If you're a fan of horror media, there's no doubt you've come across the work of Japanese mangaka artist Junji Ito. Looking for stories that will leave you deeply unsettled with a pit the size of a grapefruit in your stomach? He's your guy. The Woman Next Door is one of his many disturbing short stories, and a group of indie devs have done a nightmarishly great job of adapting it into a game, named simply Next Door.
You play as Mimi, a young woman who has recently moved to a new apartment only to find that she lives below a noisy neighbor who plays his death metal music too loudly. After confronting the metal head in the hallway and demanding he turn his music down, both characters run into a fellow neighbour. A tall woman dressed entirely in black, a scarf, hat, and sunglasses hiding her face. What follows is a handful of encounters with this mysterious woman, until one day Mimi accidentally discovers her neighbour's eerie secret.
You're mainly walking around the apartment complex, interacting with characters and objects, but Next Door manages to successfully capture the escalating sense of horror that the original is known for. Even though its pixel art loses Ito's horrendously detailed illustrations, it more than makes up for it in other areas.
In the manga, the woman's dark illustration looms over its stark white pages. She can take up entire pages and panels with her oppressive presence. But in Next Door, her black pixelated figure could be hiding in any of the dark corners on the screen. I was constantly worried her looming body would duck under a door frame and chase me.
The game also keeps true to the story, even so far as using the exact same dialogue as in the manga, but with one change. Instead of events taking place over a couple of days, everything happens in one night, which I think is an improvement from the original story. It heightens the anticipation without any time skip interruptions, so events happen in one long build-up before they come to their dramatic conclusion.
Next Door also has some fantastic audio queues. There's a moment where the woman is walking outside the room Mimi is hiding in, and you can hear her slow, heavy footsteps, her high-heeled boots hitting the floor as she goes up and down the corridor. It's a moment of tension that was quickly passed by in the manga. But, the scariest moment by far is when the game breaks from its pixel art visuals for a moment of hair-raising animation inspired by the story's most famous panel.
Next Door is a devoted adaptation of Ito's original story, and at just under ten minutes for a play-through, it takes the same amount of time to play as it does to read the short story. You can play Next Door on Itch either through your browser or by downloading it for free.