If you’ve been watching any of our coverage over the past year and a half or so, you’ll know we’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of World of Horror – a nostalgic 1-bit gaming experience in the vein of Lovecraft and Junji Ito-style horror. The first video game from one-man developer panstasz, the demo has been one of our favourites to check out at the Ysbryd booth at PAX shows. So how does the early access version stack up?
The first thing you’ll notice starting up the game is a catchy theme-song. The second is a fantastic set of options – surprising for the game’s stripped down aesthetic. World of Horror gives numerous colour options, as well as a choice between 1-bit and 2-bit graphics. I loved being able to choose what would make it easier for me to focus on and read (black and white can be rough on my eyes at times).
World of Horror drops the player into a rural town in Japan, in the 1980s. Something odd is going on – sometimes it shows in small, subtle ways. Sometimes it shows in more sinister details – robed figures in the woods, missing students, creatures… Ancient Eldritch gods are awakening, and the end of the world is at hand. Armed with makeshift weapons, spells, and a shocking amount of bravery, you’ll have the chance to fight back against evil as reality slowly crumbles around you.
Players new to the game are recommended to start out with a specific mystery that leads them through investigating mysterious happenings at a school. After that, there’s a full game – you’ll have five mysteries to solve in any order you wish. Between them, you can visit your apartment to rest, go through storage, shower… the usual. As you solve these mysteries, you’ll be racing the clock against the ever-rising chance of doom, and your ever-diminishing sanity.
You’ll have a lot of stats to manage, and occasionally combat can feel a little intense if you haven’t lucked across a weapon yet. As a result, it can feel a little overwhelming at the very start, but eventually becomes pretty straightforward. Your encounters are turn-based, and you’ll be able to choose options such as attack, improvise a weapon, prepare, defend, kick… At times I found myself wishing the combat was a little more varied, but as fights aren’t the main focus of the game, it didn’t outweigh all the positives.
World of Horror is filled with not only an array of fascinating (and disturbing) mysteries, but also plenty of randomized events throughout each scenario. By giving five at a time, each playthrough can be fairly bite-sized – I easily did two or three in one afternoon (though I admit to dying terribly twice), and rarely saw the same event twice. Sometimes I got good weapons at the very start, while others I found myself relying on sticks and broken bottles. It’s a great game to pick up for a single playthrough, and I can’t see myself burning out anytime soon with so much randomized material.
The mysteries are pretty varied. So far I’ve visited a rural fear festival, searched a dark forest for missing students, and dug into the strangely feverish popularity behind a new ramen shop. Each story feels different from the last, and you never know where it will take you.
The writing is pretty on-point, particularly for lovers of Junji Ito. You’ll definitely see some Lovecraft at play too (and of course Ito was inspired by Lovecraft as well), but the abrupt, disturbing events, unexplained monsters, and deeply unresolved endings feel just like stepping into the game version of an Ito manga – a detail I really enjoyed. You never know what’s around any corner, and even while doing everything that you think is right, you can still find yourself brushing up with disaster and death for no reason other than a bad turn of luck. The aesthetics and music are a fantastic cherry on top here, helping the game to feel like it’s stepping out of the late 80s or early 90s – a great atmosphere for the disjointed style of horror.
The early access build runs fantastically and has plenty of content to it. I do want to note that I ran into a couple bugs, if only to highlight how fantastic the developer is. When I ran across anything, it was easy to get in touch with panstasz and let him know. He was responsive and clearly putting plenty of care and attention into making a polished finished product.
If you’re interested in World of Horror and wanting to jump right in, you can grab the early access for $14.99. You can also still check out the demo on itch.io if you want to give it a test run. Overall I think it’s plenty of fun to pick up now and can’t wait to see what develops as the game fleshes out further.
Order Up! is a weekly column featuring indie-focused reviews, news, or interviews! We like old games just as much as new ones and are always looking for something to check out. Have a game recommendation, a project, or a company you want to talk about? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @ArcanaChance