With the benefit of a few years of early access behind it, and being an entry-level reader of horror manga myself, World of Horror is undoubtedly the year’s most fascinating prospect. It takes the sharp, blood-curdling prose and art of someone like Junji Ito and throws it into a roguelike crockpot full of supernatural mysteries with a surprisingly deep mash-up of adventure and role-playing mechanics.
A looming apocalypse threatens the quaint Japanese coastal town of Shiokawa, while a cast of Old Gods of Eldritch lore wreaks havoc about the place. Your task is to scour different parts of the town in an attempt to find clues and unravel a series of horrific, macabre mysteries while fending off otherworldly horrors that lurk around every turn. To say it’s unsettling would be an understatement, World of Horror leans its whole damn self into the body horror, folklore, and urban legend that has made Japanese horror so prolific throughout the years.
The systems at play in World of Horror are surprisingly in-depth, putting a scary, tactical spin on turn-based bludgeoning. Making each second count in conflict is the key to success and you can queue up a combination of offensive, defensive, or support actions on a timeline on a per-turn basis. There’s a frantic energy to combat in World of Horror, whether you’re scrambling for a weapon or having an ally run a distraction play, it all culminates in an increasingly tense play-by-play. This is once it all clicks into place, I will say that World of Horror can feel a bit overwhelming from the jump, given the sheer amount of information the game displays across its many screens.
All of the traditional role-playing concepts like inventory, status effects, and even the ways in which your run’s Old God is plaguing the town are given their own tab to check in on. With so much to track, I’d argue that onboarding isn’t what it should be. There is a tutorial case about a scissor-wielding mad woman that helps get the basic premise across before plunging into the larger mystery, but it doesn’t cover everything. Some cases unfold entirely in one place, while others require exploration of the town to gather clues.
Both failure and death will darken your door repeatedly in World of Horror, whether your character is exhausted of their stamina and reason or whether your actions draw the ultimate ire of the Old God and serve as a catalyst for the end of days. Fortunately, the brevity of a run means there’s little risk in playing fast and loose, however haphazard play doesn’t come at the expense of the game’s rising tension and atmosphere.
Tailored for short burst play, each “run” of World of Horror is meant to last, at most, an hour. Mileage will vary depending on how quickly the player meets their ultimate demise, though I was averaging runs of thirty minutes once I found my groove. Though you can dabble with the game’s prepopulated runs, there are plenty of means to customise a play through right down to difficulty, the Old God tormenting the town, and a starting character from a cast with varying starting stats, curses, and items. It’s this roguelike foundation that has made World of Horror a constant source of riveting, dreadful entertainment.
With multiple endings available for each case, you’ll spend a lot of time sifting through for threads to tug on in hopes they’ll lead you to an alternate end. The same goes for the random events, and enemies, that you might happen upon. Filling out each codex and collecting everything fast becomes the chase as you continue to put to rest and close each absorbing case file.
Similar to the cursed tape from Ringu, World of Horror feels like a forbidden relic of paranormal power. It feels evident from the classic boot-up screen that the game exists in a place out of time, preparing to prey on unsuspecting players. And it does. It’ll disturb you when you areplaying and eat at you when you aren’t. It combines its grotesque one-bit art, which was dreamt up and brought to life using Microsoft Paint of all things, with a seriously unnerving soundscape. It’s eerie, and strange, and manifests an unease in the pit of your belly.
World of Horror is a captivating choose-your-own adventure-like that time and time again disarms through sharp writing and hair-curling imagery that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the works of Junji Ito. It’s a never-ending source of entertainment and its truncated cases, with their boundless replayability, are interactive short stories torn from the manga pages that clearly inspired them.
World of Horror is a must play for fans of the sickly and macabre. It’s a confronting title on several fronts, from its haunting one-bit tales to its, at times, overwhelming role-playing systems. Once you get your head around it though, it’s an endlessly replayable source of supernatural horror that more than honours the works of H.P Lovecraft and Junji Ito.
Compelling and disturbing horror manga stories on offer
Surprisingly rich and in-depth role-playing elements