Tag Archives: PlayStation 4

Jotun

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-1Games that throw huge bosses at players just feel epic. They instantly illicit a, “Yikes!” as battle begins. From there things evolve. First one runs around desperately trying not to get killed. The monstrosity in front of them is probably blasting stuff, smashing things, and barely giving players a moment to catch their breath. There’s a lot going on and there’s just this massive creature there that would like nothing better than put an end to players’ adventures.

Then something happens. Players start to figure out the patterns. At first one starts to discover the best way to dodge incoming attacks. Then openings to counterattack become noticeable. Suddenly, the player lands a blow on the boss. From there, momentum slowly begins to shift. Then, finally, after a pitched battle, the player emerges victories.

Of course this is simplifying things just slightly. It’s highly likely that players died several times and had to redo the battle. However, at some point they figured out what to do, and executed it reasonably well. Then they found their on screen alter ego standing over the corpse of a once terrifying boss. With that, a tremendous sense of satisfaction washes over the player, only to be yanked away as the process repeats on the next boss. That’s okay, though, because eventually the game will be completed, all the bosses dead, and those who finished this will be able to enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Even if one doesn’t finish the game, they’ll likely have the good sense to point at it and tell friends, “The fights in that game are epic!”

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-2Jotun is one such game that deserves these accolades. The game follows the story of a recently deceased viking woman named Thora. Her death was less than glorious and as a result she has to prove her mettle to the gods. Doing so will ensure her a place in Valhalla. The gods are fine with this, so they issue her a challenge. If she is able to defeat a number of Jotun, giants of viking mythology, they will grant her a place in paradise.

From there, players venture forth exploring a number of different worlds. The game is structured as half boss fights and half exploration / puzzle solving. First one must explore a couple of areas in the domain of a given Jotun. Here Thora will look for runes that open up the sealed door to the giant of that realm. She’ll also occasionally find fruit that will increase her health pool, as well as alters to various viking gods. When she comes across these alters, she is granted new abilities, which are quite helpful. The exploration and puzzle solving usually have little to no combat. It’s more about figuring out how to get all of the runes and power ups in the area. It makes for a slower pace, but is a nice counter balance to the extremely busy boss fights.

Meanwhile, fighting the actual Jotun is as epic and exciting as the little story at the start of this article implies. Seeing as the game is presented from an isometric view, it’s all about dashing in, getting in a few swings and getting out after. There will also be specific mechanics to engage in, but never get caught out. Doing so will likely result in a very large foot coming down on Thora’s head, or some other unpleasantly over-sized outcome that will take off a ton of health.

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-3These beings are giants after all, and the game really emphasizes it. When Thora engages one of these creatures, the camera pans out until she’s just a tiny little person on the screen. Often she barely comes up to the ankle of a Jotun. Seeing this is imposing enough as it is, but then the giant starts attacking.

From here it’s all about learning patterns, battle phases, and figuring out how and when to attack. Each boss will have multiple phases, so there’s a lot to sort out, but it’s very satisfying when one does. Battles are tough but fair. If a player dies, it’s clear it was because of something they did or didn’t do. Maybe they didn’t see an add. Perhaps they got greedy and tried to get in one too many swings with Thora’s ax when it was obvious the Jotun was about to attack. Another possibility is that one neglected to look for alters of the gods and / or fruit to make Thora stronger, and are now at a disadvantage in the fight.

The game is such, that it pretty much bombards players with opportunities for self-reflection when things go wrong. If a player dies a few times on a particular Jotun, the best thing to do is pay a little more attention in the fight. Make sure there isn’t anything that one is missing. Most players will have a eureka moment where they figure out what they need to do. Not long after that, the boss is usually dead, with the player sitting triumphantly in front of their monitor.

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-4With regards to graphics and music, they both add so much to the experience. Visually everything has been hand drawn frame-by-frame. The art style is reminiscent of cartoons from the 1970s with bold colors and just enough detail to add personality to the Jotun. They’re usually angry, or at least thoroughly annoyed that a mere human would have the nerve to poke them in the toe with her ax. Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack is fantastic. It’s all orchestral pieces with a mix of softer tunes for exploration areas. Here, it runs the gamut from the serene to the foreboding. When a boss fight commences, players are greeted with a cacophonous explosion of instruments that instantly signal that shit just got real.

