Horror games are great, but they’re popular and this means that they can kind of blend together. Real terror lies in the unknown! That means coming across new and unusual forms of horror that will get in your head and set up residence there. For example, here’s World of Horror, a bizarre and esoteric take on Japanese horror that doesn’t look or play like pretty much anything else out there. That’s a good thing.
Life in town has gotten a little weird lately. The shadows are a little darker. Everyone’s a little more nervous around each other. Strange things are happening – people are disappearing, pets are turning up dead, there are terrible rumors being spread around. You suspect they’re all connected somehow, so you’re going to investigate those rumors to see if you can find out what’s going on. The real question, then, is whether or not you actually want to find out.
World of Horror is an homage to CRPGs from the very early days of computing. It’s retro in a way few other games are. Sure, plenty of indie developers aim for the retro aesthetic – it’s easy, it’s cheap and it racks up the nostalgia points – but it’s much more rare to emulate the whole experience the way that World of Horror does. You’ll have to learn to use an archaic interface to even play this game and the tutorial only goes so far. Expect to restart a few times as you slowly get the hang of what’s expected of you.
As for what that is: you’re a freelance paranormal investigator, basically, and you’re researching strange happenings in your town. These run the gamut from murders to kidnappings to disappearances to…worse, really, and each time you finish one you’ll collect a key to the lighthouse looming over everything. Inside the lighthouse you’ll figure out exactly what’s going on. Let’s not mince words about it – you’re dealing with Elder Gods here, with several options for your antagonist that can lead to different experiences as you play.
No matter what that experience is, though, it’s going to be unsettling. World of Horror owes a lot to the works of Junji Ito and other J-horror content, so things are rarely as they seem and typically much worse. You’ll get into turn-based fights against horrific monsters, have disfiguring curses placed upon you by the eldritch beings you oppose (think giant holes appearing all over your body) and discover the awful truth behind the mysteries you’re investigating. World of Horror hits a little harder than your typical jumpscare-fest and stands out as a result.
As for the actual gameplay, it’s something of a resource management simulator at heart. You’ll have to manage your health and sanity, with either causing you to lose the game if you run out. You’ve also got combat stats (Strength, Dexterity and Perception), charisma, and money to look after. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s an omnipresent DOOM counter that counts up as you play. Keeping track of your remaining time and health is key to success, as is ensuring that you take minimal damage in combat (or avoiding combat altogether) so you’ll survive until the end of the adventure.
You can collect items and learn magic spells and rituals which might help, but the game largely boils down to learning your most efficient options. To some degree it also boils down to hoping that the game holds itself together, since World of Horror is fairly buggy even by Early Access standards.
As mentioned, World of Horror is just about the most authentic retro experience you can get. That extends to the presentation as well, with slightly more advanced graphics available as an option if you’d prefer going forward in time half a generation or so. That doesn’t mean that World of Horror isn’t going to get under your skin, though. The hyper-old-school graphics might actually make the gore and terror a little more impactful. Definitely not a game for kids.
It’s a pretty good game for everyone else, though, assuming you’re ready to deal with some scares and remapping your brain to an entirely different playstyle. World of Horror is a legitimately unique experience both from a horror perspective and when talking about games in general. Despite some serious Early Access bugs, it’s clear this is one to watch – and though I’m usually reluctant to say this, it’s something you might want to check out on the ground floor. Or wait until the inevitable console releases. Either way…you’re doomed.