The best horror isn’t about gore, shock, or jump scares—it’s a manipulation that gets into your mind, and unsettles you down to your core. The best horror will stick with you for a long time. Horror games have always been a difficult prospect. If you give your players the ability to defeat monsters, they may not be scared by them. Conversely, not being able to defeat a foe can feel frustrating, like you’ve lost your player agency. And horror games constantly feel like polished commercial products. It isn’t until I get my hands on something that is low production value before I start to feel truly unsettled. Perhaps this hearkens back to my childhood days of playing random text adventures that I found on floppies at computer conventions, the only clue to their contents short descriptions. They often had rudimentary still art which was unsettlingly depicted with the limitation of computer graphics of the time. World of Horror does a phenomenal job of feeling like one of those old forbidden floppies.
With art done on Microsoft Paint, and inspiration from HP Lovecraft and Japanese horror mastermind Junji Ito (who I became aware of through works like The Enigma Amigara Fault and The Human Chair) the latter of which heavily influences the game’s art style. It’s all presented in low fidelity monochrome that really helps to drive home the horror of the end of the world—brought on by Lovecraftian nightmares.
World of Horror is about choices. You play as an investigator, trying to get to the bottom of the strange goings-on and horrific events. Travel between locations, gather information, and (hopefully) uncover mysteries. Set in the low technology early 80s, it’s a perfect companion to the lo-fi presentation. You choose your adventure, and each action you take has the potential for consequence. If you enter into the school’s bathroom, and a stall opens, you can choose to run, or investigate—just be prepared to fight whatever abomination might be on the other side.
There is combat, but it’s very simple. You can decide on a series of actions to take, and you can complete that sequence. That includes everything from religious gestures, to looking for improvised weapons to defend yourself. Death is the end in this rogue-lite, and means you must start a new investigation if you want to continue on the path of world savior.
For this preview, I played through the “School Scissors” scenario first, which consists of a small investigation in a school to save your friend—and stop the supernatural, scissor wielding lady that is one of the threats to it. While this was a self-contained adventure, you can choose to attempt to stop the Lovecraftian elder horrors by solving a series of mysteries, each with multiple potential outcomes.
World of Horror is still in Early Access, but there is a lot to experience already. There are over 10 mysteries to complete as you try to keep your life, and your sanity, through 1980s Shiokawa, Japan. According to the blurb on their Steam page, World of Horrors should be in Early Access for at least 6 months, and release in full during the last quarter of this year. This is a title I’ll definitely keep playing as it updates.
World of Horror is available now in Early Access on Steam
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