People in the mood for some epic battles against giant bosses mixed with a nice serving of viking mythology would do well to take a look at Jotun. The battles really are fantastic. Even the exploration can be fun, not to mention relaxing. Meanwhile, the game looks and sounds amazing. All in all, it’s definitely worth a play.

Jotun is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG. It is also out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Switch.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-1Cyberpunk has a lasting appeal to it. Since it was first introduced almost 40 years ago, it has steadily increased in popularity. There’s just something romantic about a high-tech neon city shrouded in eternal night. The tough part when making a game set in this backdrop is coming up with something that stands out from the crowd. Sukeban has done a great job of this. They’ve taken this popular aesthetic and wrapped it up in a visual novel coupled with a heavy dose of bartending. It sounds strange, but you’ll be surprised how well you mix drinks for clients by the end of the game. VA-11 Hall-A is incredibly engaging.

The game focuses on a women named Jill who lives in Glitch City. It’s a dystopian town where corporations rule the roost and a paramilitary group called the White Knights enforce the law. It’s a harsh place where one can hardly be blamed for wanting a drink. Sometimes folk need a moment to forget about all the problems the city has. So, from the start the game sets a tone that it takes place in a world where an oppressive regime calls the shots and there are groups constantly protesting it and trying to fight back. This backdrop is made all the more interesting one considers that the developers are from Venezuela.

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-2While the story itself is quite interesting, what really brings it to life are VA-11 Hall-A‘s characters. There are a number of them and each are dripping with personality. On one end of the spectrum is someone like Donovan. He the no nonsense editor at the local newspaper. On the other end is Streaming-chan who insists on livestreaming every aspect of her life. This leads to all sorts of conversations when people come to the bar. Some people may want to talk about current events. Others will discuss minute details of their personal life. Then there’s everything in between. It makes for some interesting conversations and also gives hints as to what sort of drinks someone might like.

This brings us to the primary gameplay aspects of VA-11 Hall-A. While all of the conversations with clients take care of the game’s visual novel aspects, this is where players pick up the controller and get to business. From here it’s time to do some bartending. Sometimes characters will bluntly tell Jill what they want to drink, especially early in the game. Later on, though, it becomes important to be able to read their moods and personalities. They’ll hint at what they want and players have to figure it out for themselves.

This can be made easier or harder depending on what players do with Jill when she’s off work. She’ll often be hanging out in her apartment, and one can decide how they want to spruce up the place with some of the money that she earns at the bar. This can range from little decorations to doodads and entertainment devices. Be sure to always have enough left over to pay the rent, though. These little bits of shopping are important because it helps with Jill’s mood and keeps her better attuned to what her customers want. The better her mindset, the less likely she’ll make a mistake with an order.

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-3Mixing drinks is actually a fairly involved process. There are a number of different ingredients that each impact the flavor of a drink in different ways. Then players can choose how much of each ingredient to put in. On top of this, one has to decide whether the drink should have ice or be aged. It’s even possible to make a drink a double sometimes. So, there’s a lot of depth to making these things for customers. What’s even more interesting is how players will discover they’re memorizing drinks and who likes what as the game progresses. The game has a book on how to make every drink, but eventually players will barely need to check it because they know how to make almost everything by heart.

While all of this is going on, players will be bombarded by VA-11 Hall-A‘s aesthetic. Visually the game goes for a very anime-inspired style of pixel art. Each character is full of personality and the environment has that dingy neon high-tech feel synonymous with cyberpunk. Meanwhile, the game’s music is an interesting mix of synth-laden tracks. Think of any of the recent electronic genres ending in “wave” and there’s a decent chance it shows up in the game’s soundtrack. With that, there’s a lot of good music to enjoy here. Players largely dictate what they want to hear as they pick all of the songs in the bar’s jukebox at the start of each shift.

