Crawling out from the text adventure depths is World of Horror, an game inspired by the body horror of Junji Ito and the cosmic unknown of HP Lovecraft. This 1-bit horror game takes place in a small Japanese seaside town where doom and terror are seeping into the homes of the unsuspecting residents.
Inspired by '80s text adventures, World of Horror has a rogue-lite structure where you must solve a handful of mysteries without meeting your bloody end by one of the stories' many eldritch monsters. Successfully solving these mysteries helps the village heal from its inevitable doom and slowly unlocks a looming lighthouse on the outskirts of town. You play as one of the game's of teenage protagonists and challenge the forces of death by exploring, collecting objects, and facing random encounters with the town's sinister beings.
The introductory mystery I played is centered around banishing a scissor wielding woman from the local high school, where she's been murdering the students. Your missing friend, who you suspect has become the scissor woman's latest victim, leaves you notes on how to force her back to her own dimension. To complete the ritual I have to find blessed chalk to draw the eldritch sigil and holy candles to light it.
She's not the only one in the school, though: I face a man whose face keeps glitching, a weird, fleshy specimen in a jar who tries to control my mind, and a grotesque teacher whose body is bloated from being left in the high school swimming pool. As I pull open a classroom's sliding door, the other side reveals a ghostly girl with long black hair who slams it back shut. Finally, when I've collected both the chalk and candles, it's time to face the twisted woman. As she enters the classroom I realise that it's the first time I've ever seen her up close, and the rumors and stories I've heard materialise into a disgusting reality.
In other horror games, ghosts and ghoulies keep to the shadows, building tension and terror. But in World of Horror you fight face-to-face, bulging eyes, wide smile, and bloated skin staring right at you. You get to take in every pixel of the grotesque monster in front of you.
The scissor woman's three heads are all piled on top of each other, her mouths gawp open creating a huge vertical slice as she menacingly snips her bloody scissors at me. My first instinct is to punch her many heads multiple times, but in World of Horror there are smarter ways to fight.
You have a range of choices from attacking, defending, dodging, and casting spells. These actions can be stacked, with a bar that depletes to cap your move sets. Combat is turn-based and I was luckily get to go first. I pick up a baseball bat I found earlier and equip it, hoping I won't need it if the ritual works. Your health in World of Horror is your stamina and your reason. Most monsters only go for one, but since the Scissor woman is powerful she attacks both. Turns out I needed the baseball bat after all.
After failing to figure out the order of claps and bows I need to do to finish the ritual, she slices me to pieces, the portrait of the teenager getting slowly bloodier and bloodier until it's just a splatter of black.
If you die in World of Horror you start again with a handful of different mysteries that keep it relatively fresh, though after multiple playthroughs the same stories will keep returning, meaning I'll have a chance at facing her again.
World of Horror is a text adventure with chilling imagination. Even when mysteries repeat, I feel like I have a second (third or fourth) chance of redemption. The game is currently in Steam Early Access but features more than enough harrowing stories, grotesque monsters, and all-seeing ancient gods to keep you awake at night.