GOODBYE WORLD is a game whose genre is hard to exactly pin down. While it has elements of a visual novel, it doesn’t leave the player with the agency of making decisions. The player instead watches the story unfold throughout 13 chapters. This is broken apart by a game called “Blocks” that the central protagonist, Kanii, plays. Each chapter introduces a new level to this game, adding modifiers and tricky puzzles as the game progresses.
Being that this is the core gameplay of GOODBYE WORLD, I’ll explain the gameplay for “Blocks.” Done in a “Game Boy-era” interface, the player controls the mascot character as they move around and destroy blocks. The player can then use the blocks to build more blocks, using them as platforms and makeshift weapons.
There are certain areas where you can't build blocks, however, and careful placement needs to be considered, or else the player will be forced to reset. If the player runs out of lives, then it’s Game Over and the scene continues. It won’t impede progress if you wound up failing every stage after the fifth one and I’m totally not talking about my personal experience. It’s something to break the tension in-between chapters which is much appreciated. I swear this is not Minecraft, although it’s in the spirit of breaking down and rebuilding. Coincidentally, the concept of “breaking down and rebuilding” is the core theme of GOODBYE WORLD.
Kanii is a struggling game developer who has poured the past four years of her life into a failing career. Discouraged, working part-time jobs to make ends meet only to quit, she has the support of her co-worker, Kumade. Kumade is a pixel artist who, like Kani, has been struggling to fulfill her dream as an artist. Two underdogs in their respective fields joining forces to prove the world wrong sounds like a match made in Heaven. As they partake on their journey, the road isn’t paved with rainbows and sunshine.
Now, I cover games all the time but it’s always interesting to see things from the perspective of the developers. The trials and tribulations in making a good game for the general audience will always clash with what a developer believes to be a good experience. Trying to find that balance is what Kanii is desperately searching for. That, coupled with fighting her insecurities and breakdowns, visualized as a cat to keep her emotions in order, shows how stacked things are against Kanii.
The last thing anyone wishes to feel is patronized and offended for their career choices. The feeling of never being good enough and having no one understand you is a concept that’s brought up a lot in GOODBYE WORLD. Its pacing is also non-linear as oftentimes the player will find themselves between the dates of 2021 and 2017, the latter being the date when they started to become indie developers and 2021 being the current year.
At one point, Kumade decides to forego making pixel art and instead work full-time at a cafe, realizing that for her it’s best to give up on one venture while pursuing another. She tells Kanii this, knowing it would hurt her, but this is an example of doing what’s best for yourself. Kanii, amid soul searching, starts to question herself — Why is she still pursuing this dream when her passion shifted from a love for gaming to wanting to be the best developer and nitpicking on every minor detail?
GOODBYE WORLD had been hitting me a lot harder than usual because as someone who is also trying to become known in the industry — it’s cutthroat and relentless. Many developers enter the scene in hopes of making a game to share their passion with others. As a writer, I wish to share my passion for gaming and nerd culture with many as well. Like Kanii, I also get discouraged when I feel as if years upon years are not being met with the results I wish to attain.
As expected, GOODBYE WORLD is honest in this harsh reality. Publishers, managers, and everyone already in the industry pull no punches with Kanii and there are criticisms that are valid to the creative in all of us. To make it in any industry, sacrifices have to be made, and putting on a thick skin is a requirement. The graphics are deceptively basic, yet despite the 2D sprites, each character is animated. Breathing is shown through conversation, characters often fidget, and the effect of holding a Game Boy is mimicked by bobbing the camera up and down as you play “Blocks.”
At this point, everything moving forward will be UNMARKED SPOILERS because this is something I must mention as to why I gave this five stars. The images themselves aren’t spoilers, but the context most certainly is.
Things don’t turn out well for Kanii, with publishers and managers all essentially telling her to give up and the ghost of her high school past haunting her. Her stubbornness and egoism won’t allow her to come to terms with her emotions. All she did was wish to make a game with Kuma, the one person who fell in love with this passion. This was the entire point of her passion — making the games that she felt were good yet others would understand. It was only at this point she realized that in the pursuit of making the “next best thing,” she lost sight of having fun.
Unfortunately, the negative thoughts take over, and, well… Kuma arrives at her apartment but she just misses Kanii. Before Kanii departs, she leaves a message for Kuma via the Blocks game and it is here that the final level of Blocks unfolds. It was a game that Kanii was developing for a long time and its final message was a personal one to Kuma. Apologizing for everything, she comes clean and honest; Kanii asks Kuma to make one last game with her.
Then the credits roll, but a post-credit scene reveals that the game itself, GOODBYE WORLD, was the game they created. The developer behind the game is Yo Fujii, and there’s an interesting interview at Retrododo that ties up some of the loose ends, but “Isolation Studio” is the in-game studio that made the game we, the player played. Think Gorillaz but with game development. However you wish to process it, this means that we can assume Kanii and Kuma had made up, formed their own game studio, and had seen success with this title. One look at the “Very Positive” review score on Steam can tell the player that much.
Letting the credits roll will unlock a “Bonus” mode, which is the entire “Blocks” game in its entirety. As mentioned before, playing the levels doesn’t hinder progression, and GOODBYE WORLD can be completed in a little under an hour. Does this hinder the experience? Of course not. If anything I’m stoked to see more of Kanii and Kuma in another fleshed-out story. I enjoyed the twist and this could be a potential franchise should the same care and consideration be applied.
GOODBYE WORLD may have been “short,” but it was a gut-wrenching realistic view of the struggles of being a creative in a world that doesn’t understand us. This is something I can recommend to anyone who can relate and Fujii-san definitely deserves the support. Thank you once again PM Studios for allowing me to cover this game!
GOODBYE WORLD is available on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.