Halloween is upon us once again and if you’re looking for a spooky new title to sit down and frighten yourself with this year then I’ve got one to add to your list of choices. Worse Than Death is a new 2D pixel art game from independent developer Benjamin Rivers. He’s the same guy who brought us another spooky title called Home and a romantic adventure game set in space called Alone With You. I enjoyed both of those games so I had little doubt Worse Than Death would disappoint and it absolutely doesn’t.
Worse Than Death is a new horror adventure game that has clearly taken some inspiration from other horror greats such as Silent Hill. The story takes place in the year 1996 and you play as a woman named Holly who has just returned to her hometown to attend her 10-year high school reunion. Funny enough this year would’ve also been my 10-year high school reunion but if they all go down like this one it’s probably a good thing I didn’t go. Anyway, Holly meets up with an old love interest of hers named Flynn who was involved with another one of Holly’s friends named Grace. Only Grace tragically died a little while back and so Flynn has been dealing with that. I won’t go into spoilers but the gist of the story is that someone is found dead at the reunion and from there the game shifts into a very dark and scary place full of monsters that are out to kill you.
If you played any of Benjamin’s other titles you’ll know what to expect out of the gameplay here but if not let me explain. The majority of it consists of side-scrolling, finding and interacting with things in the levels, talking to characters and some light puzzle solving. While you are being hunted during the game you aren’t able to fight back so instead you’ll be doing a lot of running and hiding in order to make it through. You can only run so much though as you have a stamina meter on screen that will deplete. The puzzle elements mostly involve just finding an item or a lock code you need to progress. While none of that sounds difficult you have to keep in mind that anytime you are spending time searching you are also at risk of being caught by the thing that is hunting you. The atmosphere throughout is really well done and when you can’t really see what exactly is out to kill you it makes the whole experience even scarier. If you should die the checkpoints in the game are pretty frequent so you aren’t punished too harshly.
One area of the game I did feel was a little off was in the controls. This game came out earlier this year on mobile devices and you can tell in various circumstances that certain things were designed with a touch screen phone in mind. That isn’t to say that the game doesn’t feel good but rather that playing with the controller doesn’t feel as good as it probably would if this game was designed for consoles first. There isn’t much more to say about the gameplay but it’s worth noting that the game is perfect to sit down and play through in one session as it’s only a few hours long. I really liked that about it as some games drag on a lot longer than they should and Worse Than Death feels like the perfect length.
The 2D 8-bit visual style has become Benjamin River’s bread and butter and he delivers another beautiful game with them in Worse Than Death. The story features these really well drawn comic book like panels too that fit very well. Lighting is also done well in many scenes which is important for any game trying to scare you. Another important thing for any horror game is the sound design and the 3D positional audio in Worse Than Death is very well done. I played with a pair of headphones and I recommend you do the same to get the full experience. Since I didn’t play without them I don’t know for sure but I imagine that the game wouldn’t be as scary if you don’t use them. The game has 31 trophies in total including a Platinum that you can unlock. Most of them are story related but there are also some for finishing the game on each difficulty and for finishing the game under certain conditions.
There really isn’t much more I can say about Worse Than Death other then that you should pick it up if you enjoy horror games. It has a very appealing price point and you can enjoy it’s horrific pixel art world and story in just a few hours. Who needs to attend their high school reunion when you can sit in the comfort of your own home and enjoy Holly’s twisted one instead.
*Worse Than Death is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher.