Ikai is a first-person psychological horror game from PM Studios, Inc that takes inspiration from Japanese folklore.
You play as Naoko, a priestess at a shrine in the local village where your uncle is the priest. He has left you to man the shrine as he heads out to village to assist them with an evil spirit/demon problem they are having. Naoko heads towards the river before it gets dark, but the demons end up invading the shrine and it will be up to her to use her knowledge on supernatural beings to seal them away and protect the shrine. Most of the story isn’t laid out in cutscenes like other games so you will have to pick up bits of information through items found during the game.
The game is played in the first person with the main bulk of the gameplay follows the more walking sim narrative style game as you explore the temples grounds. While exploring the grounds you also need to solve puzzles search for clues, find notes expanding the story and describing the demons that are roaming the area, and tracing Kanji symbols. The puzzles vary from extremely simple to frustratingly difficult and there aren’t too many hints on what you must do at certain points.
As this is a horror game, you will spend a good portion of the game avoiding and running from the Yokai who are trying to kill you as these are your only options with a lack of weapons or ways to attack. One way you can combat the demons is by sealing them away by drawing the symbols whilst lighting your way with a nearby lamp. These sections can get tense when your trying to do them quickly as a demon approaches you.
The games visuals range from interesting to bland. From a distance the visuals in the environment look nice and really set the tone, but up close the detail is lacking. I did like the Yokai design, and the demons and creatures were bizarre and hideous which was perfect for the setting. Whilst the graphics may not be on par with other games in the genre the creepy atmosphere is on point, with the areas and theming hit all the right Japanese vibes. Whilst the game is optimised for Xbox Series X/S with 4k resolution I never felt it was truly taking advantage of the power from the new consoles. AUDIO:
The sound design is a pretty standard horror fare with a creepy enough aesthetic to its background tracks, however its English voice acting is particularly poor and feels poorly translated and is the main drawback to the game.
LENGTH / REPLAYABILITY:
The experience overall is pretty short, clocking in between 2-4 hours depending how easily you progress through some of the puzzles. Its short and sweet but there isn’t much of a reason for another playthrough bar setting out to find any of the missing story notes. The game only features a couple of areas, the main being the Shrine area and the forest so you will venture between them multiple times throughout your playthrough.
Ikai unfortunately ends up as a bit of a mixed bag. It has a great atmosphere coupled with the constant tension from the threat of the Yokai and its creepy environments feel very authentic and there are plenty of jump scares thrown in for good measure, but its poor localisation and hit and miss graphics stop it being a must play horror game. I definitely recommend giving it a whirl if you’re into your traditional Japanese folklore though!
Ikai was released on 29th March 2022 and is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. The game can be purchased HERE for £12.49 the game is optimised for Series X/S and supports smart delivery. The game is also available on other consoles.
We were provided a copy of the game for this review. Big thanks for that!