aM I bEauTIfuL?
World of Horror is, as the name implies, an upcoming horror game being developed by Panstasz and published by Ysbyrd Games. From the very moment you start it up, it’s incredibly clear that the game is taking heavy inspiration from the works of legendary horror manga artist Junji Ito, an artist known for creating terrifying imagery that would haunt anybody’s dreams. In World of Horror the player is given an option of several creepy scenarios within the seaside city of Shiokawa, Japan some time in the 1980s. The Old Gods have awakened and are driving the town into madness, causing several people to go missing and many mysteries to present themselves.
The PAX East 2020 demo gave the option to pick one of two scenarios: “Spine-Chilling Story of School Scissors” and “Vicious Verses of a Violent Vigil.” I personally chose School Scissors, as a high school is typically up there as one of the more creepy settings for a horror game. I was placed in control of a young girl and was informed that several boys at the high school had recently gone missing. A rumor has gone around that a tall woman with a terribly wide smile has been seen around the school, and my friend had disappeared while attempting to perform a ritual that would send the woman back to the afterlife. My mission became clear: I had to interpret his notes on the ritual and collect the necessary items to perform it myself.
One of the first noteworthy parts of World of Horror is that the UI is packed in a way that feels slightly overwhelming at first. Information and buttons are scattered all over the screen, a text log is down at the bottom, and I didn’t even notice it until about halfway through the demo; character information is anchored to the right side of the UI. It’s genuinely a lot to take in, and at first I found myself completely lost as to how to control the game just from the information overload I had been presented. Eventually, I did find my bearings and figure out exactly what I had to do to explore the school, pressing a single button to move on to the next event.
While exploring, I did not seem to have much control over where the game took me, with a small graphic of my character bobbing through the halls leading to an event where I would usually have to pick one of two options. Two events that stood out to me were an encounter with my “new biology teacher” and a moment involving opening the door out to the pool, both of which seriously creeped me out in just the way I was hoping for. While exploring some events will bring you into combat, which I generally found to be the weakest part of the game. Even with a tutorial on the combat system, which was for some reason turned off by default in this demo, the combat system felt needlessly complicated, involving queuing up attacks and searching for makeshift weapons. The feedback during battle wasn’t enough to make me feel like I was actually doing anything, in fact at a certain point during my first battle I started to think I was missing a button press, a worry that wasn’t alleviated until the enemy was defeated.
This all ties in to the roguelite aspect of World of Horror. There are five playable characters, each with their own stats and perks to help them get through the various mysteries, and failing to resolve the mystery will simply lead you to having a chance to try again from the start. It certainly felt like my time with the demo had me barely scratching the surface, having learned about the existence of something called “event cards” only after having finished the demo. While I was easily overwhelmed by just how much there is to keep track of in the minute to minute gameplay, I couldn’t help but still be won over by the aesthetic that World of Horror is going for and absolutely nails. The monster designs are top notch, the 1-bit “pixel-sketch” art style is stretched to nearly its full potential, and the creepy chiptune music reminded me heavily of old school horror games like Capcom’s Sweet Home in a very good way. I feel like if given more time with the game to completely learn its workings, I’ll have a much better time with World of Horror, and those interested in creepy atmospheric horror should definitely keep an eye on this game in some capacity.
World of Horror is currently available as an Early Access title on Steam and is set to release on Nintendo Switch and other platforms some time in 2020.