WORLD OF HORROR on PC
The most wonderful time of the year is fast approaching… Halloween. What better way to partake in the deliciously frightful fun than by delving into video games. With a slew of spooky selections to simper over, certain graphical temptations deserve a peek.
Enter WORLD OF HORROR, the lovingly crafted, Lovecraftian horror RPG inspired by the 80’s. This sinister little title has been adrift in early access since 2020, and is now launching on MacOS, PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation. Roguelite elements and a macabre art style combine in this text-based indie game, presenting an alternate perspective to the horror genre.
In WORLD OF HORROR, your role is to investigate and, perhaps, even survive the chilling events occurring in Shiokawa, Japan in 1984. Playing as one of the inhabitants, your vested interest in remaining alive motivates you to adventure and sleuth your way through and around the city. You can gain allies, cast rituals, solve puzzles, and eliminate dangerous nasties, all while seeking a way to save the world from the madness of the Old Gods.
Starting at home, just as many great adventures do, you select which mystery you wish to research. For first time players, this may be ‘The Spine Chilling Story of the School Scissors’ as the tale of choice. With various locations in each area to search, your goal is to acquire clues and items to solve the crisis thrust upon the city, and save the day.
Useful horror tropes such as flashlights and crowbars exist in this world, as do healing products and weapons. However, along the way you are beset by enemies and characters aiming to thwart and hinder your every turn. You must overcome these in order to save the world from impending disaster.
The determining factors to your success in WORLD OF HORROR are your stats. Like any RPG, these little numbers plague your existence and must be considered when doing the choosing of your own adventuring. Your numbers such as stamina matter, for death will get in the way of tasty progress, after all. Often choices come with a price, and your stats can easily be frittered away by making poor decisions.
At any moment, your sense of reason can be yoinked away as the price for seeing something a bit yucky. Overarching all of these mathematical little figures, is the increasing level of doom your character will be gaining. Once it reaches 100%, no matter your progress, it is end game. You character succumbs to the doom gripping their existence, ending your run.
That being said, making progress is not an impossible challenge. Luck can prevail, and choosing wisely can lead to a variety of handy items being found that you can store and utilise. Learning spells is advantageous for achieving good battle outcomes, although growing extra teeth just seems like a cool enough thing to do without even getting to use those chompers in warfare.
Overall, your increasing experience will allow you to level up, choosing boons and boosting your stats. As long as you can stay alive, your foes can become overpowered and outmanoeuvred by all your magic and cleverness. All while you become the very best detective that ever was.
WORLD OF HORROR would not be the game it is without the intriguing chiptune soundtrack, composed by ArcofDream and Qwesta. The spine-tingling tunes lead the player down a musical path of discomfort and madness. The forest music alone, creates such a threatening and uncomfortable tone, that you simply want to leave the area just to escape the sound. Anxiety inducing chords prod the mind with the tenacity of a small child wanting to know what games are stored on your phone.
The irony is that the WORLD OF HORROR is, in fact, a beautiful one. Detailed 1 bit pixel art designed by panstasz on MS Paint makes for an astonishingly captivating environment to explore. Customisation is not limited to the colour palette alone; the game is also available to play through in 2 bit. There are even several outfit options, so you can gussy up your protagonist in whatever civilian clothing tickles your fancy.
The standout element of the game is, undoubtedly, the art design of the unique cast of monsters from the mortal realm and beyond. The influence of Junji Ito and manga is rife, and the game pulls no punches when it comes to the ensemble of fantastical beasts.
While it is reasonable to marvel at the work and dedication that has gone into WORLD OF HORROR (panstasz maintained work as a full-time dentist while creating the game solo), it does impact the approachability and ease of gameplay. The menu makes mention during the tutorial that ‘the visual overload may initially be a little disorienting.’
This may be due, in part, to the interactive game screen in combination with the myriad of menus that squirrel their way into the periphery. This does feel tough to navigate at times and overshadows ease of function. Multiple attempts may be required to begin grasping some of the potential that the game certainly has.
Combat encounters are the alarming experience you would expect, with grotesque figures attempting to give you a cheeky little smite. While the enemies vary from the nasty to the unearthly, the true bother is more likely to arise from the complicated combat sequencing and menu system.
With each encounter, you are presented with offensive, defensive, spiritual and support actions that you can take, and within each menu are your moves awaiting selection. Would you like to assess the situation first? Perhaps confront the enemy with a valuable ally you have coerced into joining your investigations? Maybe using an improvised weapon will suffice?
The inflated options for the battle sequences are of benefit later as game progression occurs, but it can be difficult to achieve that. Random meet ups with enemies, low luck, injuries, curses, and the inevitability of bad decisions all lead to the chance that you may perish. Appreciation of the amount of choice aside, there is the very real possibility of being overwhelmed, and not just by the bad guys.
I readily admit to managing confrontations with enemies by loading my launch sequence with nothing but kicks that I imagined went straight to the shins of my adversaries. It’s probably fair to say I did not deserve the amount of success I had with this strategy. When a combat scenario or room search is complete, the player is met with ‘resolve event’ as the only selection. This feels arbitrary and vague, and achieving a win in combat feels less meaningful when faced with the ‘resolve event’ button, the same presented when moving through the world at large.
The game certainly does have replay value and longevity. The choices you make can differentiate the outcomes immensely. Selecting which area to search first may determine whether you find the item you need that is instrumental to overcoming an upcoming fight with a meanie. With the ‘quick play’ option, you are thrust into a differently generated world each time, making for a new experience each playthrough.
The ability to mod the game is significant, with a passionate Discord community responsible for crafting unique characters and mysteries. This wields hope for ensuring a healthy lifespan for the game and its community.
WORLD OF HORROR is a unique experience, even amidst the text-based RPG genre. Comparatively, it would be Doki Doki Literature Club that WORLD OF HORROR is most akin to. Not in the art style, or battle system or even customisation options. But simply though the narrative tension built through every passing moment.
Doki Doki Literature Club has a reputation for mingling suspense and dread, and this game is successful at fostering these too. Yet it sets itself apart by capturing genuinely chilling experiences through the specific art design and choice driven story. Despite the doom you and your character endure, a playthrough of this game is a fascinating experience
Failure or success, the results of your investigation impact the world as it descends into darkness. All in a day’s work for the cute, unsung hero that you are.
WORLD OF HORROR
REVIEW COPY PROVIDED BY PUBLISHER
Release Date: 19 October 2023
Platform: PC (also available on MacOS, Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4)
Publisher: Ysbyrd Games, PLAYISM
WORLD OF HORROR sets the tone for a doom stricken Shiokawa, forsaken by the Old Gods. Explore the mysteries of the city in this text based RPG. Find clues, make choices and survive combat encounters with terrifying creatures in order to save the day. But be warned…. the end of the world is unforgiving.