Ever think of what the love child of horror manga artist, Junji Ito, and HP Lovecraft’s otherworldly tales would be like? World of Horror is that love child and an extremely interesting one at that. Instead of using jump scares, World of Horror relies on the disturbing creep factor in it's art style and investigation stories, making it a game that isn't for the faint of heart.
Developed by Panstasz and published by Ysbryd Games, World of Horror is a Steam Early Access title inspired by ‘80s text adventures like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This horror RPG takes place within a small seaside Japanese town. Over time, ancient creatures, Old Gods, arise and it is your job to protect the town. To do this, you are tasked with solving mysteries around the town and, of course, staying alive while battling random enemy encounters.
The mysteries within the town - these investigations - can vary from involving a ghost with a pair of sinister scissors, all the way to a janitor obsessed with mermaids, and even a ramen shop that everyone in town is a little too crazy over. During the investigations, different events and enemy encounters will happen. Events will give you several different options to choose from that can affect your stats or give you experience points. Do you risk breaking the glass on a display case for something that might assist in your investigation or leave it be? Would you risk riding the subway home when no one is around or walking to your destination instead? Each choice needs considered as there could be a penalty or bonus depending on the choice made. I found myself thinking about each choice before selecting one, but also taking into consideration my stats too. Receiving a penalty meant a depletion in any of my stats, which would make battles a lot harder to get through. It was something I struggled with, as I thought there were some choices I thought were better than the other option. But overall, I feel as it keeps the game balanced.
World of Horror is broken down in a way that allows new players to become familiar with the text-based playstyle. Divided into four sections, it starts off with a fairly simple adventure to teach combat and show the different choices during events. Moving through sections two and three, World of Horror adds more to each scenario to prepare the player for section four. In the last section, players are able to create their own adventure by choosing their character, their choice of Old God and difficulty level. A playthrough can last as long as an hour, depending on if you actually survive. Each character has different stats such as dexterity, stamina, reason, knowledge and so forth. These stats help with rolls when facing random encounters. The big enemies - the Old Gods - also have their own random abilities too. One Old God can raise the doom level - a percentage gauge that increases until that god arises - whenever a spell is cast. An Old God's ability is in effect for the whole game, so it is important to consider this while playing too. As I played, the ability of the Old God that I had was stuck in my mind. I was always considering how it affected my stats and the doom level. Trying to raise or lower one would have a cost, and that cost was always something to consider.
Combat is all turn-based, which means that balancing your stats, especially stamina and reason, is very important. If either of these reach zero during a fight, it is a permanent death for you and you have to restart back at the title screen. There are various weapons that you can equip and spells to lower the doom count or even mend some wounds. Spells are something that I found I utilized quite a bit and enjoyed them. As I stated before, they come with a cost, but if I had the points to expend in stamina or reason, I did. They became an added bonus that I needed to give me that edge while fighting. As for weapons, I tried to use any funds that I had to visit the shop and buy one before I started investigating. Having this option was nice, as I didn't have to waste a turn during battle to try and find a weapon.
You can recruit allies as well, and they come with their own perks that can assist with combat. I only used allies once and, while they gave me an extra perk, they didn't help out a whole lot. With the allies I had, I only used them to deal extra damage during combat. Furthermore, not being the best at this type of combat had me taking extra precautions. If there was an encounter I could run from, I ran. When I did fight, I made sure to stack extras that would give my attacks a boost or dodge in case my enemy decided it wanted to maul me. I became a lot more strategic with each playthrough, especially during combat, and it was something that I liked. It forced me to adapt my attack patterns and consider each action carefully.
While I thought World of Horror sounded cool from its description, the main reason why I was so eager to play it was because of the art style. Described as a “1-bit horror game” and “made by one dude in MS Paint,” it reminds me of old, vintage-like games played on an analog television. The different bosses at the end of the investigations are very Junji Ito-inspired and could give you nightmares. There's a demon woman who has three heads stacked on top of each other, mouths all connected in a wide grin; meanwhile, this perverted innkeeper had extremely long limbs to slide through the vents of the apartment buildings. Encountering each one gave me the chills and I tried to focus on defeating them, but I couldn’t help but admire how gruesome and evil each one looked.
World of Horror kept me on the edge of my seat, even after I kept replaying it over and over again. If I didn’t succeed before, I kept trying a different combination of choices that I received. It is an immersive and unique horror game that pulls references from legends in the same genre. I’m excited to see what the full game has to offer, but for now, I’m going to keep wondering why the janitor had an odd obsession with mermaids.
Haley reviewed the Early Access version of World of Horror on a personally purchased copy.