World of Horror‘s 1-bit art style seems like the perfect home for its Junji Ito inspirations, bringing chilling visuals to a stark, discomforting life in this excellent horror roguelike RPG.
The Old Gods are up to cosmic hijinks in World of Horror, causing all kinds of unsettling events to occur. It’s your job to investigate them and deal with them as best you can as well, moving through a variety of story events as you deal with hauntings and Lovecraftian events. The Pax East demo had me digging into a mystery involving a woman with a wide smile and some bloody scissors, leading me to a local school filled with disturbing occurrences.
Looking into this haunting required me to choose to move deeper into the eerie school, which was an important touch. You aren’t given a selection of areas that you need to explore, but are rather given the option to move further with your investigation, or set about trying to dispel the haunting. This is a key element, as it felt like deciding whether I felt prepared to move closer to the danger I knew lurked in the school, or try a half-hearted attempt at an exorcism. Both felt risky, creating this sense of creeping dread no matter what I chose to do. The game deliberately makes each decision feel dangerous.
World of Horror also offers some truly unsettling events as you progress through your investigation. Bloated corpses will attack you in sickening pools. Spider-covered corpses will erode your mind. A supply teacher will seem to stare into your soul with her bugged-out eyes. The events and beings you meet throughout your wanderings cause endless discomfort and fear, especially with the effective of use of the game’s 1-bit style. There’s something truly chilling in this black and white visual style, and developer Panstas shows an incredible skill in creating imagery that repulses and terrifies.
This isn’t just an adventure, but a roguelike RPG as well. As such, you’ll need to duke it out with these disturbing creatures in close-up combat, all while they continue to peer at you with vacant eyes. You can use a variety of weapons to engage the monsters in risky fights, but your sanity and health will dwindle with each encounter, with failure meaning death, rather than an inconvenient reload. This loads combat with a sense of real danger, your strategies becoming far more meaningful as you struggle to survive, but also overcome your foes.
Every step feels like a risk in World of Horror. Every move forward puts you in greater danger. All progress means facing more of these chilling monsters, their details clear and disturbing in the black and white style. It is a game of staring your fears in the face as they gnaw at your insides – a clever RPG/roguelike that creates a horrifying experience. I may have failed in my mission to solve the scissor mystery, but I am dying to try yet again, even as I quiver at the thought of even looking at the screenshots of the game’s enemies.
World of Horror has me deeply unsettled, yet unable to turn away, offering me the most compelling experience I had at Pax East 2019.