These days, it feels like every other indie game released is a roguelite of some kind, and while there are a lot of good ideas brought to the table, the barrage of releases can feel like they start to blend together. Not so with World of Horror. This is a roguelite RPG styled after the basic adventure games of the early ‘80s, which means that it’s only a step or two away from being entirely text-based. This approach tends to work in its favor, and while World of Horror may seem archaic by modern standards, there’s a complex, difficult, and compelling game to explore here for those who stick with it.
A typical run will see you attempting to solve five self-contained ‘mysteries’ consecutively, surviving the trials of each one by managing your resources carefully, much like a survival horror. Each mystery only takes about ten minutes to complete, and the plotline is progressed by selecting various locales—such as a forest or a mansion—and investigating them, triggering random events that usually give you a choice of a few actions to take. Sometimes you’ll need a specific perk or skill from leveling up to select some of these options, but regardless of your choice, a stat check is pulled that’ll roll an invisible dice and determine success or failure based on the relevant stat.
It’s a system that should be familiar to anyone who knows how tabletop RPGs work, and World of Horror executes on the concept brilliantly. Each mystery feels meaningfully distinct from the next while still maintaining the overall creepy vibe, and literally every choice you make feels impactful given how much of a give and take there is to everything you do. Until you’ve played for a while and built up some knowledge about the outcomes of events, there’s really no telling what any given choice may bring you, successful or not. So, you’re often expected to just roll with the punches and make use of what little resources and knowledge you have to try to maintain an advantage.
Obviously, this means that most of your earliest attempts will end in failure, but in addition to the knowledge you naturally gain about the outcomes of decisions, you usually unlock a few achievements from each run which permanently throw more helpful benefits into the randomized pool to give you an edge over time. World of Horror is also clearly designed to be highly replayable—not only are there quite a few mysteries that could be randomly selected for the five you have to complete for a new run, but each mystery has a handful of exclusive events and two to four potential endings you can get based on your decisions.
Every now and then, you’ll come across a combat encounter with villains such as a woman with worms in her eyes or a ghost, and this plays out in a basic turn-based structure. There are several offensive and defensive actions you can take, each of which has a time cost attached. You’re given a limited bar of ‘time’ that you ideally want to fill as much as possible, then you lock it in and let the dice rolls based on your stats determine how effective your actions were and whether they landed at all. Though combat can feel a little simple, we appreciated how tense it can be given that you have effectively two health bars to worry about—if either your health or your ‘reason’ drops to zero, you instantly lose.
While the soundtrack sticks to some basic creepy chiptunes, the Junji Ito-inspired visuals are a fantastic companion for the text-based action. Though everything is in black and white, the grotesque body horror and cosmic horror present in nearly each image really help to sell the hopeless, bleak tone.
Though World of Horror manages to nail its overall aesthetics and gameplay design, one area where it somewhat stumbles is in its approach to inputs. You navigate the screen using a mouse controlled by either the left or the right stick, and while it works fine enough in practice, it feels kind of clunky. This isn’t helped by the lack of touch screen controls, either.
World of Horror is one of the most unique roguelites we’ve seen on the Switch eShop to date, its expert fusion of text-based adventure, survival horror, and roguelike mechanics makes for a difficult, harrowing, and spooky adventure that we’d recommend you give a shot. Not everyone will be charmed by its extremely retro aesthetics, but if you can get into the right mindset for giving this one a playthrough, you’ll find there’s a lot to love.
This story originally appeared on Nintendo Life