For me, it’s one thing to be interested in playing an entertaining or scary-looking game within the horror genre. When it comes to actually playing that same game, though, my mentality changes entirely. If it’s a scary survival game, I’ll generally boot up the game with an optimistic feeling that I’ll be perfectly ok playing through the dark, terrifying environments. But at the first jump-scare, fear takes over my entire body, often resulting in my not coming anywhere close to finishing the game.
Ikai – an upcoming horror title developed by the three-person team at Endflame Studios – fits this mold perfectly. The trailer and overall premise of the game are scary enough. However, having had the chance to play through the game’s demo, there’s no denying that Ikai is a welcomed addition to the horror genre, already worthy of being mentioned among some of the genre’s scariest titles.
There’s not a lot of backstory in Ikai, at least not at first. You’re put into the role of a priestess who was supposed to have been taking care of a temple during the era of Feudal Japan. Unfortunately, something occurred that unleashed an angry, vengeful spirit, leaving you responsible for putting the spirit to peace at long last. Of course, this is easier said than done.
As you make their way through the dimly lit labyrinth of hallways and rooms, there’s never a moment in which anxiety and dread won’t be at the forefront of your mind. The dark and unsettling environment features plenty of opportunities for an apparition or shadow to vanish from sight as soon as it appears, leaving the hair standing straight up on the back of your neck.
The dread is made even more impactful thanks to Ikai’s incredible audio design. The random creaks and moans of the old temple never allow you to feel completely alone, while wind and incoherent whispers make for terrifyingly dreadful moments – all of this taking place while you roam the temple, solving puzzles as you try to progress the story forward.
via Endflame Studio
Ikai’s early puzzles are standard fare – looking for keys to open locked chests, and finding items to aid you on your journey. However, some puzzles are far more deadly than others, such as properly completing a piece of calligraphy. Performing the art in the wrong manner will result in the demon finding you, which was more than enough to make me scream out loud more than once.
Ikai already seems to have a solid handle on what it’s trying to achieve. Folklore in Japanese horror in film and other media formats is on a plane all its own. Endflame Studio appears to have a fundamental understanding of what makes the genre so great and terrifying. If the demo is anything to go by, Ikai will undoubtedly be a staple within the horror genre.
Ikai is tentatively slated to release sometime in 2021. A free playable demo of the game is available now on Itch.io.
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