What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of things like spiders, dogs, or maybe snakes? Maybe you’re afraid of an activity like flying or scuba diving. Or maybe something a little more conceptual, like the passage of time or intimacy? Whatever it is you’re afraid of, I think we can all come to an agreement that the most truly horrifying and unsettling thing we have as a species is the fear of the unknown.
WORLD OF HORROR is a horror-themed rougelike inspired by old MS-DOS games from the 80s and the art and storytelling of Japanese horror icon Junji Ito. Trapped in the small town of Shirokawa, it is up to a group of teenagers to investigate the strange goings on in the town in hopes of discovering a way to prevent a strange ritual happening at the top of the town’s lighthouse set to unleash an Old God upon the world.
WORLD OF HORROR excellently captures the feel of old 1-Bit (or 2-Bit if you prefer) graphics. The UI is sharp and blocky like old MS-DOS game menus and combining that with the Junji Ito-inspired art direction gives the game a very unsettling retro horror feel.
The main gameplay loop for WORLD OF HORROR is to go out and investigate mysteries in hopes of gaining access to the lighthouse where an Old God summoning ritual is being performed. Each run will give you five mysteries to solve, which are randomly picked from a large pool of other mysteries. Each one comes with a different objective that can be approached in multiple ways; some mysteries even have their own unique maps to explore, like the inside of a mansion or the Shirokawa woods.
Whenever you make an action during a mystery, the game will roll a random event from a pool of nearly two hundred that can affect the player in many ways, which can range from the mundane, like running into an old friend, to the outright absurd, like finding a door in the middle of nowhere that leads to another dimension or heck, even just a good ol’ combat encounter. This gives WORLD OF HORROR a lot of gameplay variety, making sure there is a lot to do and see within the game, and even if you manage to see everything, you can either play challenge mode, which will give you a customised playthrough specifically targeted towards a character’s weakness (e.g. not allowing the cigarette addict character to smoke or play as a character centred around recruiting allies but the town is completely void of other people) or heck, you can even customise your own run however you want, even going as far as setting the game in a different timeline, which completely changes every mystery and encounter in the game. The amount of variety in each possible run is insane.
I want to talk about a very specific encounter I came across while reviewing the game that perfectly captures the essence of the horror genre as a whole and that is “Something Truly Evil”. Something Truly Evil is essentially the WORLD OF HORROR’s “super boss” and is very difficult to even come across; I didn’t even know I triggered it until it was WAY too late. When you trigger an encounter with Something Truly Evil, a small counter will appear in the UI, just small enough for you to not notice it. The higher the counter, the more it will actively mess with your game, culminating in a combat encounter where all of your options are replaced with “Beg” and “Bleed”. While Something Truly Evil is hunting you, you will start seeing it’s face show up randomly throughout the game, starting off small as barely noticeable and in the background of events to eventually inescapably in your face, like replacing the images of your inventory with his image or even your character in the status screen. My favourite part of the Something Truly Evil encounter is that it is truly inescapable; if you decide to restart a run, make a new run or even just turn the game off and come back to it days later, it will still be following you. You cannot run from Something Truly Evil, all you can do is accept its embrace and beg that it is merciful.
- Fantastic pixel art
- A truly absurd amount of variety per run
- Something Truly Evil perfectly captures the essence of horror
I mentioned earlier that WORLD OF HORROR has combat encounters; they tend to come up randomly while investigating and most of the time, a mystery culminates with a boss fight of some kind. I’m not going to mince words; I’m not a fan of the combat system. While I do like the aspect of having a time metre, and each action you take fills up that metre before you are forced to end your turn, I’m just not a fan of how much stuff you can do in combat. You have your basic stuff, like a basic attack and a strong attack; you have a basic kick for when you don’t have a weapon equipped; and you can also spend some of the time metre on either increasing the accuracy of the attack or a lot of it to guarantee your next attack lands. And that's just your offensive options; you can also spend time to locate a makeshift weapon, dodge, block, run away, have an ally take a blow, have an ally attack for you, cast spells, and there's even an entire menu full of options specifically for exorcising ghosts. In the end, all I ever do in combat is spend time to guarantee my next attack lands and attack with a quick weapon so I can repeat it again in the same turn. The combat has a lot of complexity to it when really it doesn’t need to be.
A downside to WORLD OF HORROR’s chosen art style is that, due to its own complexity, it has to cram as much information as possible while still giving off that MS-DOS look. This makes the UI very cluttered and confusing to navigate. In the nearly twenty hours of gameplay I clocked in for this review, I’m still finding out little aspects of the UI I wish I knew from the beginning.
These UI problems get even more annoying to deal with when we talk about the controls. WORLD OF HORROR was very clearly meant to only be played on PC. Navigating the game’s menus with an analogue stick controlled mouse cursor is a chore. Typically, when a game has you control a mouse cursor in this way, you use the left analogue stick for fast movements and the right for precise ones but stick-controlled uses the D-Pad for fast movement for some reason and it just feels very poorly thought out. What about touch controls? Well touch controls do exist but they only act as a substitute for the A button, you still need to navigate the mouse cursor over to what you want to select before you can press it with touch controls.
- Combat is more complex than it needs to be
- UI is very cluttered and can be confusing
- Very clearly meant to be played on PC
Final Score: 6/10
WORLD OF HORROR is a fantastic game but an absolute nightmare on the Switch (badum-tish), its aesthetics do a lot of the heavy lifting. While I do not recommend playing WORLD OF HORROR on Nintendo Switch (or other consoles in general assuming they have the same problems), if you can, I’d highly suggest trying the game out on PC only.
Thank you for checking out our WORLD OF HORROR Switch review, thank you to Ysbryd Games (via Stride PR) for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: