Ikai embodies the spirit of the classical psychological horror genre, exploring a new sense of horror by making the player face the threats directly neither fleeing nor attacking.
The Shinto belief is renowned for its rich folklore and practices full of shrines, spirits, and prayer. The myriad of stories spin ancient tales of interactions between mortals and otherworldly entities that inhabit a dimension beyond sight. In this celestial hierarchy wicked souls transform into various Yokai and treat humans as either food or playthings. Rest assured, if evil Oni ever found their way to our realm, the results would be similar to hell on earth.
Ikai by developer Endflame, is a 1st person psychological horror game that will put you face to face with ancient Shinto apparitions. You play the role of Naoko, a young maiden who has been left in charge of her priest’s shrine in a dense forest. What should be a regular day of errands around the homestead descends into a living nightmare as vicious demons spill into the mortal realm to wreak havoc among the living. Using her spiritual knowledge and practice the humble shrine maiden must now survive otherworldly chaos in order to seal the demons away once more.
Gameplay will have you exploring the haunted shrine and surrounding woods in search of clues and items that can be used to deter the demonic attacks with prayer and handwritten seals. Players will need to guide Naoko’s hand and calligraphy brush as well, as she imbues her scrolls with powers that seal away evil spirits. Her knowledge and discipline allow her to face puzzling challenges but not without the bone chilling fear that her every step is watched and followed by malicious evil spirits.
Smooth graphics and sound design make Ikai an atmospheric thriller. Once the story departs from normality, tension runs thick as with every move you risk being surprised by an increasing variety of vicious Yokai, each more gruesome than the last. Ambient sounds like wind and creaking floorboards make even simplest movements full of tension. It takes careful logic and determination to avoid meeting an end at the hands of demons, whose blankly staring faces could fuel nightmares.
Controls are straightforward as Naoko is unable to fight back by any normal means. In classic horror adventure style, players will be either sprinting to run away from apparitions, or performing a stealth crouch to avoid being detected by the horrors. There are lots of hidden objects to discover that reveal backstories about the shrine and its caretakers which provide insight into the various Shinto practices. Players will learn about the different kinds of demons and their associated superstitions by discovering pages of written information hidden throughout the game. While the otherworldly mysteries slowly boil over into madness, the surprises in store are sure to make your heart race.
Ikai’s cerebral storytelling and puzzle solving lay a fearful foundation for a tense journey into the unknown. While the pace can be slow at times, the chilling suspense builds upward from the very beginning. Surviving the horrors haunting the shine and saving the mortal world from demon invasion is an adventure guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat.
Ikai releases March 29th on Steam, PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch. Wishlist it today!