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-4As unusual as it may sound, “Cyberpunk Bartender Action” actually works quite well together in a game. VA-11 Hall-A‘s story and characters really go a long way in carrying the game because they’re all so interesting and likable. Meanwhile, organizing Jill’s apartment and serving up drinks is a lot of fun. People looking for something a bit different in a cyberpunk setting should seriously consider looking into this game. It’s well worth spending some time with.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG, as well as for the PlayStation Vita. The game is also slated for release on the Switch and PlayStation 4 some time in 2019.

Axiom Verge

axiom-verge-gameplay-screenshot-1When playing a metroidvania game, it can be fun trying to figure out how much either Metroid or Castlevania influenced it. In the case of Axiom Verge, that is easy to see. The game is very clearly a love letter to classic Metroid games. From its aesthetic to gameplay, it is a well put together homage to the classic Nintendo series.

The game follows a scientist named Trace who is caught in a lab accident that renders him unconscious. When he comes to, he finds himself on a strange new world with no idea how he got there. Before long, he meets an AI and agrees to help it defeat a mad scientist that is up to no good. After this, the plot thickens quite a bit as Trace recovers some of the memories that he lost due to the accident.

Right from the get go, players can see parallels with the early 8-bit Metroids. Graphically, Axiom Verge went for the same sort of simplified pixel graphics. The detail is greater than that found in classic NES games, but doesn’t quite take things to a fidelity on par with the 16-bit era. Some of the monsters have a similar feel to those found in Nintendo’s classic series as well. That being said, the environments in the game are dripping personality. It’s really exciting venturing to new areas, as it’s hard not to be curious what they’ll be like.

axiom-verge-gameplay-screenshot-2The game’s bosses are also a sight to behold. They’re imposing figures that fill up much of the screen. This is something that was common during the 8 and 16-bit eras, but largely went away for a very long time. It’s nice to see this sort of thing come back in Axiom Verge. Boss fights should be epic, larger than life battles. That’s exactly what we get here.

As one explores the world of Axiom Verge, it’s easy to see that it is a very large place with lots to explore. There are plenty of branching paths and tucked away places beckoning at the player. It’s easy to start thinking about what they may hold. Will there be a new gadget? Maybe a boss is down that path?

Of course, often times it will not be possible to venture down those roads immediately. There will be some sort of barrier blocking it, or it will be a jump too high, or the path will be too tiny for Trace. These are all instances where one is quickly reminded that they are indeed playing a Metroidvania and will need to discover a key item in order to go down that road. Nevertheless, there are constant hints of new opportunities to explore that will entice the player onward.

While doing this, it becomes apparent that the game is a bit more combat-oriented than others in the genre. It has a bit more of a run-and-gun feel to it. There are a lot of enemies that would like nothing better than take down Trace. As such, he’ll be spending a lot of time blasting these things to pieces. He has a decent-sized rifle to start, and gains new types of shots as one progresses. From there it’s up to players to swap out weapon types as situations dictate.

axiom-verge-gameplay-screenshot-3Then there are the gadgets that give Trace new abilities. There are a bunch of these, such as a lab coat that allows Trace to pass through solid objects, as well as a nifty grappling hook. One particularly fun piece of kit that he gets is a little remote controlled drone. It’s a tiny robot that walks on four legs and has a laser for fighting enemies.

This little guy is used to enter areas too small for Trace. These can be simple corridors with a switch on the other side to open a door. Other times, it could lead to a series of rooms crawling with enemies ready to attack the drone. Usually, in this situation, there is some useful item at the end of all this. If the drone is destroyed, it de-materializes and players return to Trace. This doesn’t mean that the drone is gone forever, though. It can be redeployed, but players need to start all over again in the area they are trying to explore with it.

The game provides a good challenge. Players need to figure out where to go next, remembering old areas that may later be explorable. The sheer number of enemies and obstacles necessitate one being on their toes if they don’t want to get killed. Meanwhile, boss fights are extremely exciting not just because these things are so big, but they also have some interesting patterns for players to figure out.

