World of Horror (Early Access Review)
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO
Content Warning: This game has body horror and mutilation imagery, mentions of suicide, self harm, and murder.
In horror settings, danger lurks in the most innocuous of places. A small ramen shop. An apartment complex, seemingly filled with friendly folks. A funeral or wake. And sometimes, that horror takes strange and horrible forms. Take, for example, the works of Junji Ito, whose horror is both surreal, and, at the same time, holds critiques of Japanese culture within it. Or urban legends like the Red Coat lady, where nowhere is safe from a hand on your shoulder, and the whispered question… Do you want a red cloak… Or a white one?
World of Horror takes inspiration from urban legends, the works of Junji Ito, and… The Apple II, an ancient computer with 1 bit graphics (That means a dark pixel, or a bright one, most usually black, and white.) It’s an interesting mix, and the developer, Panstasz, has created an interesting, sort of roguelike experience with it that is mostly good… With the qualifier that it’s not the friendliest game, and could do with some tweaks. Part of it I understand, the wanting to emulate the sort of interface you’d see in an early Apple adventure game. But others… Not so much. If you’re playing in windowed mode, by the way, there is a 4x scaling mode, but it’s behind an advanced option. So’s you know.
Aaaanyway, the general idea is that it’s the heady days of 198X, and The Old Gods are awakening, causing all sorts of horrors. Urban legends becoming real. Eldritch horrors, tearing their way through. The broken and the damned, finally given weapons with which to lash back at the world. Y’know, heavy stuff. And you (and anyone else you can convince to go with you) are the only hope.
Gameplay wise, the general idea is that of a turn based, turn limited game (If DOOM becomes 100%, game over, the Old Gods have returned), where each turn is spent investigating a location, in five investigations from, currently, a pool of 12, with a varying amount of endings for each case depending on what you do, and a few hidden secrets. And each location has a deck of events and enemies, ranging from benefits, like a regained of Reason, one of your health stats, or Stamina, the other, to dire enemies, like the toilet ghost, who doesn’t seem threatening until you notice most of your attacks are missing, and she’s walloping you. And, of course, some cases end with a fight. And once (if) you finish all five investigations, you then take on one short, final part… Ascending the Lighthouse where the summoning began.
So let’s lower some expectations: As each location and character has a specific deck of events, in addition to more general ones, you’ll get to know the events relatively quickly. There is event modding, but obviously, that’s not for everyone. The game is pretty difficult, a battle of attrition, and while it does fit the mood, when even Easy runs can, potentially, drag you down by the end of the third investigation (or the second, if you’re particularly unlucky on the encounters), it can be a bit of a turnoff. A fair few spells are, with the exception of a certain Old God’s passive effect on the story, not… Really worth the cost, although some, such as heavy damage spells, definitely are, and it’s not currently all that clear what enemy type it is (perhaps a clickable tooltip might help there?)
Beyond these potential turnoffs, however, the game is most certainly interesting, the event modding will be a nice touch once it’s implemented, the lo-fi aesthetic combined with some good renditions of Ito style monsters (and a fair few references to their work, like hole-filled people, the fish from Gyo, and the like), the investigations are, overall, interesting, with a few having unique touches such as sub explorations, different maps, and, in the case of the tutorial investigation (the dread Scissor Woman), a nice, linear progression. The endless mode is fun, with little touches, and, despite my griping, I can definitely recommend this one for roguelite fans.
The Mad Welshman currently lives in a World of Horror. He’s kind of hoping an independence vote might change that.