ReviewsReview: Ikai

Review: Ikai

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Folklore is a wonderful tool for creative minds around the globe. It allows writers to create surreal, scary, or beautiful worlds with little drawback. Ikai is the latest title to utilise Japanese folklore at its core. Subsequently, it creates a moody and dark game that is suspenseful. Moreover, it’s solely responsible for me soiling many pairs of underwear. (Disclaimer, no underpants were soiled during the reviewing of this game.)

Developed by Endflame and published by PM Studios, this is a psychological horror title. It is set across an array of short chapters that are full of eerie moments and classic jump scares. It will make you jump out of your skin as you are chased by otherworldly beings. What’s more, it’ll test your mind thanks to its array of logic-bending puzzles. In short, it combines many elements to scare you and test you from beginning to end.

Ikai is deliberately confusing. 

Now, I’m not normally a fan of confusing titles. I find them to be frustrating and unnecessarily convoluted. However, I enjoyed the layers of intrigue and mystery found within Ikai. The action is set in a Japanese shrine and you view the world through the eyes of Naoko, a young priestess. A rumour of a new demon in the underworld is circulating around the local village. However, you cannot let this story stop you from completing your tasks. You leave the temple to travel to the river, but this was a bad decision. A foul and heavy odour fills the air and you collapse, only to wake and find your once holy sanctuary is now tainted.

The darkness and monsters you face form the key concept of this eerie and creepy story. Subsequently, the action is unnerving as you wait to be scared senseless. Sadly, though, most of the jump scares rely upon clichéd mechanics and well-trodden moments. Whether it’s a ghoul hiding behind a bush or a beast chasing you in the dark, it’s all very familiar. However, this shouldn’t put you off as it’s well constructed and matches both the theme and the story.

Ikai is full of creepy images.
What is this creepy thing?

Magical puzzles and horrendous monsters. 

When I saw the “magical” elements of the gameplay, I sighed. I thought that it would be boring, OTT, and unnecessary. Yet, I was wrong. The developers have done a great job of balancing the folklore theme with the suspenseful layers and puzzling moments. Subsequently, there were times when panic and fear overtook logical thinking and this was fantastic.

The puzzles rely upon your observational skills and your artistic abilities. You will be asked to listen to clues, scan an environment, and then draw a magical symbol. If you can do all of this while avoiding the rampaging monsters, you’ll reduce the evil presence. However, this is easier said than done as each creature desperately hunts you down. Consequently, I was petrified as floorboards creaked or doors slammed. Moreover, Endflame delivered the perfect blend of fearful action and mind-boggling puzzles to keep you entertained throughout.

I’m a true believer that less is more. Yet, Ikai has other ideas. Yes, the world is sparse and dark, but the demons are anything but small. You’ll be chased by a hideous troll-like creature, an enormous man-eating worm, a deadly spider, and more. Furthermore, there are spiked heads that fall from the trees, mystical birds to chase, and flames to avoid. On top of this, you’ll come face to face with a blind zombie and walls that have eyes. Therefore, it’s fair to say that this is a little weird and bizarre. Though some may find the strange nature of this to be too far fetched, I loved its unusual ways.

Who is hiding in the cupboard?
I’d suggest running.

Ikai is a bit rough. 

I may have adored the story and its mechanics, but its visuals were rough. Sadly, the developers haven’t built a game to test modern consoles or PCs. Subsequently, it’s dated and has some texture issues. Luckily, however, many of the rough edges have been hidden amongst the darkness and foggy scenes. This was a fine decision as it added to the mystery while hiding the unpolished finish.

Though the end product didn’t look fantastic, the stage design was great. I loved the blend of open areas and claustrophobic spaces. These horrible areas added to the suspenseful nature of the gameplay while increasing the fear factor.

Where Ikai truly excels is its audio. The blend of environmental noises and otherworldly beings will send shivers down your spine. Furthermore, the depth perception is tweaked to perfection when you use headphones. Therefore, you’ll hear each monster move as you draw each magical symbol. It was utterly terrifying to scrawl each pattern as you were being chased. Consequently, I equally love and hate the developer’s attention to detail and the fear it creates.

Classic Japanese surroundings.
Such classic Japanese surroundings.

Fiddly controls. 

Much of Ikai’s action relies upon small movements and finer details. Therefore, the controls are a little fiddly and clumsy. Sadly, this is detrimental to the core elements of the gameplay. With panic and fear being key factors, you’ll make many mistakes as you are hunted. Subsequently, it was increasingly annoying when you were captured because you couldn’t draw quick enough. Other than this issue, I found the buttons to be responsive, easy to understand, and straightforward to master.

Working your way past every demonic force won’t take you too long. You’ll spend around 4 to 5 hours from beginning to end, and this was a little short for my liking. However, the collectables add to the replay value while forcing you to search every level thoroughly. I really enjoyed what I saw and yearned for a deeper story. Had the developers incorporated an NG+ mode, this would have been perfect.

Ikai is short but scary. 

Ikai is wonderfully clichéd but woefully short. It walks a well-trodden path and offers few surprises. Yet, it’s still scary and will make you jump repeatedly. Furthermore, I liked the blend of puzzles and the stunning audio. Sadly, it won’t test veteran gamers, but it’s enjoyable, nonetheless. I liked it and I recommend you to buy it here! The world, as you know it is changing and not for the better. Therefore, do you have what it takes to remove the evil from your spiritual home or will it remain forever?  

SUMMARY

Ikai is a clichéd psychological horror title. Inspired by Japanese folklore it will have you jumping and running with fear. Furthermore, the action relies heavily on interesting puzzles and magical elements.


+ Creepy and interesting stage design.
+ Massive demonic beings.
+ Excellent and atmospheric audio.
+ You'll love the clichéd jump scares.
+ Intriguing Japanese folklore.

- Fiddly controls.
- The graphics are dated.

(Rating PEGI 18 Extreme Violence Release date 28/03/2022 Price $14.99)


(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.)


Daniel Waite
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: Daniel@moviesgamesandtech.com
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Review: Ikai<p class="has-text-align-justify" style="font-size:14px"><em>Ikai</em> is a clichéd psychological horror title. Inspired by Japanese folklore it will have you jumping and running with fear. Furthermore, the action relies heavily on interesting puzzles and magical elements.</p><br/> + Creepy and interesting stage design.<br/> + Massive demonic beings.<br/> + Excellent and atmospheric audio.<br/> + You'll love the clichéd jump scares.<br/> + Intriguing Japanese folklore.<br/> <br/> - Fiddly controls.<br/> - The graphics are dated.<br/> <br/> <p class="has-text-align-center" style="font-size:10px">(<b>Rating</b> PEGI 18 Extreme Violence <b>Release date</b> 28/03/2022 <b>Price</b> $14.99)</p><br/> <p class="has-text-align-center" style="font-size:10px">(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.)</p><br/>