Despite the excitement I get from seeing a new horror game, there’s a lingering sense of dread that emerges in the back of my mind. I know that I’ll actually be fearful and hide in every single corner possible, anxiously looking for a safe way through. However, Ikai took my level of anxiety and cranked it up to the maximum level, as this horror title from developer Endflame craftily played on my fears and emotions.
As I was walking into the PM Studios booth at PAX West, I started to wonder how well I’d be able to handle my nervousness for the Ikai demo. But there wasn’t enough time to ponder. So I put on the headphones and clicked ‘New Game,’ and I was sweating bullets within minutes. You play a priestess entering a mysterious shrine. It seems you are looking for answers to the mystery behind your story and why the shrine isn’t as empty as it looks.
As I walked inside, my levels of uneasiness skyrocketed. You hear these atmospheric noises that make you turn around to see what’s behind you, only to find nothing. The sounds range from whispers to scratchings on the wall to the pitter-patter of feet. All of them echo into your ear, so they sound close by. These noises continue to permeate throughout the entire area, leaving you wondering when the actual scare will pop up. The ambiance provokes suspense and apprehension; you never know what to expect. Over time, you come to learn this house is indeed haunted by spirits, so you have to take careful precautions in finding clues.
The clues and items you must find to move forward aren’t that easy to pick up on. The game requires in-depth exploration, meaning you have to search every nook and cranny for the next piece of the puzzle. It’s because of this extensive search that you become completely immersed in the priestess’ situation–you’re just as scared and restless as she is.
The shrine is full of thematic details, emphasizing spirituality and the unknown. There are scriptures of yokai spirits and their historical origins. There are moments of paranormal activity, such as a bunch of arms reaching through the walls to try and grab you. The folklore of Japanese creatures and the supernatural is seamlessly weaved into the experience. You’re defenseless against these spirits, so you have to be stealthy or sprint as fast as you can. Otherwise, the evil will come after you.
The movement throughout this game felt very realistic. Her walk was at a normal pace, and her sprint felt so agile, I couldn’t help but believe I was in her shoes, experiencing the terror myself. And let me tell you, I kept running for my life. There may or may not have been a spirit following me, but I didn’t want to look back. I got away from the noise; that’s all that mattered. Ikai delivered a frightening experience. And while I hesitate to play more, that’s only because of how effectively the game provided a scare.
I’ll try to muster up the courage to tackle the priestess’ story again in a month, as Ikai is slated to release this October for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
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