World of Horror Review – This Hole Was Made For Me!
World of Horror
Horror has always been a mixed subject for me. On one hand, I love the feeling, that utter terror it gives me when I’m looking at something genuinely terrifying. On the other hand, a cheap jumpscare, although effective in jump-starting my fight-or-flight response, won’t do much for me because that isn’t all there is to horror. So when I laid my gaze on World of Horror, I pondered whether they’ll truly unsettle me with atmosphere and designs, or just try to scare me with the same ol’ tricks.
World of Horror is a rogue-like RPG developed by panstasz and published by Ysbryd Games. The game takes heavy influence from old adventure games, as well as the works of H.P. Lovecraft and especially Junji Ito.
This becomes much more apparent as soon as you look at any screenshots. The art style is so close to Junji Ito’s aesthetic, it feels like you’re playing one of his horror manga. Not only that, but the designs of the enemies fit with the style of horror he works with. Even if some can be described as generic or boring, it doesn’t detract from the work they put into this.
Blast From The Past
When you first start up World of Horror, you see exactly what kind of look they are going for. From the command window as you load in, to the bit-filled thunderclap that introduces you to the main menu, you are brought back to a time where 1-bit was the pillar of technology (if it ever was). If that isn’t your style, you could always go to the settings and upgrade to 2-bit or browse their impressive number of color palettes, among other UI options.
The choices don’t stop there, as once you start a new game, you are given four game modes to choose from, each one more complex than the other the further you go down. The first choice is meant to be a tutorial of sorts, where you are given one of the game’s available mysteries to solve with one of the available characters you can be. Very simple, and the perfect way to start, but you shouldn’t linger on it too much, as the real game begins once you delve into the next option, when you partake in World of Horror’s full premise.
World of Horror takes place in the spring of 1984. The small town of Shiokawa, Japan, has come under the influence of something beyond the comprehension of human beings. The Old Gods have awakened and the end of the world is ticking closer, yet nobody is trying to do anything about it. That is, except for a group of young men and women that put it on themselves to delay the inevitable.
A New Day, A New God
Every run will start out with you being given a character and an Old God, both of which do affect the run. Each of the five characters have their advantages and disadvantages, mostly in the form of stat changes. Old Gods will affect the overall run, giving it their own unique effect, like being unable to run away from combat or raising Doom if you rest at your house.
But what is Doom? Well, you see, remember when I said the clock was ticking? I wasn’t kidding. Doom is a meter that will always be prevalent throughout your run, looming over you as it gets closer and closer to 100%, which means game over. Usually, Doom is gained through investigating, and while there are other ways to gain it, like re-rolling your perks or random encounters, there are also ways to reduce it.
Through this, as you start the run, you already know that every choice you make is important, so you better choose wisely what you do. I feel like this keeps things going, making sure the pace isn’t slowed down to a slog, and giving you that feeling that something is on the horizon. It helps add to the cosmic horror tone that is backed by an amazing bit tune soundtrack filled with mysterious and otherworldly sounds that only enhance the experience as a truly horrific game.
Home Is Where The Horror Is
But I digress. No time to dilly dally, so let’s get to the mysteries. Mysteries can only be picked up in your house, a hub area where you can bathe for bonuses, watch TV, change clothes, and look out the peephole.
Don’t look out the peephole.
At home, you are given the option to pick from five mysteries currently plaguing the town. Once you choose a mystery, you can’t choose another until that one is finished. The stories range from schoolyard rumors to sightings of cultists out in the forest. As for the overall quality of the writing in these stories, the writer does a great job describing the disturbing and the demented, using their words to bring the chill to your spine. It’s interesting to see them mix the outlandish concepts of Japanese urban legends with the unknown anomalies of Lovecraftian horror. World of Horror doesn’t just take influence from Ito and Lovecraft, but uses their works to create something familiar, yet entirely unique.
