If you were to combine the storytelling expertise and distinctive visual style of acclaimed Japanese horror creator Junji Ito and the eldritch lore of H.P. Lovecraft, you’d find yourself with World of Horror. Developed by panstasz and published by Ysbryd Games, this point-and-click indie gem offers a unique and chilling experience that fans of cosmic horror and roguelike games will undoubtedly appreciate.
“It’s not a game for those who seek easy answers but for those who enjoy the journey of unraveling a dark mystery.”
World of Horror is a game that boldly ventures into uncharted territory, marrying the eerie worlds of two horror legends with classic 1-bit graphics reminiscent of early Macintosh games. Paweł Koźmiński’s (panstasz) World of Horror takes place in a fictitious version of Shiokawa, Japan, in the year 1984. The Old Gods are reawakening, and cosmic horrors are plaguing the little seaside town.
You can choose between five different characters to dive into, with five separate mysteries per playthrough. The game’s narrative is intentionally cryptic, encouraging you to piece together the underlying plot through multiple playthroughs. Fittingly, the cryptic nature of the story heightens the Lovecraftian theme, as it creates an atmosphere of dread and impending doom. It’s not a game for those who seek easy answers but for those who enjoy the journey of unraveling a dark mystery.
“One of World of Horror’s standout features is its procedurally generated mysteries.”
World of Horror’s overall gameplay loop is a combination of turn-based combat, exploration, and decision-making. You’ll explore various parts of the town, including the school, the seaside, and the lighthouse, interact with a colorful cast of NPCs, and gather clues to solve mysteries that plague the community. Encounters can end in combat or with a small stat increase or deduction. It mostly closely resembles the wonderful Arkham Horror, but nevertheless always feels incredibly unique.
The combat system is a little daunting at first, as it requires you to strategically manage your stamina, which is essentially your health, and reasoning, also known as sanity, among other factors. A doom counter continues to increase as well, which ultimately awakens an Old God and ends your playthrough immediately. Every mystery contains different endings, all of which influence the final true ending of your playthrough.
Once you die, you must start a new playthrough from scratch. One of the game’s standout features is its procedurally generated mysteries. Each playthrough offers a different set of events, making each experience unique. You unlock perks and retain certain skills and information in your future playthroughs, following the classic roguelike formula. This makes solving future mysteries and clearing the game a bit easier the more you play.
“The visuals effectively evoke a sense of nostalgia while simultaneously contributing to the feeling of impending doom.”
One of the most striking aspects of World of Horror is its impressive art style and excellent use of low poly visuals. Its aesthetic is highly reminiscent of renowned horror manga artist Junji Ito’s works while never feeling derivative. Each location you visit and NPC you talk to is packed with detail and hand-drawn with an exceptional amount of care and love. You’ll also encounter some truly terrifying and original creature designs that heighten the body-horror aspect that Ito and now World of Horror is iconic for.
Making this all the more impressive is the fact that this was all crafted in Microsoft Paint, a feat that simply never gets less astonishing, especially the more you explore the game’s detailed environments. The visuals effectively evoke a sense of nostalgia while simultaneously contributing to the feeling of impending doom.
The black-and-white aesthetic is complemented by a minimalistic but haunting soundtrack that sets the tone for the game’s cosmic horror elements. The eerie 8-bit soundtrack by ArcOfDream and Qwesta includes some incredible songs, all of which further build upon the dread and tension established by the game’s visuals. Sadly, there isn’t any voice acting, but that’s to be expected, given the budget of a title like this.
“I highly recommend World of Horrors, not just to horror fans and Ito enthusiasts but to anyone looking for a truly compelling and visually stunning indie gem.”
Unfortunately, one aspect of the game’s visuals that isn’t quite as effective is the unintuitive UI. Many of the icons blend in with the backgrounds, creating a rather cluttered experience at times. I often found myself having to navigate the slow-moving cursor around the entire screen just to find out whether or not an element is interactable. Furthermore, each playthrough can be customized with either a 2-bit or 1-bit style aesthetic, which is a nice option but, unfortunately, doesn’t make too much of a difference.
Nevertheless, World of Horror is a truly fantastic macabre indie gem that pays the utmost respect to the works of Junji Ito and H.P. Lovecraft. While its steep learning curve at the beginning, clunky UI, and unforgiving mechanics may seem initially offputting, it’s absolutely worth sticking around, as beneath all of it is a unique horror experience well worth having.
World of Horror throws a lot at you from the outset and doesn’t hold your hand. You’ll have to learn how to keep the doom meter low and retain high stamina and reasoning, all the while pushing the narrative forward. Much of the early game is simply mastering these systems through trial and error. Fortunately, it’s incredibly rewarding, owing to the game’s phenomenal sense of style, engaging systems, and captivating mysteries. There are currently 21 mysteries to solve in the 1.0 release, allowing for a significant amount of replayability, as well as a handful of other modes that make the overall package more appealing. I highly recommend World of Horrors, not just to horror fans and Ito enthusiasts but to anyone looking for a truly compelling and visually stunning indie gem.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PS5; code was provided by the Publisher.
World of Horror Review
World of Horror is a phenomenal horror roguelike experience inspired by the works of Junji Ito and H.P Lovecraft. It's gorgeous art style and eerie soundtrack heighten a sense of tension and dread woven throughout its point-and-click style gameplay. While it can throw a lot at you, does little handholding, and has some cluttered UI, the gameplay loop, compelling mysteries, colorful cast of characters, and engaging roguelike elements will keep you coming back for more.