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World of Horror Review: A Hauntingly Brilliant Horror RPG

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A PC code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. World of Horror will be released on October 19, 2023, for PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

In such a saturated genre, horror games can be quite hit or miss. While some titles manage to deliver spine-tingling fear and heart-pounding suspense, others fall short, leaving players desensitized to the intended scares.

World of Horror, developed by panstasz, is one of those rare gems that not only excels in delivering hair-raising dread but also leaves a lasting impression that lingers long after you’ve exited the game. Now, as the game reaches its 1.0 launch, it’s clear that this labor of love has truly paid off.

The cosmic horror of Ito and Lovecraft

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World of Horror draws inspiration from two titans of horror literature: Junji Ito and H.P. Lovecraft. These influences are abundantly clear throughout the game, but I’ll tread lightly to avoid any spoilers.

From the moment you step into the game, you’ll sense the cosmic horror themes reminiscent of Lovecraft’s work. The world of World of Horror is not what it seems, and as you investigate the eerie occurrences in your seaside childhood town, you’ll uncover a sinister cosmic force that defies human comprehension. The gradual reveal of this cosmic horror is brilliantly executed, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you play. You never know when you might be pulled to another astral plane or encounter an otherworldly entity.

Junji Ito’s influence can be seen in the grotesque and otherworldly creatures that plague your town. In need of a quick refresher or reference? Netflix’s Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre is the perfect jumping-off point.

These nightmarish beings are straight out of Ito’s nightmares, and encountering them is a horrifying experience. Without giving too much away, the game masterfully captures the essence of Ito’s visual terror and Lovecraft’s existential dread, creating a perfect blend of horror that is both disturbing and captivating.

RPG with a 1-bit twist

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When you first dive into World of Horror, the interface might seem overwhelming. However, this initial complexity quickly gives way to a second-nature clarity. The game acknowledges this learning curve, and after your first solved mystery or two, you’ll become entirely familiar with the interface and mechanics.

At its core, World of Horror is an RPG, but it’s not your typical role-playing experience. The game offers different difficulty levels, allowing for customizable playthroughs to cater to both casual and hardcore players. While RPG elements like stat categories, inventory management, and even spells are present, they are presented in a way that feels more like a lively session of Dungeons & Dragons than a traditional RPG title.

This unique approach to RPG mechanics is a stroke of genius. Even if you’re not an avid RPG player, you’ll find the system accessible and engaging. I’m not typically one to dive too deeply into skill and spell management, yet I still feel a strong connection to my character’s growth and development. The Doom mechanic, specifically, adds an extra layer of urgency and tension. As the progress bar fills up, you’ll feel the pressure to solve the mystery before it’s too late. Failure to do so will result in permanent consequences for your character.

The turn-based combat, a staple of RPGs, is handled with finesse. It’s not about mindless button-mashing but rather strategic decision-making and making your attacks count. Your choices in combat can mean the difference between survival and a gruesome demise, adding a layer of tension to every encounter.

Never knowing what’s around the corner

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What truly sets World of Horror apart is its roguelike narrative structure. Each playthrough is a unique and unpredictable experience as you investigate different locations filled with unsettling events and NPC encounters. These moments play out through event cards, and your choices impact the final outcome.

On that note, the game’s replayability is incredibly robust. You’ll encounter events with multiple choices, but often, your decisions are influenced by the items you’ve collected throughout your adventure. This dynamic encourages exploration and experimentation. The game provides you with the steps needed to progress the story. However, do you rush through the story, or do you scour the town for items that might aid your investigation? Your choices matter, and they lead to different outcomes, ensuring that no two playthroughs are the same.

For completionists, there’s even a codex — a comprehensive record of everything you’ve encountered, from all of the different endings to enemies. It’s a tantalizing incentive to uncover every mystery and face every horror the game has to offer.

A symphony of fear

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In addition to its customizable 1- and 2-bit visual aesthetics, one of the defining aspects of World of Horror is its unique soundscape. The chiptune soundtrack, with its nostalgic and haunting melodies and mixture of jarring sharp notes, sets the stage for the horror to come. It’s a testament to the game’s ability to evoke a sense of dread, and the audio experience alone can send shivers down your spine.

But what’s truly fascinating is the game’s mastery of silence. In a world where music often accompanies horror, World of Horror defies convention. The absence of music in certain situations creates an eerie emptiness that allows the player’s imagination to run wild. It’s in this silence that the game becomes most terrifying.

Personally, I prefer playing with a hybrid combination of silence mixed with event sound effects. Every event alert becomes amplified from the silence, making you question every step you’ve taken (even though your fate is more reliant on your luck, and less on the choices you’ve made). It’s the anticipation of the unknown, heightened by this unique auditory approach, that makes World of Horror an unforgettable horror experience.

Welp, no sleep for me again, I guess

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World of Horror isn’t just a solo endeavor, either; it has the potential to be a fantastic game for Halloween get-togethers. Imagine a group of friends huddled on the living room couch, taking turns to drive the mystery forward. Having done this during the game’s time in Early Access, it feels reminiscent of a D&D-style experience, where collaborative decision-making leads to unpredictable outcomes.

The game’s storytelling and unique choices provide ample material for discussions and debates among friends. Who should make the next decision? What’s the best course of action in this terrifying scenario? World of Horror becomes a shared experience, and the fear is amplified when shared with others.

While this review is based on the PC version, I had the opportunity to play the PS5 version at PAX West 2023, and, frankly, I couldn’t have been more impressed. The transition to a controller-based interface was incredibly intuitive. Whether you’re playing on PC or console, you’re in for a great (and terrifying) time. World of Horror’s scares transcend platforms, ensuring that the fear knows no boundaries.

World of Horror is a game that defies expectations. It takes the familiar tropes of horror and RPG genres and melds them into something truly unique and unforgettable. Its ability to instill unsettling dread surpasses that of most horror games I’ve played in recent memory.

And, finally, no matter how many times I look through the peephole of my apartment door, I can’t escape the full-body, hair-raising chills. It’s a testament to the game’s ability to permeate your mind, haunting your thoughts long after you’ve finished playing.

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GamingPizza Rating: 10 out of 10

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