With all of the Metroidvania games to come along in recent years, there is a lot to choose from currently. One needn’t fear choice paralysis, however. Axiom Verge is an excellent place to start when delving into these games. It’s easily one of the best of the bunch. The game offers tons of exploration coupled with fast-paced action. It has an interesting story with some nice twists. It’s graphics and sound are a nice homage to early Metroid games and other titles of the 8 and 16-bit era. The game just does so many things so very well. People interested in delving into the genre for a bit should seriously consider picking up Axiom Verge.

Axiom Verge is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam, as well as PlayStation 4, XboxOne, and Switch.

Pig Eat Ball

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-1There will be one big challenge in this write up of Pig Eat Ball. Can words adequately convey what the game is? Or will the the images in this article better explain what the game is all about? So, here we go.

Let’s begin with story. That’s as good a place as any to start. Players take control of a space pig named Bow. Her father is the king of the space station that she lives on and feels Bow is at the age where she aught to marry. With that he has begun a competition for the eligible bachelors of the space station. Whoever wins will get to marry Bow. Of course, Bow is none too pleased about this. So, she decides to enter the contest herself in disguise. Her hope is that if she wins she’ll be able to get out of her situation.

With that, players embark on a journey through the various sectors of the space station. Here they’ll find the different stages scattered about, easily identifiable by large space clams. Bow must complete the challenges that they set out for her. When she successfully does this, they will give her a pearl.

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-2Many of the tasks given to Bow will involve collecting tennis balls. She gathers these by wandering around, sucking them up, and storing them in her belly. The difficulty here is that these make her fat. She’s already quite plump, but after gobbling up a few of these balls, she’ll become too big to get through narrow passages. If players want to slim her down to get through, they’ll need to make use of the barf button.

Yes, there’s a barf button. It’s actually extremely important. Using it will cause Bow to vomit up whatever tennis balls she has consumed, blasting them out in a spray of green slime. It makes a huge mess, but that’s just the way things go. Once she’s walked through the narrow area, she can suck up the balls again. However, it’s better to wait a few seconds for the vomit to drip off of them. If players rush and wind up making Bow consume three vomit-drenched balls, she’ll feel sick and throw up again. So, patience is key here.

Throwing up isn’t just useful for getting through tight spots. It’s also a weapon. The stages often have enemies that want to do harm to Bow. These aren’t exactly the safest places in the world. Luckily, she can barf on them. This will usually hold them in place or slow them down for a while as they are covered in goopy green bile. So, as one can see, vomit is a multi-purpose tool on Bow’s path to victory.

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-4Stages feel like something right out of an 80s or 90s arcade game in terms of layout. There will be all sorts of obstacles in the way of Bow and the tennis balls that she needs to collect. There are the aforementioned narrow spots. There’s enemies lurking about. There are one-way paths. There are spiky things that you don’t want to come into contact with. The game also has a number of areas where Bow can use her suction to attract a ball, but needs to lead it through a puzzle-like labyrinth in order to actually get to it. Some stages go for something completely different too. For instance, there’s a sandwich making level. Another is themed around bowling. There are also boss stages with giant, over-the-top enemies to defeat. These things are even more over-the-top than whatever players have experienced up to that point. That’s really saying something.

The game also makes references to several classic arcade games with its level design. Players will likely spot the obvious ones right away like Pac Man and Q-Bert. Others may take a little while to recognize depending on how knowledgeable one is about these games.

Stages also award players on how well they are completed. As such, there is plenty of motivation to replay them and trying to get a first place gold medal in every challenge. Each stage has clever, efficient ways to complete them. It’s actually quite satisfying figuring these out.

If players tire of playing the stages already present in Pig Eat Ball, there’s even a level editor. With that people can create their own stages, or just play levels created by the community. This opens the door to a bottomless pit of stages to keep people busy.

