World of Horror is like an iceberg. On the surface, it seems digestible, but below, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. This was my experience with this survival horror game with turn-based combat and consequential choices. Inspired by the works of Junji Ito and H.P. Lovecraft, this 1-bit RPG is incredibly unique and eerie.
With the promise of multiple playthroughs, different endings, and custom games, this roguelite will have you coming back for more. You could finish a couple of mysteries in World of Horror and call it a day, but you’d be missing out on so much more than you realize. World of Horror has complex mechanics, disturbing visuals, and feels both modern and aged, as you’ll see throughout this review.
The satisfying loop
Your time with World of Horror is going to be in bite-sized forms of mini-mysteries that pull you between skill checks, turn-based combat, and time management. I had a good time playing the ‘Extra Curricular’ mode where you must solve five mysteries while the world around you changes more and more with each completed mystery.
Learning how to properly complete mysteries while staying alive and trying to keep the Doom meter low (a penalty system that reaches game over if it gets to 100%) was a satisfying game loop. Once you take on a few mysteries, you learn the gist of them and can start actually focusing on all the unique mechanics and leveling up rather than just trying to survive a combat round.
A lot to take in
At first dive, I was caught off-guard by how much I didn’t understand. Although you get a combat tutorial, and a quick ‘first-time playthrough’ tutorial, 80% of the game is figuring it out for yourself. This left me with a lot of questions during my first few mysteries, wondering if I was playing the game right. I was confused by a lot, like how rituals work in combat, how to manage my time, and what Doom even was.
Once you either do some research, or learn it for yourself through experience, you’ll start to appreciate the game a lot more. Not to say that I’m docking the game for minimal tutorials; I think it’s a clever decision to make the players feel just as lost and afraid as the characters do. But it definitely took a few tries before I really felt like I was confident in my choices.
There’s also a lot more to unpack than you realize once you play more and more of the game. Some of the features in World of Horror are locked behind achievements, and simply just playing through the game. Also, you may feel powerless at level one, but once you start to level up, you’ll unlock Perks, earn more Items and Spells, and feel a lot more capable.
If you’re someone who likes TTRPG games, and video games inspired by those mechanics, World of Horror replicates them in unique ways. Turn-based combat allows you to perform moves in certain sequences, and you can only fit a certain amount of moves into one turn. This will lead you to try and figure out how many times you should prepare an attack, attack, or perform other Defensive or Support moves into one sequence.
Your character has Stamina, which acts as health, and Reason, which is like their sanity. Other than these two central stats, your other stats like Strength, Dexterity, or Knowledge can affect a variety of skill checks. You may succeed or fail a certain check, leading to good or bad consequences. Figuring out if performing a certain check is even worth the risk makes time management in World of Horror feel like the real mystery itself.
Wasting too much time not on the mystery itself can lead to your Doom increasing. Managing my Doom level over the course of the five mysteries really added to the feeling that I had to be smart with my time, or else I wouldn’t be able to save the town. I think anyone who can appreciate TTRPGs will enjoy World of Horror.
Distinct art style and vision
The art direction of World of Horror really makes this game special. With an art style inspired by Junji Ito, a renowned Japanese horror artist, coupled with the 1-bit visuals of an old computer game, it’s constantly pleasant to look at.
At first, the UI was confusing, simply because you’re not really sure what everything means and what certain buttons do. But after you learn more about the game and come to understand the UI, it’s a lot less jarring to look at. Now that I don’t feel like I’m experiencing visual overload, I can appreciate and focus on the incredible character designs.
This is what makes World of Horror so creepy. The enemies all have distinct and terrifying looks. You really don’t need a game to look realistic to be scary. There were a few times that I actually had small jump scares, despite me thinking it wasn’t that type of horror game.
Mysteries without much solving
Sadly, the one part of World of Horror that didn’t satisfy me too much was the mystery solving. While it’s good that the game tells you where to go to further the mystery, I feel it takes away from that sense of accomplishment I would’ve felt if I had solved it myself. For example, when reading some text, it said something that made me believe I should investigate one location. That made me feel like I was putting it together myself.
But the location it was pointing to wasn’t where I thought I should explore, so while I thought I was figuring things out, in reality, it feels like the writing isn’t as purposeful as I thought it’d be. Sometimes, even after paying attention to the story being told, I’d finish the mystery without really feeling like I solved or learned anything.
Despite feeling like I’m not really involved in putting together the mystery itself, I think the writing is well done and intriguing. Each mystery’s premise is interesting and the descriptors on some of the scary or disgusting imagery are immersive.
A spooky retro game with some fallbacks
Overall, I enjoyed playing World of Horror, and still feel like there’s more to discover. Although the aesthetics and gameplay elements are fun, I was expecting to be more hands-on when solving the mystery, and for newcomers, the game can feel overwhelming. Even with the multiple endings each mystery has, I’d sometimes get annoyed having to go through the same ones and the same familiar gameplay loop. This is still a great game for fans of this horror art style, and players who like TTRPG mechanics like skill checks and turn-based combat.