Reviewed on Xbox Game Pass for PC
The death of genre is a fascinating thing. More games are experimenting with multiple genres for results that are surprisingly successful. World of Horror from panstasz is one such game. Currently in Early Access on PC, the game blends different genres of horror, as well as a couple gameplay styles to create an experience that’s as unsettling and creepy as it is engaging.
There’s a lot going on in World of Horror. You may not think so if you watch a trailer or see some screenshots, but there really is. The game has some pretty complex systems both in the foreground and background.
This is very much a story-driven adventure game — it features point-and-click mechanics, and its plot is presented entirely in written text. The game embraces its old school roots by tasking you with exploring rooms, mansions, forests, and fairgrounds as you search for clues and key items to solve multiple cases in each playthrough.
Events are randomized with branching paths, so when you’re exploring you’ll discover stone tablets with mysterious runic symbols, or maybe you’ll run into a masked person. You’re then presented with different actions. Do you try to decipher those runic symbols? Do you touch that stone tablet? Do you run away from someone who’s like a cross between Man in Mask from The Strangers and Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th Part 2? Or do you attempt to interact with this individual?
Each of the game’s cases has multiple possible results. Everything depends on what you do leading up to the end of a case. Sometimes you may get a really cool conclusion, while other times you’ll have to accept an anticlimactic resolution. Unfortunately, some of the case endings are pretty bad. Given the roguelike nature of World of Horror, you’re encouraged to play through multiple times, but it would’ve been great if there were just a few more entertaining or meaningful conclusions to the game’s individual mysteries.
Your actions will directly affect your character’s different attributes. That said, I noticed that most results — even those that are successful — are a double-edged sword. A successful action, for example, may increase your dexterity while simultaneously taking a toll on your strength or stamina. It’s important to weigh the consequences of every action you take as being careless will only get you so far. Even when I’d make it pretty far into a particular playthrough, if I played too aggressively, it usually came at the expense of my character’s diminishing mental health.
An RPG World and Characters
As you attempt to solve the many mysteries of World of Horror you’re also gaining experience points and affecting the world around you. Interacting with objects, battling enemies, and collecting items all grant you experience. This allows you to level up and increase your character’s different stats and abilities.
The game’s combat system is very much like that of a traditional turn-based RPG. You can throw fists, use weapons you’ve found, or use supernatural abilities. The battles aren’t too difficult, but if you’re not mindful about healing up and preparing for these encounters, you’ll meet a premature demise during your adventure.
Your character isn’t the only thing that changes as you play. World of Horror features an overarching cosmic horror narrative. Powerful entities known as The Old Gods are awaking from their slumber, and they’re bringing destruction to the world. This is measured by an “Impending Doom” level, which increases as you play. You may notice that townspeople will begin rioting, or maybe strange underground societies start to congregate in nearby forests to do who-knows-what. The more you play, the more madness will begin to encompass both your character and the game world, adding high stakes to everything you do.
The many systems that are in play in World of Horror are finely tuned, if a bit overwhelming at times. The game can be a bit ambiguous, too, which can often have results that range from slightly problematic to disastrous. Sometimes the game isn’t quite clear with what you’re supposed to do next, which means you’ll pointlessly explore areas or enter into unnecessary situations. Thankfully, this isn’t the case very often.
Cosmic Horror Meets Slasher Meets J-Horror
The gargantuan abominations that threaten the world are true to the Lovecraftian inspiration of World of Horror. At times, the game takes on a more Japanese vibe and presents surreal body horror and gruesome gore. There are even a couple flashing images and jump scares sprinkled in, though these don’t dominate the experience, which is great as the jump scare, when used appropriately, helps to enhance a work of horror.
You’ll encounter slasher-like enemies, eerie backwoods cults, and creepy dolls, which are more in line with Western horror. All of these elements combine surprisingly well with the Lovecraft and Jinjo Ito inspirations to create a sort of all-bases-covered horror.
One of the reasons these elements work so well together is due to the sharp writing of World of Horror. A few inoffensive typos notwithstanding, the lore and dialogue are presented in rich and disturbing prose that really delivers all the terror quite wonderfully.
In addition to the writing, the game’s 1-bit art style is equally effective at creating the horrific tone of World of Horror. The ultra-minimalist graphics work incredibly well to form a visual experience that’s like a mix between a black-and-white manga and a bizarre animated horror film.
Even in its Early Access state, World of Horror offers a good amount of replayability. The multiple actions, case resolutions, and game endings invite you to revisit the story repeatedly. The writing and art are really great and help to drive the narrative. Some of the case endings are a bit bland, the music is a bit repetitive, and there’s currently no save feature. Here’s hoping these issues are addressed as panstasz continues to develop World of Horror. As it is, though, the game definitely feels close to complete and offers an excellent horror experience.
World of Horror is currently priced at $14.99, and is available in Early Access on Steam, itch.io, and in Game Preview on Xbox Game Pass for PC. PlayStation 4 and Switch versions are currently planned, as well.