I’m always blown away when I see vividly detailed art rendered in incredibly basic and rudimentary mediums. Things like character illustrations made using pancake batter or an incredibly intricate vista illustrated using nothing but ASCII symbols. I’ve certainly also seen gorgeous artwork created using the insanely basic toolset of MS Paint, but indie rougelite World of Horror takes things to the next level by having the entire game rendered in MS Paint art. More impressive than the fact that an entire video game could be rendered in 1-bit visuals, though, is the fact that it can still be one of the most creepy and unsettling games I’ve played all year.
If you’ve ever played the 2017 first-person horror RPG (horror-PG?) Spirit Hunter: Death Mark, you’ll feel pretty comfortable with the gameplay loop of World of Horror. In a small Japanese town, Old Gods and cursed entities are re-emerging from the deepest depths of the world to test the physical and mental might of the residents of Shiokawa, Japan. As the end of the world looms near, you’ll need to take up arms and investigate various cosmic-horror happenings throughout the town.
Don’t expect to tackle each cosmic entity head-on and save the day, though. World of Horror is a randomized, roguelite experience. You’ll pick one of about a dozen different randomized mysteries to investigate, and set off in search of clues and truth. During my time with the game, it wasn’t entirely clear which elements of the experience were randomized. Your selection of mysteries likely shuffle with each playthrough, and minor item placement or dynamic events can likely change within each mystery. These creepy cases have specific entities at the end of each tunnel, though, and are littered with morbidly articulate writing from Cassandra Khaw that matches the grotesquely detailed art of each scene vividly.
Once you enter a mystery, you won’t be navigating a school or abandoned factory in real-time. In classic point-and-click fashion, you’ll have option boxes to explore a new random room of the school, check on your inventory, or perform your currently impending task. In my case, I needed to perform a ritual to invoke a dark spirit, but couldn’t use that option until I explored the school enough to find the required ritual items. As I explored the school, I came across a couple of disturbing beasts that initiated combat with me. The scenarios toss you into a turn-based battle where you’ll need to fill your stamina bar with as many offensive or defensive actions as possible, then lock them in and watch them play out. Battles were simple, but enemies certainly didn’t hold back. If I hadn’t found a powerful bat to equip as a weapon, I would have likely faced a swift defeat due to the lack of any significant healing items in my inventory.
The best part of World of Horror, to me, is that it manages to be perfectly unsettling and morbid without relying on cheap scares or traumatizing visuals. If you’re a baby like me when it comes to horror games, you’ll be able to make your way through this one just fine. The unsettling visuals, sharp sound design and engaging mysteries of the world make this an unforgettable horror experience. While the game is already available in Early Access on PC via Steam, I’m excited to see where it goes with a full release on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.