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World of Horror Early Access Video Game Review

Written by Ryan Noble

Released by Ysbryd Games

Developed by panstasz
2020, Rated Mature
Game released on 20 February 2020
Platforms: Steam Early Access (now), full release also on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac (late 2020).



World of Horror, a pixel-horror RPG that’s equal parts Junji Ito and equal parts Eldritch nightmare is now available on Steam Early Access and itch.io. Created by Pawel Kozminski (who goes by Panstasz) on Microsoft Paint, I’ve been watching and waiting for this game’s release for months… Now that it’s finally available on Steam Early Access, the wait was worth it.

Set in the small town of Shiokawa, a rural seaside community in Japan, The Old Gods are awakening. Every day, new and grotesque creatures spill over from their world into ours, and it’s up to you to solve the mysteries their presence is causing. With each mystery you solve, you’ll be sent a key. Collect five and you can unlock the lighthouse, but what cosmic nightmare awaits you inside?

The Early Access version offers up 12 macabre mysteries for players to solve, 200 potential events, seven characters (two of whom are unlockable secrets), and a playthrough that will last between 90 minutes and 4 hours, depending on how much a player explores or interacts with optional areas of the game. World of Horror’s full release, planned for the end of this year, will add at least 8 more mysteries, additional characters, and many more events to encounter. It will also be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC and Mac. If the Early Access version is anything to go by, I’ll be there…

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The game’s style is what first caught my eye, using 2-bit visuals to capture the game’s vibe. It feels both retro and perfectly fitting for a game with creatures so twisted you wouldn’t even want to see them in more detail than MS Paint can manage. You’re also able to change from 2-bit to 1-bit visuals, or change the colour palette entirely, and each colour offers a slightly different feel to your playthrough. But this game has so much more than style…

World of Horror plays like an 80’s text-based adventure with turn-based combat spliced into the mysteries and constant feeling of dread Panstanz has created.

In order to solve the mysteries of this town, you must explore your surroundings to find more information and key items for progression. With each choice you make, your Doom meter increases. When it reaches 100%, an Old God appears. I never had the pleasure of reaching 100%, but it’s safe to assume that this wouldn’t be a good thing.

During investigations, you’re likely to experience the less-than-human inhabitants of this world and be offered a series of choices. For example, will you speak to the stranger who has been following you around a shrine or take a gun from a recently-deceased cop? The choice is yours and can come back to haunt you or help you, creating branching paths and a surprisingly complex web of possibilities. Depending on the choices you make, you may lose stamina (A.K.A health), reason (essentially your sanity), or even get lucky with increased stats or useful items.

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It is while exploring that you will come face to horrifying face with some of World of Horror's hostile beings; everything from ghouls to amorphous blobs to spirits with three grinning faces and an aspiring model who wants to cut off your face and wear it. If you’ve spent a lot of your time living in the gory fantasies of Junji Ito or other horror manga artists, you may have seen similar beasties before, but that doesn’t make them any less creepy. Just seeing all the different pixelated nightmares is one of my favourite parts of the game, and the game’s pixel-art style shows just enough to unsettle.

Now, it’s time to fight...

World of Horror’s combat system is more tactical than I was expecting, and I’m digging it.

In each turn you have a set amount of ‘time’, taken up by certain actions. Some actions, such as strong attacks, dodging, buffs, or searching for items, take up bigger chunks of time, meaning you may not have time to attack that turn. However, if you find a stronger weapon or dodge a deadly attack, it can be completely worth the trade-off. Even from the first fight, where you’re using your fists until you find a stick or broken bottle nearby, World of Horror feels tense. The creatures are hideous, and each hit pixelates the screen and brings your small amount of health ever closer to zero. Luckily, unless you’re fighting a boss, you can run from these fights when you need to.

Even when in the ‘safe’ environment of solving puzzles, you must always be on your guard. Pay attention to every note and every item you’ve discovered, because if you try to solve a problem incorrectly, the problem tends to become something much worse and you’ll soon find yourself fighting for your life.

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World of Horror is still in Early Access and it’s very honest about the fact that there may still be a few bugs that need squashing. There certainly were a few as I was playing through, such as spelling mistakes or actions with repeating titles, and a few game-crashing bugs sadly made appearances, too. The latter is obviously quite a big issue for players, but considering the pace of the game and the insatiable desire to jump straight back into a new playthrough, it’s easier to overlook than you’d expect.

One thing that I found harder to swallow was that saving in the game heals you and removes any curses (great!), but also removes any spells you learned during your playthrough so far (not as great!). Going out of your way to obtain these spells can feel quite risky, so losing them because you need to save your place and stop playing feels unnecessarily punishing since not everybody has four hours available for uninterrupted gaming.

Regardless of its bugs and punishment if you need to save and take a break, World of Horror feels like stepping into the world of a Junji Ito story, walking the fine line between eerie dread and outright horror. Just like an Ito manga, each mystery, or even each complete playthrough, won’t take you long to complete, but you’ll experience short bursts of creepy excitement and cosmic horror each time you head back into Shiokawa’s doomed little town.

It’s a town you should buy a one-way ticket to right now, even if it’s just so you can experience the fully-polished nightmare at full release.

Looking to try before you die-I mean... buy? Experience a taste of World of Horror in Panstasz’s itch.io demo on PC or Mac.


Story: 5 Star Rating World Of Horror Small
Graphics: 4.5 Star Rating
Gameplay: 4 Star Rating
Sound: 4.5 Star Rating
Replayability: 5 Star Rating
Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

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