Among the coils of the small city of Shiokawa, dangers are growing more and more restless and tired of nestling in the shadows. The violence with which the Ancient Gods regurgitate their disturbing tantrums over our reality undermines the fundamental equilibriums of the reality, giving life to a countdown from which there seems to be no escape, welcome therefore, sit comfortably and enjoy the final acts of our existence, a new world opens up before us: a world of horror.
A bloody love letter
World of Horror does not hide that it is a pledge of affection for the Lovecraftian writings and the visual style of Junji Ito: mixing two authorial geniuses so opposed, the designer Pawel Kozminski creates an aberrant cocktail that captivates and conquers the player at first glance. The production edited by Ysbrid Games however, it does not structure its foundations exclusively around these two authors, but reveals itself from the very beginning a compendium of mentions and references to the horror genre in all its forms, starting from the most obvious Japanese stereotypes and archetypes, going up to the cult of the last twenty years, passing through the great classics of western literature. Running into these more or less veiled quotations is certainly an integral part of the experience, although not so intrusive as to prevent the less accustomed public from enjoying the title in its entirety. The atmosphere of World of Horror fascinates since the main screen, electrifying the player who is looking forward to tumbling down the White Rabbit's lair and find out what terrible surprises await him.
The horrors of Shiokawa
The main goal of World of Horror is to unravel the skein of five different mysteries (out of a total of twelve currently available) and obtain as many keys to be able to enter the city lighthouse, which seems to guard the heart of the secret that is shaking up everyday life. By accessing the bulletin board of our home, which acts as hub throughout the macabre adventure, you can select one of the mysteries and start the investigation. Our character is able to enjoy bonuses and peculiarities that can facilitate the rough path ahead, also being able to count on allies and magic from the most disparate uses. Exploring the world of World of Horror leads our alter-ego to come across different events, even unrelated to the main plot. Here he begins to feel the most "rolistic" flavor of the experience: each event in fact tests our statistics and confirms the outcome of the act in progress with a roll of the dice, thrown behind the scenes. It is therefore possible to accumulate experience and improve our characteristics, such as charisma or luck but also our life points and those related to our sanity, which is obviously put to the test during the bizarre investigations that await us. Furthermore, as you advance in level you are given the possibility to choose some passive skills that may be indispensable in order not to be victims of the nefarious mysteries that loom over us. While exploring Shiokawa it is possible to undertake some specific activities: the school gardens can prove to be full of gossip essential to our objectives, while offering the possibility to recruit precious allies, brave enough (or stupid) to join us in our crazy search.
The RPG soul of World Horror is also embodied in the presence of turn-based fighting against enemies and bosses who can suddenly put an end to our journey, and although they are not the main focus of the experience, they still represent an indissoluble component of the experience. The mobs can hit our HP or our psyche, or both, while our avatar can count on fighting with bare hands or on different types of weapons, even those of luck collected within the same fight. The rules of the battles are not really immediate and rely on a menu that is absolutely in the early stages chaotic and dispersive, although full of options. During your turn you have a certain amount of points and every action, from dodging to taking aim, to sending an ally against the enemy or equipping a weapon, has different costs depending on its complexity or importance. Once you have chosen how to use and fill the appropriate bar dedicated to the composition of our shift, the selected sequence starts. It is possible, for example, to compose a turn by deciding to take aim, to then launch a heavy attack with our weapon and with the, few, remaining points, kick our opponent. Relying on magic does not affect action points but, depending on the power or type, it can cost a quantity of health or psyche points (which are called Stamina and Reason), this offers an additional and powerful arrow to our bow, albeit to be used sparingly. The case is resolved a regardless of our choices, as long as you do not run into a premature game over during the fighting, but it is not always possible to run into the best ending of the mystery in progress. In fact, most of the little adventures that await us boast two or three different endings, and the resolution of secondary missions, as well as our choices, are decisive for being able to incur the best possible outcome. Each completed mission allows us to open one of the five padlocks that block our entrance to the lighthouse, accessing the final act of the game and giving us the opportunity to prevent the total destruction of the universe. The playful component of World of Horror, although a little too convoluted, proves to be quite enough solid and captivating, simple but functional. Although based on very classic concepts of the genre, it shows good flashes of ingenuity and some original ideas, although not implemented to perfection, at least to date.
