Junji Ito might be one of the most original and memorable creators in the world of horror today. Working since the 90s, the horror manga artist has managed to create some of the most unsettling ideas and concepts in the Japanese horror scene, ranging from the weaponized misogyny of Tomie to the bizarre contortions and mutations of Uzumaki. With his incredible popularity, it makes sense we’d eventually get a game paying homage to him, and World of Horror does that and more.
Made by Polish developer “panstasz,” World of Horror is a horror RPG based on both the works of Ito and H.P Lovecraft, mixing together Ito’s particular brand of Japanese horror and the cosmic creatures of Lovecraft’s mythos, and it truly feels like nothing else out there. The game instantly catches the eye with the unorthodox graphics, basing itself on old 1-bit Mac aesthetics, making detailed comic portraits from the smallest of monochrome bits. This is where most of the Ito send-up comes from, as every single image in here looks like it was ripped directly from an Ito manga, just digitized to make the straight lines blocky. Multiple parts of the game also recreate illustrations from the man himself, most notably a scene with a mirror with a swirling face and a recreation of his own illustrated portrait.
The menu design handles the old computer game look, with all sorts of unnecessary details added in and around them to give them a life and personality that adds to the atmosphere. It really does look like a relic of the past, complete with solid color filters, work-like fonts, and the use of the HUD itself to make an immersive experience. Every screen is packed with detail, from landscapes to pentagrams, and every panel beautifully renders grotesque sights. Women with ribs sticking out, the toothy smile of a madman, corpses strung up like marionettes, and close up gazes in the middle of an extreme panic are just some of the gory eye candy on display. Even the music pushes the low-fi horror game stylings, with bit crushed melodies of tension and despair.
The game itself plays out like an old school Japanese adventure game, the sort of games that lead to the defining of the visual novel genre. You start by selecting a character, each with different stats and starting items, then decide the variables for the game. You can select back story, which adds different handicaps, the difficulty mode, and even the old god you’re dealing with. From there, you have to solve five different mysteries and find a way to stop the evil creature creeping into the world in the process. However, your time is limited, as a doom meter will increase with events and resting. Once it maxes out, the old one comes. You also have to look out for both your physical and mental health, shown as stamina and reason, as you’re done for when either is taken down by monsters, men, or just the weird things you see during your investigations.
Everything is done in menus. You simply select one of a few areas to travel to and investigate to continue with the current case. Doing so also triggers an event, which can have either negative or positive outcomes. Sometimes they play straight forward, but other time require a check on one of your stats, like a table top RPG. You also have cards under items, spells, and status. Items and spells are self-explanatory, with spells requiring either stamina or reason to cast, but status cards range from characters on your side to injuries and curses on your character. Cards get collected as you play, and you can also get item or spell cards from the shop or library. Leveling up can also lead to randomized bonuses, like extra stats or more items on sale at the shop, but experience remains a rare commodity. Most of your success will come down to how well you can scrounge in the increasingly harsh world and how fast you can solve each case. Expect to die. A lot.
World of Horror‘s foundations are strong and addicting, even with the currently limited content. As of writing, the game is still in development and being updated on its itch.io page, making it one of the most promising indie projects of recent. The only issues encountered in the current build revolve around an encounter with a man who says he wants you to stop ruining his work, otherwise the game runs fine. If you want something different from a horror game world, you can’t get much more different than this, and even in the currently unfinished state, it’s well worth a few bucks. Pick it up, and enjoy learning the proper way to make a mermaid. You won’t forget it, no matter how hard you try.
Kyōfu No Sekai is currently available as an ongoing project on the developers itch.io page at the time of publishing this entry.