God why did I download this.
Recently on Reddit, I saw a neat thread with a trailer for an Indie game called Ikai. It looked kinda neat, if a bit amateurish.
Then the devs linked to a demo that I downloaded and fucking god almighty, why did I do this.
If you want to play the demo in question, you can download it here. They also have a Steam page with a trailer and stuff on it here. (Side note: the designers don’t seem to speak English as a first language, and the Steam page and demo page have their wording a bit mangled. I didn’t see any evidence of this in the game itself; everything was well translated and clear.)
I do not like horror games. I do not play horror games. At one point in college while watching some friends play Alien: Isolation in the dark, the alien popped up, and freaked me out so much that I jumped up directly into the bed above, and smacked my head pretty hard.
I mention this because I’m not sure I’m the right person to review Ikai, even in this demo form. I do not want to seal the evil in this mask. I do not want to walk down the haunted hallway. I do not want to be in this temple whatsoever.
However, I feel obligated to play the demo, and try to finish it, because, a lot of effort clearly went into it.
So, having now finished the demo, here are my thoughts.
I really like the world that Ikai is trying to build, and I’m very curious about the story. If nothing else, it’s the sort of game I’d go read the wiki for, because I want know how things resolve.
Regarding the actual gameplay in the trailer, there’s not much here that hasn’t been done before. Open doors, search for things, draw some patterns, don’t get caught by the monster. This brings me to one of my biggest issues with the demo, the monster itself.
I’d call the monster in the demo “Fine” because there are a few things about it that are pretty great, and few things that are pretty “Meh.” For starters, this isn’t Alien: Isolation. The monster doesn’t seem super smart, and I had a hard time figuring out how it “Worked” mechanically, since as far as I could tell, it just strangled me to death if I got to close/if it saw me. The death animation was fine, if a little jump-scary, but I suspect since I had turned off audio at this point, if I’d been paying more attention I would have heard it. In another instance, the monster seemed to just spawn directly in front of me. I think this one was a bug.
Looking at the actual monster itself though, at least while it was standing still, kinda deflates it. Some of the animations are a bit janky. While in motion, or lurking from room to room, it radiates a sort of menace, but the second it stands still, or you get a good chance to look at it, the tension falls apart. In addition, while its design is really nice, its actual feel is pretty bland. It’s a large hulking thing that moves from room to room, looking for you, and kills you if it finds you. For how much the rest of the game plays into the setting, I would have liked to see the demo use some more interesting Yokai, rather then just having a “Big Scary Thing.” From a gameplay mechanics standpoint, I would have liked to have this thing be a bit more interesting, or have some sort of gimmick.
Overall, Ikai is fine, but I didn’t see anything in the demo outside of the setting and tone of the world that made it stand out from other similar sorts of games. Given the effort they’ve put into creating a non-standard world, I’d like to see them play with some of the gameplay mechanics they’ve set themselves up with. Creatures that can move from mirror to mirror, monsters that disguise themselves as objects, some more “fun” mechanics than what the demo has. Yokai are incredibly diverse, and if the game turns out to just be “Amnesia, but set in Japan”, I feel like they’ll have really squandered a lot of the potential design space to make some really interesting monsters.