: A Wonderful World
Platform: Switch (reviewed), PC
Developer: WMY Studio
Publisher: Circle Entertainment
Release Date: Out now
Switch: £14/$15
PC: £11/$15
TL;DR: A clever puzzle game that won’t be for everyone
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

How much do you wish you could change about a certain moment in your life? Maybe if your phone hadn’t run out of battery mid-way through the night, you’d have woken up on time, wouldn’t have been late for work, wouldn’t have got the sack. What if you could change one moment – not even the event itself, but the sequence of events. How much could that change?

That’s the question posed by the colourfully gripping WILL: A Wonderful World as you take up the job of deity to alter the destinies of a select few people by tinkering with a single event of their life. It’s one of those ideas that seems too big to enjoy in a game, too easy to get wrapped up in the pretentious theories of fatalism. While the game’s stories get a tad lost in itself at moments, it’s an effort that makes a big theme pretty accessible and your time playing the game a provoking one.

In its essence, WILL is a puzzle game. The puzzles you solve are laid out as letters from puny mortals who, following an urban legend, have delivered a message to you in their hour of need. The puzzles ask you to change the fate of the writer by repositioning selected portions of text. The variety of these puzzles is the game’s biggest strength; the fact that they’re laid out as letters means that every story is different, though you will follow a tight-knit cast of characters through their journey arcs. Along with the stories themselves, the game mixes up the gameplay by having you switch the events of two interlinking stories – an early example is having to change the events of a young woman and her neighbour so both characters aren’t killed.

The layout of the game is a clever one; I rarely found myself thinking of WILL as just a puzzle game. The minutes you sink into reading the stories that you try to change, while they’re a little melodramatic at times, did make me invest into what happened to the character because of my meddling. And yes, some of the stories are little uncomfortable (a relationship between student and teacher comes to mind) but overall, many of the characters did strike a chord with me; the girl who’s a victim of trafficking, a young idealistic police officer, and a painter suffering from depression – all their stories might not be stellar, but the game leaves you with them for so long that you can’t help but end up giving a shit about what happens to them.

And the game doesn’t just let you walk away with the best outcome. There are various endings to each story, all of which are simplified into ranks. An “S Rank” is the best outcome you can get and generally sees the character walk away with a grin on their face. The bad endings are… well, bad, usually ending with someone dying which can be a bit of a downer. You can go back and replay different puzzles to see all the endings so there’s a fair bit of replayability with any given puzzle.

It’s a style of gameplay that does demand your full attention; sure, you can just skip through the stories and do a bit of guesswork, but the fun of the game really is in taking the time to understand a story (or stories) and try to figure out how you can change the situation of one or two people with the choices given to you. The game even goes to pretty admirable lengths to ensure you understand just how key concentration is in WILL, with an early test resetting the game until you pass a quiz about recollecting specific phrases. It’s a game that you can’t just pick up and play, it demands your undivided attention, and unfortunately, even that won’t always get you the best result. Because the game has a habit – especially when you’re juggling multiple stories, to adhere to some nonsensical logic. And in these moments, puzzles quickly descend into guesswork. But when the game gets it right, figuring out how to make a situation work for every party involved is really satisfying, but it is prone to tripping over itself from time to time.

Will: A Wonderful World could have been a game that puts people off because of its decision to deal with such lofty ideas. But, like any great game that handles complex issues, it manages to simplify the subject, breaking it up into a series of fairly captivating stories. And while the game has its flaws, particularly in the handful of plot holes hidden in the game, it offers up a nice change of pace. If perchance, you’ve ever read The Book With No Name, then you’re in for a game that swims in similar waters.

The Good

  • Great design
  • Clever puzzle layout, unlike anything I’ve played before
  • A surprisingly grounded handling of complex ideas

The Bad

  • Too many puzzles happening at once mean that gameplay is prone to falling into guesswork

Family Focus

ESRB M for Mature PEGI: 16

Yep, the game might look pretty cute, but WILL offers up some pretty grizzly scenes, both in writing and its illustrations. Let your kids play Mario instead.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.