The game even supports a party mode for four-player local multiplayer. With that, the door is open to rigorous vomiting with friends. In a virtual setting anyway. The logistics for real life group vomiting would probably be a nightmare.

pig-eat-ball-gameplay-screenshot-4Pig Eat Ball‘s aesthetic really helps to cement the zaniness of the game. This is seen first and foremost in the character design. Right from the opening scene, players are introduced to Bow’s father. He has a cake for a head and a personality not all that dissimilar to the King of All Cosmos. It certainly sets the tone for the game. Players are later introduced to the king’s guards. These guys also have cakes for heads. There are the peculiar-looking clams, too. It would also seem that there are a number of mischievous pill bugs with a penchant for tennis milling around the station. On top of this, the color scheme and level of detail in the visuals helps everything really pop off the screen. It’s very similar to the bright colors so common in classic arcade games.

Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack is lighthearted and upbeat. It has a lot of memorable tunes and they’re easy to get stuck in one’s head. They all do a lot to bring that arcade game feel to the forefront.

It can be very hard to make a video game that is meant to come off as weird and over the top, but also not seem contrived. Pig Eat Ball does this very well. It’s visual style and characters are endearing, while gameplay is entertaining, silly, requires some thought, and is just an overall good time. People looking for something well off the beaten path would do well to try this game out. It’s easily one of the most unusual, yet enjoyable titles to come along in a very long time.

Pig Eat Ball is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and Itch.io, as well as  PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Way of the Passive Fist

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-1Beat ’em ups are a genre of game that really took off about 30 years ago. Games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom, and scores of others were being devoured by people who couldn’t get enough of punching and kicking baddies in the face. Then the genre fell off the face of the earth for a while. In recent years, these games have enjoyed a bit of a return to glory. All sorts of passion projects have come along reminding people how fun it is to clobber virtual street thugs.

As entertaining as all of this is, Way of the Passive Fist takes a very different approach. Here, players don’t punch and kick their way to victory. Instead they block and and dodge attacks until enemies become exhausted. When this happens, a simple poke is all that’s needed to defeat them. The game very much takes a “the best offense is a good defense” approach to how it plays.

The game takes place on the planet Zircon V. It attracted a lot of ambitious colonists eager to strike it rich mining up all of the planet’s valuable resources. However, there were some who warned that the planet was too close to the sun. As such, they feared that this would create incredibly harsh conditions on the planet. Upon arriving, colonists were greeted with the hard truth that Zircon V is a desolate wasteland and living there will be tough.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-2Amidst all of this, the player takes control of a legendary hermit known as the Wanderer. He’s been living by himself in a remote part of the planet and is known for his unusual defensive fighting style. Only now has he emerged to fight the various raiders and other troublemakers of the planet in an attempt to make Zircon V a slightly less terrible place to live.

The art style in Way of the Passive Fist is somewhat reminiscent of cartoons from the 70s and 80s. Character designs have a fairly Mad Max-like look to them. Meanwhile, levels themselves are varied ranging from deserts to mines to exotic jungles among other locales. The sprite work in the game is quite nice, and it manages to set itself apart from other games that use a pixelated presentation. The soundtrack is also very well done with much of the music being guitar-driven. Listening to the music, it feels just like something one would hear from an arcade beat ‘em up circa 1990.

Actual combat is the meat of the game, though, and as was mentioned earlier, it is very unique. While standard beat ‘em ups commonly have crowds of enemies swarm players, this isn’t the case in Way of the Passive Fist. Doing so would break the game. Instead enemies will take turns trying to attack the Wanderer. With that, they’ll give audio and visual cues that they are about to attack, then players need to block and dodge appropriately. As the game progresses, these enemies get smarter and will try to fake out the player. This usually happens with an audio cue, but a delayed attack. So, players need to watch out for this. As attacks are avoided, a stamina bar above enemies’ heads is depleted. Once it is empty, they are exhausted and all the player need do is poke them once to defeat them.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-3Even though players largely deal with enemies one at a time, they need to keep an eye out for ranged attacks and environmental hazards. These can still happen, and may require dashing away in order to avoid being hit by something, breaking a parry chain. These chains are important because they build meter. As the meter fills, increasingly powerful special attacks become available. With them comes a risk-reward system as players need to decide when best to utilize these attacks. These attacks are also necessary for inflicting damage on bosses, so building and maintaining parry chains is very important.

At its core, the game has a 10 chapter story mode. However, there are also additional chapters that are unlocked after completing the main game. Completing the initial game also unlocks a roguelite mode. There players take on all manner of additional battles, surviving as best they can.

