World of Horror review - girl with empty face

World of Horror review – jumpscare and a haircut 2 bits

Would you like to return to a time when Japanese horror felt so far away and isolated? World of Horror takes players back to simpler times, when you didn’t need more than a couple of colors to enjoy yourself. But is it worth taking this difficult journey back to scarier and rougher times? As we’ll discover in our World of Horror review, it might surely be.

Taking cues from the horror of Junji Ito mixed in with Lovecraft, along with classic Japanese adventures on the PC-88 and 98, World of Horror is a unique specimen. Rather than presenting a single story, it offers a sort of roguelite approach to a series of mini horror vignettes. Our characters will venture in, try to solve stories, and will get one of several possible endings. After a series of vignettes have been completed, they will have access to the final battle against a demon. Then, the run ends and you can go in again.

But that’s just scratching the surface, as World of Horror plunges the player directly into old-school RPG mechanics, together with minimal narrative cues here and there. You are going against many terrifying creatures in your quest to seek the truth behind murders or disappearances. There are touches of humour here and there, but overall the tone is always disquieting and vaguely horrifying. While the small vignettes work, they rarely feel incredibly interesting as they are often over in a matter of minutes and there’s not much to chew on.

While the combat in World of Horror is turn-based, it still feels like everything moves at a fast-paced rhythm. You will have to maximize each turn by either going at the monster with your hands or with a weapon. Sometimes, you can also instruct your companions to help you, be they a friend or a dog. Overall, the fights feel balanced, while luck is indeed a factor – along with finding a decent weapon – I never felt like I was having trouble defeating some of the weaker enemies.

At first, all the RPG mechanics do tend to feel a bit too much, and going through a couple of runs as a tutorial might be a good idea. While you are not forced to keep track of everything that is going on in the many tabs spread across the screen, it is something you’ll want to learn. Especially if you want to uncover some of the best-kept secrets in World of Horror. For example, the current status effects of the evil god that is awakening, your health and reason, your level, your inventory, things to sell, things to do.

Still, despite an initial feeling of hopelessness (perhaps, planned by the dev), World of Horror has been improved while in early access. All the systems don’t feel like they get (much) in the way of enjoying the little vignettes and the great art. Plus, the feeling of just being in front of a late 80s computer while battling forces from Hell, is just something I had been craving. And probably had not realized yet. World of Horror also features lots of content and, with most runs averaging less than an hour, this is also the strange RPG perfect for short bursts of tasty horrific gameplay.

But, I must also be as objective as possible and while I feel this is a great game for me, it might not be the case for other gamers. If you are attracted by its manga-style art and its obscure early 90s PC-88 systems, then definitely, go for it. If, instead, you don’t like being plunged into weird mechanics that are far away from most other horror games and RPGs, then World of Horror might be a bit too much.

Still, World of Horror has done more than enough to earn my personal recommendation. It is a strange taste of horror RPG that has been long since lost and comes back in a package that feels both nostalgic and modern, unforgiving and lenient, and funny and terrifying. It is a beautiful journey of opposites and contrasts; one could not wish for anything more.

Our World of Horror review was made possible with a key made available by Stride PR. The game is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS5 and PlayStation 4.

World of Horror: World of Horror is a strange but inviting journey into a world of contrasts, of terror, of old RPG mechanics from Japan, beautiful art and so many tabs to keep track of. Damiano Gerli

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Damiano Gerli

Damiano Gerli was born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. It taught him how to program basic adventure games and introduced him to new genres. Then, he fell in love with Sega -- while the Master System wasn't as powerful as the Genesis, it was where he played Sonic and Outrun. Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple. Damiano is a gaming industry professional and historian, loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs. Basically, Damiano is been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on X at @damgentemp.