- Total Score: - 7/107/10
Interested in feudal Japan? A fan of psychological horror? Ikai might be just what you are looking for!
Developer – Endflame
Publisher – PM Studios
Platform – Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4/5, Xbox One/S/X, PC (Reviewed)
Ikai is a psychological horror game by the new Barcelonian developer Endflame. This team of three worked together on projects while at their university and have come back together to start developing games that they hope will immerse players into remarkable experiences by bringing stories to life. Their first attempt at this feat is Ikai.
Set in feudal Japan, Ikai has us take the role of Naroko. She is a young priestess who assists the priest of the shrine with his duties. Recently, there has been a sense by the locals that there is evil spreading throughout the land and the priest must go to protect them. After Naroko draws some talismans to provide protection, the priest leaves her alone to tend to the shrine while he is gone. What starts as an evening of laundry and cleaning quickly turns into a night of pure horror. Naroko must cleanse the shrine of the evil spirits called Yokai and discover the origin of this evil.
In Ikai, we spend the majority of our time within the shrine’s walls, but we do get to explore the local forest, a cavern, and some twisted imaginings of Naroko’s mind. The game has us solving puzzles, writing Japanese warding talismans, and finding hidden collectibles while getting rid of the spirits that are haunting the shrine.
The puzzles themselves are pretty decent, nothing too challenging but can definitely make you think for a few minutes. I’d say one in particular had me sitting for about 15-20 minutes thinking about the solution. Some of the solutions require you to find certain objects, while others have you using a brush and ink to figure out patterns. Ikai is similar to games such as Myst but with more freedom of movement including being able to run and to sneak.
The story itself is pretty interesting as well. As you progress through the game you find letters that were sent from your family members that provide you with a bit more clues about what is going on but I can’t explain much without spoiling the reveal. The game covers topics such as arranged marriages, relationships, abuse, spirituality, and alcoholism which was much more than I was expecting from a game seemingly about mischievous Yokai. The story is concise but interesting enough to keep you moving through the game to find out more.
The sound design is also great. There were moments that felt like it had ASMR inspirations, with really creepy and almost tactile moments with the right headset. Creaking floors, creatures skittering, wind blowing, and eerie instruments playing were all satisfying. Graphics were serviceable as well and it was full of interesting imagery. I really enjoyed the overall look of the game and the horror elements included.
One of the major downsides I could see people having is its runtime. I clocked in a full playthrough in 2.5 hours, while I think a playthrough trying to get all of the collectibles could run maybe 3-4 hours. The game is currently around $13, so about the cost of buying a movie. It isn’t too bad, but others might feel differently. It would have been interesting to see a few more Yokai as they mention about 25 through the collectibles but really only a few make an appearance. Also the game ends quite abruptly, I wish the game expanded a bit more of the ending to give a bit more closure to the story.
Overall, Ikai is an excellent first endeavor for indie developer Endflame. I had a great time with my playthrough and could see myself going through it at least one more time to get the missing collectible and achievements. If you are interested in feudal Japan, are a fan of psychological horror, and looking for a quick adventure, Ikai might be just what you are looking for. If you are on PC, you can even download the demo on Steam to give it a shot first!
Disclosure Notice: Game review code provided by publisher.