As unusual as Way of the Passive Fist might sound, the game is a ton of fun. It takes some getting used to blocking and dodging attacks. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to the cues and adjusting as enemies try to confuse the player. Once the player gets a handle on this, blocking and dodging one’s way to victory is quite enjoyable, not to mention a humorous change of pace from basically every other beat ‘em up on the market.

Way of the Passive Fist is available for Xbox One, PS4, as well as PC.

Downwell

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-1Boots have always been popular attire in video games. Often times they have special abilities imbued in. They might let players do all sorts of things be it walk on ceilings, or jump super fast, or run faster. One type of boot that never really got explored was one with a gun on it. Sure, it sounds good on paper. However, the practicality of such a wondrous device was always a question.

So, when Downwell came along it turned a lot of heads. It took a simple concept and made it extremely fun. Players would control their little on-screen dude as he jumped down a well, blasting monsters in his way with his trust gun boots. Gun Boots! They just make sense in a game that has nothing but vertical environments.

Basically, players want to get to the bottom of the well in order to win. So, from the surface they jump down and begin their journey. As they continue to plummet downward, the denizens of the well will begin to attack. Controls simply allow for moving left and right, jumping, and firing the gun boots. As such, players will leap from ledges and rocky outcrops, then either attempt to maneuver through all of the monsters trying to attack, or blasting them to bits with their boots.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2At first, things aren’t too hectic, but after a few stages the pace really picks up. Players begin to strategize on the fly, figuring out the safest path to fall, when to go on the offensive, constantly monitoring how many charges the boots have left. The last bit there is important because if players are trigger happy, the current clip of ammo in the boots will run out. When that happens, players won’t be able to shoot again until after they land on a ledge. At that point, the boots automatically reload.

Downwell has some roguelike qualities to it as well. Each playthrough, the stage layouts are a little bit different. There are themes to different sections of the game, which remain consistent (the first few stages are caverns, followed by catacombs, etc), but where the ledges, bonus rooms, shops, and monsters show up change with each run. At the end of each stage, players will also get to choose from three power-ups to help them on their journey as well. These can range from health boosts, to improved accuracy, bullets blasting out of bricks that are destroyed, and a bunch of others.

With each playthrough, progress points are accumulated and as milestones are reached various goodies are unlocked. Some of these give players new styles they can utilize in the game. For instance, one causes far more weapons to spawn in a run, but reduces the likelihood of shops appearing. Another gives players more hit points, but there will be less power-ups to choose from between levels. It’s also possible to unlock new color palettes over time. These give players all sorts of options for how their game can look if the red, white, and black default isn’t to their liking.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2Aesthetically, Downwell goes for a very simple, retro look. Stages have very catchy chip tunes playing, and the visuals have a fairly minimalist pixel styling. What it lacks in fidelity, the game more than makes up for in personality. The way players’ character waves its arms around trying to stay balanced on the edge of a ledge is adorable. Meanwhile the game’s shopkeeper comes off as quite cordial in a way that makes it clear he’s happy to take your money.

Since the game first released in 2015, it has gradually been ported to a number of different platforms. It is available digitally for the PS4 and soon the Nintendo Switch as well. There are iOS and Android versions, and the game is also available on Steam, of course. Downwell takes a very simple, but also very unique concept that makes for an extremely enjoyable experience. It’s great for both people who just want to kill 10 minutes and those who want to get sucked into a game and lose themselves for an hour or so.

In Development: WORLD OF HORROR

world-of-horror-gameplay-screen-1Games on the original Macintosh had a certain charm to them. There was so much detail for the time in many of the games to appear on it, especially graphical adventures. Seeing as the computer didn’t have a colored monitor, developers had to make do with the gray scale graphics that it was capable of.  Games like Deja Vu, Corruption, and Shadowgate all wowed players with what they could do with the Mac’s graphics.

These games carved out a visual niche that hasn’t really been re-visited until now. One-person Polish developer, Panstasz, plans to do something about this with their upcoming adventure game WORLD OF HORROR.

