This review is for the "Solo Remix" version available on the iPad, as that's the platform I played it on.
The World Ends With You, often abbreviated as "TWEWY", is an unusual computer roleplaying game (CRPG). Really, it's something more of a visual novel interspersed with rather interesting combat sequences; there are no real choices as far as I can tell, but the story is fascinating. (The link there goes to Wiki as I don't know how one could link to the App store for the iVersion of the game)
The story begins in media res, with the main character Neku awakening in the middle of the streets of Shibuya with no memory of who he is, why he came there, and no understanding of why the people around him can't see him.
As one might guess, Neku is in fact dead. But that doesn't have to be the end…
The World Ends With You is a story of finding yourself within the world, and understanding how the world is also found within yourself. The main character, Neku, is initially a pretty unpleasant kid – self-absorbed, isolated, and trying to avoid any personal contact; this is symbolized by the headphones he constantly wears, and indeed some of the characters nickname him "Phones" for that reason. Part of his isolation, though, is due to literally not knowing who he is – having no knowledge of himself or any connections he had or may have had to others.
But in death, Neku and others find themselves in the Underground (UG), a close parallel world to the Realground (RG), our own world. There they are forced into the Reaper's Game, a deadly contest to complete a specific task each day… or be erased forever. Complete the week-long Game, and you just might get a second chance. But to play, you also have to have given up, as admission fee, the thing most valuable to you.
The other catch is that you have no power by yourself to combat the threats – the "Noise" – that you must defeat in various challenges. Only with a partner can you defeat the Noise, and only partners that trust and synchronize with each other can be truly effective.
Thus, Neku is forced to partner with others – initially, a cheerful young lady named Shiki – and work with them, despite his antisocial tendencies.
The great joy of this game is watching Neku grow from a small-minded bastard into an idealistic hero, a champion from a selfish introspective dweeb, and seeing how he ends up affecting the others around him. Learning how to trust – and when, and to what extent – is the key to salvation in the UG, and even more so when the Reapers and their mysterious bosses start screwing with Neku and his friends – changing the rules to make Neku play through a second, and then a third time, and each time taking something new away from him.
Visually, it's… odd. In this era of animated cutscenes and 3-d polygon extravaganzas, The World Ends With You uses still pictures – and not many poses – with dialogue balloons, like a comic strip. It is an effective way to tell the story, if a tad monotonous on occasion.
The battle system, on the other hand, is innovative and quite fun. It relies on "pins" (literally, little pins with symbols that you pin on your clothing) which give you various capabilities ranging from projecting force bolts to healing, telekinesis, and lightning bolts. What makes this entertaining is that the pins develop, change, and use multiple different methods to activate, taking full advantage of the iPad's touchscreen capabilities. Some pins are activated by tapping empty space, others by slashing across the screen, others by dragging, drawing circles, scratching a location, or tapping on targets. Combats are fast, diverse, and amusing, and each partner you get has a different mini-game to use to trigger a super-synchronized attack; Shiki has you match Rhine card symbols, Joshua has you count sequences, and Beat requires you to perform a sort of linear Tetris.
The plotline is complex and towards the end gets positively mind-screwy. But there is a good resolution for those who work through everything.
My son Chris has been playing the DS (I think) version of the game; that one appears to be considerably harder with some notable differences in gameplay, but he has faster reflexes and better perceptions than I do so he's gone through it reasonably quickly.
I'd rate this as a solid 8 out of 10; it loses a bit due to ABSOLUTE linearity of plot and for simplistic presentation, but otherwise offers a spectacular story with really innovative gameplay, and an "easy" setting that even lets old guys with slow reflexes, like me, play through it without TOO much difficulty. Highly recommended!