World of Horror can be categorized as an RPG-horror visual novel, but it is necessary to mention its soul roguelite, true engine of the gaming experience. Regardless of the mode you choose to select, facing a game creates a series of random sequences, drawing from a total of 200 different events, from the most frivolous to the most decisive, which can significantly change the pace of the adventure. Obviously every mystery is based on a well-defined beginning, a development and an epilogue, but everything "in the middle" is subject to different variations. To tell the truth, these random events are unlikely to have much impact on the resolution of the case, and despite being inserted with the desire to bring freshness to each different "run" started, they are not very successful in this task, also considering the fact that despite their large number, it often happens to come across an event that has already occurred previously, even after a few hours of play. Given its nature, the game puts the function of as an additional obstacle for the player permadeath: the game over therefore leads to the loss of any progress or object collected, but keeps the data relating to the completion of the mysteries, always showing us which endings we have already unlocked for those already solved. While considering the speed of an average game, one wonders if the procedural structure marked by a strong randomness is the best choice for a title that bases much of its charm on the narrative. Overall, it is good to underline how World of Horror turns out, albeit imperfect, always interesting, also thanks to the variety of events in which it is impossible to come across, which unfortunately prove to be a double-edged sword, due to the aforementioned problems.
The face of horror
The graphic and artistic appearance of World of Horror is presented in a manner delightfully disturbed. The riot of quotations is not lacking even visually, and there are many details and goodies that show an admirable care by the author, who has been able to pack a very derivative horror title but in some way also able to be distinguished and recognized with strength and ease in an ever richer and more dispersed indie scene. The only real sore point lies in the design of some of the Ancient Gods, who do not respect the disturbing and sickening artistic inspiration that permeates the rest of the production, but rather represents these Lovecraftian beings with unattractive aspects and in some cases even insipid or funny, clashing with the rest of the beauty of the work. However, the representation of a 2-bit world convinces by showing itself solid and consistent with what the game wants to represent.
As for writing, World of Horror shows itself unfortunately fluctuating, thus showing interesting, but not very in-depth narrative cues: the author is not required to be verbose or didactic, but to expand and enrich the good ideas present, which lack the mordant necessary to effectively infuse that sense of restlessness that is sought in a title of this type. Overall, however, albeit a little too synthetic in the elaboration of the terror that grips the small Japanese city, almost all the mysteries show an intriguing idea which is worth investigating. Overall, the product is quite successful in this sense, albeit harnessed by the fear of wanting to dare even more than it already does, remaining a little subdued compared to the premises.
End of the world
Playing World of Horror today means, unfortunately, not only not having a complete experience to be able to go into, being a game in early access, but also face a variety of bugs and issues ranging from irrelevant to destructive. There are in fact numerous occasions when the execution of the title is brutally terminated, crashing directly to the desktop and leading to the loss of all unsaved progress. Furthermore, due to this problem it is not possible to try some available mechanics or to exploit certain objects, thus damaging the overall experience. While considering the incomplete nature of the title, by a single person, and wanting to turn a blind eye to minor bugs and glitches, one cannot fail to point out the serious problems that afflict him. Even bearing in mind the very low price at which the title is offered, it is important to take into account that at this time we are talking about a production not only fragmented due to early access but also by some far more impressive headache. Either way, while not taking flight and not completely keeping its initial promises, World of Horror enjoys a magnetism and a charisma that is frankly difficult to resist. All fans of the genre can therefore make an act of faith and perform a rash purchase that, even in the face of the problems described, will surely make them happy, as long as they bear the roguelite nature. For all the others it is advisable at least to wait, if not the complete exit, a few weeks or months, so that most of the knots can come to a head.