‘World of Horror’ Review: A Stunning Tribute To Junji Ito

World Of Horror

There was a time when mainstream horror comics were a rare commodity here in the West, with their popularity having been sabotaged by Comics Code Authority censorship. This is actually what led to the hegemony of the family-friendly superhero stories that rule the medium to this day. However, this wasn’t the case everywhere, with countries like Japan encouraging diverse genre narratives and allowing for the rise of superstar comic creators like the infamous Junji Ito—a horror manga artist that some refer to as Japan’s answer to H.P. Lovecraft. And with such an influential body of work, it’s no surprise that his unique take on cosmic terror would eventually reach the world of video games.

From Silent Hill to Dark Souls, traces of Ito’s brilliance can be found even in non-horror titles. But it was only this year that we were finally gifted with what I’d call the definitive Lovecraftian J-horror game in the form of Paweł Koźmiński’s retro RPG, World of Horror. Originally released in early access back in 2019, this odd little rogue-like has been slowly tweaked and expanded on over the years, with a finished version finally coming out in October for both PC and consoles.

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In the finished game, players step into the shoes of one of several teenagers in a fictionalized version of 1980s Shiokawa as they tackle a randomized series of eldritch mysteries ranging from high-school urban legends to deranged serial killers and otherworldly monster attacks. While these threats are all unique, every adventure ends up leading you to a climactic confrontation with a malevolent elder god hell-bent on devouring the planet.

In terms of gameplay, this means that each playthrough randomly selects an invading god and associated penalties while having players explore the city’s interconnected web of horrific mysteries (which usually means collecting clues and/or fighting against the forces of darkness in turn-based combat). As you complete these mysteries, you’ll slowly unlock keys to an ominous lighthouse where the final boss awaits. There are also a handful of curated adventures meant to ease new players into the title’s systems, though even these campaigns also rely on some randomly generated elements.

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Overall, the gameplay loop is somewhat reminiscent of Yahtzee Croshaw’s underrated The Consuming Shadow. But, I’d argue that World of Horror’s visual novel and JRPG influences help it to stand out from other indie horror RPGs. In fact, despite the rogue-like setup, the adventures here are meant to be short and sweet examples of classic J-horror with a bigger emphasis on heavily scripted storytelling rather than mechanical challenges.

Unfortunately, this also means that you’ll likely see most of what the game has to offer in a single afternoon or so. But the reasonable pricing and meticulous attention to detail make this a clear case of quality over quantity. While the RPG elements will often result in players finding themselves unable to progress due to forces beyond their control, replaying sections isn’t that much of a hassle due to the short length of these compelling mysteries. Plus, you can customize a playthrough to try and exclude things you’ve experienced before, though I’d argue that the unpredictability of it all kind of adds to the cosmic scares.

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And speaking of scares, you’d be surprised at how eerie the monochrome pixel art can get once the proper mood is established. Not only has Paweł done a great job of emulating Junji Ito’s highly detailed art style (with some of these original monster designs feeling like they were ripped straight from the pages of Uzumaki), but the writing also demonstrates a firm grasp on what exactly makes cosmic horror tick. From classic setups like visiting a decrepit manor after a distant relative has died or witnessing the rise of a masked cult during a folk festival, at least one storyline here will likely get under your skin—especially when the Lovecraftian spider-gods and interdimensional eyeballs get involved.

World of Horror may not be as deep or polished as similar games like Darkwood or even the NES’s Sweet Home, but I think its unique aesthetic is more than enough to make up for any gripes about its mechanics. From the gorgeous 1-bit visuals (with the game allowing you to customize your interface for even more retro fun) to a remarkably memorable soundtrack courtesy of ArcOfDream and Qwesta, it’s safe to say that both the music and imagery of Paweł’s title will continue to haunt the back of your mind long after you’re done playing.

Also Read: Silent Hill Monsters Ranked by How Much I Wanna Give Them A Little Forehead Kiss

I really appreciate the little details here, like the ever-deteriorating character portrait that gets slowly filled up with injuries and scars as the game goes on, as well as the plethora of homages to existing scary stories like the Slit-Mouthed Woman and even a whole Found Footage mystery inspired by The Blair Witch Project. These elements may not add any depth to the gameplay, but they’re a sure sign that the developer truly cared about the project and the source material that inspired it.

Hardcore RPG veterans might find the game superficial and lacking in challenge, but the final release of World of Horror manages to overcome its humble origins as a Polish dentist’s part-time passion project through sheer heart. The end product doesn’t have as much content as some were hoping for, but this veritable love letter to Japanese horror manga and Lovecraftian horror is so painstakingly well-crafted that I can’t help but recommend it to any genre fan with a soft spot for lo-fi scares.



While ‘World Of Horror’ isn’t perfect, it’s a beautifully crafted piece of cosmic horror perfect for lovers of lo-fi scares and Junji Ito.



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