The game will take the gray scale visuals of early Macintosh games, then combine it with the spooky sensibilities of Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft. Moreover, rather than telling a single story, WORLD OF HORROR will give players the choice of three creepy tales, each with their own protagonist. Well, there are three stories to choose from in the demo. Maybe there will be more in the full game? Who knows?

As mentioned, the game has three scenarios available thus far. One features Kirie Saito who is a recent transfer student to her high school. Students have been daring each other to stay in the abandoned washroom after school, which is apparently a scary place. However, when one of them dies trying this people start wondering if the legendary killer Aka Manto has returned. It’s up to players to help Kirie solve this mystery.

world-of-horror-demo-gameplay-2Next there is Kouji Tagawa, the classroom photographer. His friend was killed recently by an otherworldly being described as unnaturally tall woman with an monstrously wide smile. Kouji must go over his friends notes as to how he can correctly summon the creature to this world and kill it forever.

Finally, there is Mizuki Hamasaki who is an aspiring teen idol. She has been invited to a remote village for a festival that only happens once every 27 years. However, upon arriving she discovers strange sounds emanated from the nearby forest. This just don’t add up and Mizuki has to figure out just what is going on.

By the looks of things, there may be more that players will be able to do with these characters in the final game, but it’s hard to say. Presumably there will me more, otherwise WORLD OF HORROR would be very short.

Once players choose a scenario and are given the lowdown on what’s going on, they are then given a few choices on how to proceed. Some of these appear to have stat checks against the character being played. If their stats are too low, the check will fail. If it’s high enough things will be fine. This feels like it could wind up being a bit like Long Live the Queen where players will have to make mental notes of where they failed and either make sure their stats are high enough to succeed in future playthroughs, or simply pick another option the next time that choice appears.

While players are doing this, they will acquire items that should make life a lot easier. This is especially the case when discovering a weapon that they can equip. Battles aren’t terribly frequent, but being armed for them makes it easier to dispatch deranged foes. Combat itself is a simple turn-based system reminiscent of old 8-bit JRPGs. Players will be presented with a portrait of the enemy and a handful of options. These include observing the enemy to see what the player is up against. Then there is a special move (often associated with magic) and the ability to actually attack.

Events in the game give things a roguelite element, as they recur on multiple playthroughs and can happen in different characters stories sometimes. With that, there is a slight RNG feel to some of the events in the game.

Interestingly, with many of the choices that a player makes a Doom Meter of sorts begins to fill. It’s implied that when it reaches 100% an Old God of some sort will enter the world, and this really sounds like a bad thing. There doesn’t seem to be a way to reach 100% in the demo, presumably because there isn’t enough content to get there. However, it does act as a tool to nudge players along and not doddle. They will already have things that they need to do in a timely manner for their main quest (Kouji’s scenario in particular exhibits this), but the Doom Meter adds an extra layer of urgency / tension to the mix.

This is something that WORLD OF HORROR is doing a good job of so far: setting a tone. The game is heavily influenced by Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft after all. With that comes an onslaught of unsettling art and situations. For using such a simple color scheme in its graphics, the game quickly makes the player feel uneasy, worrying about something terrible happening to their character. There will be frequent situations where players enter a room and are greeted with a scene that makes them think, “Well, that isn’t good!”

There is also the constant reminder that Old Gods are returning to the world and people are losing their minds. As such, there will be random unsettling moments that may not even be entirely related to a given game scenario. These serve to give a sense that even if these high schoolers weren’t solving some creepy mystery, they wouldn’t have a happy, safe life to return to. The world as a whole is still going down the tubes in the worst Eldrich horror way possible.

From what can be seen of WORLD OF HORROR thus far, it looks promising. It has the art style and mood locked down. The stories being told are suitably creepy. Mostly what it needs is more content and maybe more ways to impact choices. There is plenty of time to work on that, though. The developer isn’t planning to release the game until at least 2019. As it stands, the game is being developed for the PC, PS4, and Switch, so a number of different platform users have something to look forward to. In the meantime, there is a demo available for those curious. Feel free to download it from the dev’s Itch.io page.