When choosing a mystery, you are given the lowdown on what’s occurring, and go out to solve it. Once you’re out on the town, you have free reign to check out every part of the town, like the Downtown doge shop, the School library, the Village’s wizard, etc. The usual. But make sure not to linger, as Doom inches closer. You’ll be directed towards specific areas as your investigation leads you to them. However, it’s not gonna be easy.
A Battle With The Unknown
Many strange things are to be found in this small town, and there’s no doubt you’ll come across a few here and there. As you linger around areas in town, their threat levels will rise, causing more dangerous encounters. Most encounters are random occurrences that either just happen, though the consequences usually aren’t too rough, or give you choices. The exception, however, is combat.
World of Horror uses a unique style of turn-based combat. When you are confronted by the enemy, you are given a limited window of time in which you set up actions that you want to perform for that turn in the form of a sequence, allowing you to plan ahead for anything. You’ll have many options to choose from, each with their drawbacks and benefits. You play the sequence of actions and then it’s the enemy’s turn, where they’ll do damage to either your Stamina or your Reason, your two forms of HP in this game, only regained through items and resting. If one or the other goes too far down, that’s it for your run and you’ll have to start over.
However, if you persevere, you’ll gain EXP, which is best gained through combat, although you can earn it through normal actions. With enough experience points, you get to level up and choose one of three perks (you can re-roll them in exchange for Doom gained), as well as increasing your health or stats. Perks give many benefits, mostly in terms of stat increases, but they can also be useful in encounters where a choice needs to be made.
In these encounters, you are presented with a problem and must choose what you think to be the best option to get yourself out of it. For the most part, you’ll have one to two options which frequently use skill checks, but sometimes an extra choice will appear as long as you have a perk or an ally befitting that choice. These extra choices can give you a better way to solve the problem.
Allies can be gained numerous ways, but most easily through the schoolyard option at the School. Allies not only give stat bonuses, but they will be able to assist you in combat and, like I said, in choice-making encounters.
These encounters affect the story in very minimal ways. Sometimes they’re mini-interactive events that give a spook. Most of the time they’ll just increase Doom or damage you, both in small increments. In the worst-case scenario, they’ll give you a condition, which will persist throughout the run and can cause a variety of effects, be it stat decreases or losing Reason if you lose Stamina.
And while the encounters definitely add to the experience, I can’t help but think that they are sometimes… too random? For example, I once got my wallet stolen in a crowd in the middle of a forest. An empty forest. Other than that, the encounters fit well within the gameplay, and there are always new things to find.
Anyway, once you’ve done your investigation, it’s time to solve the case. The finale of a mystery won’t always be a climactic battle with the bad guy; sometimes it’s a decision that will lead you to one of the multiple endings that each story has. In addition, there are mini-side objectives, like investigating a specific place twice or dropping two items from your inventory that will give you “better” endings if you complete them.
When the mystery is solved, that is when things begin to change, and you get to understand the grander scope of World of Horror. Every time a mystery is solved, the town will start to fall under the Old Gods’ corruption further and further, which will affect gameplay, like being unable to use the TV, or the shop owner’s doge going missing.
End of the Road
However, you’ll also find a small key in your mailbox. You can collect up to five keys only after completing every mystery on the board. These five keys will unlock The Lighthouse, a gauntlet of sorts where you are put through the wringer as a last bout before you finally save the town, and the world, from being taken over by the Old Gods. Once you reach the top of the Lighthouse, the Old God will be expelled from the town, delaying the end of the world for another time. And thus ends your run.
But that’s not all! Since each run will be different, and it’s heavily encouraged to take on the same mystery more than once, there’s always more to find, whether it be new enemies, new events, or new endings. World of Horror is in early access currently, so there’s still more being added over time.
Even at the state World of Horror is in right now, I’d say it’s well worth the asking price. It’s a game that keeps itself from relying on scares to frighten you, opting to look at the truly strange and otherworldly. From the art style, to the writing, to the variety of events you witness, the experience you’ll get when playing through it is so bizarre, and yet so unique, that it won’t be a game easily forgotten.
Oh yeah, don’t Alt-Tab, by the way.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on Steam. Game provided by Ysbryd Games.