For the higher a part of the final decade, indie builders have taken to the primary individual horror style like moths to a flame. Many, in fact, have discovered loads of success with their choices, however others haven’t been so fortunate. Endflame’s Japanese folklore-inspired psychological horror expertise isn’t with out its deserves, and at occasions, it does trace at greatness- however the sum of its components is much from passable, and the sport as an entire is as transient as it’s irritating.
Set someday, someplace in Feudal Japan, Ikai sees you taking part in as Naoko, a younger priestess who has to guard her shrine towards invading forces of evil, from terrifying yokai to spirits to demons. The story is delivered largely by way of transient monologues or notes right here and there, and although there are some makes an attempt at connecting the occasions with Naoko’s previous, by and enormous, the entire affair feels slightly simple. That’s not essentially a foul thing- it permits Ikai to get proper into the thick of issues. That does, nonetheless, imply that the story isn’t ever actually there to get you invested within the expertise. The poor localization, writing, and voice appearing definitely don’t do the sport any favours both.
“Endflame’s Japanese folklore-inspired psychological horror expertise isn’t with out its deserves, and at occasions, it does trace at greatness- however the sum of its components is much from passable, and the sport as an entire is as transient as it’s irritating.”
The setting, nonetheless, is a reasonably fascinating one, laden closely with Japanese folklore and a number of the imagery that goes hand-in-hand with that. The small shrine and the forest surrounding it that function the sport’s setting really feel like quaint, plausible locations with a stunning quantity of element that provides some authenticity to them. You can even discover collectible notes scattered concerning the environments that educate you extra concerning the yokai you face within the recreation, which is one other neat contact.
The situation, nonetheless, is that despite being a really transient recreation at simply 3-4 hours in size, Ikai typically appears like a little bit of a slog to play by way of. There are a number of causes for that, although chief amongst them is the truth that you spend a bulk of the sport going by way of repetitive and infrequently the identical environments as you progress by way of the shrine and try and seal evil spirits. It doesn’t take lengthy for a sense of repetition to set in as you end up strolling by way of environments that really feel far too acquainted.
It doesn’t assist that the gameplay itself doesn’t do a lot to interrupt up the monotony. Ikai has no fight, and is structured, for essentially the most half, as a strolling simulator. You stroll by way of environments, examine objects in your environment, do some puzzle fixing once in a while, and attempt to discover particular objects wanted for particular duties. That means there’s plenty of sifting by way of cabinets and opening and going by way of drawers and what have you ever, which isn’t precisely riveting gameplay. It will get boring fairly shortly, and it doesn’t assist that manually transferring objects with the on-screen cursor utilizing a controller feels fairly clunky.
“There’s plenty of sifting by way of cabinets and opening and going by way of drawers and what have you ever, which isn’t precisely riveting gameplay. It will get boring fairly shortly, and it doesn’t assist that manually transferring objects with the on-screen cursor utilizing a controller feels fairly clunky.”
The controls let the gameplay down in different methods as properly. The regular strolling velocity is sluggish as molasses, however sprinting comes with a surprisingly exaggerated hopping animation that felt jarring to me. Meanwhile, crouching feels sluggish, and having to wrestle with the controls throughout tense chase sequences to keep away from obstacles and manually pull doorways open was by no means fulfilling. Ikai additionally locations various emphasis on drawing seals utilizing a paintbrush to seal spirits, however it’s important to try this manually as well- it felt like a neat and novel gimmick at first, however having it within the recreation as an necessary mechanic is a foul thought. When it’s important to shortly draw a sophisticated seal to lock a door earlier than a yokai that’s chasing you breaks in and do all of it utilizing the inherently inaccurate motion of an analog stick, stress can shortly flip into frustration.
Puzzles are one other massive focus for Ikai, however they, too, are inconsistent at finest. Though there are a number of in there that had been genuinely enjoyable to determine, most others disillusioned a technique or one other. Many had been too straightforward and simple, to the purpose of feeling like busywork, whereas others had been on the exact opposite finish of the spectrum- fully obtuse, with frustratingly obscure hints and subsequent to no cues that will help you work out what you’re presupposed to do. It kills the pacing in a recreation that already struggles with it.
I’ve been fairly essential of Ikai up till now, however I do wish to give credit score the place its due- constructing ambiance is a vital a part of any horror recreation, particularly one which claims to depend on psychological horror like this one does. Fortunately, that’s one space the place Ikai impresses in a number of ways- although largely due to its audio design. From the creaking of wood floorboards to sudden thumps on the ground above you, from the chilling rustling of leaves to manic whispers in your neighborhood, Ikai’s audio design is all the time on level, and by no means did not make my pores and skin crawl.
“Ikai has main technical and visible issues.”
Sadly, the visuals don’t match as much as the audio. Ikai has main technical and visible issues. Even when every part is working because it ought to, Ikai appears to be like respectable at finest, however all so typically, it simply fully crumbles. The recreation’s acquired extreme texture pop-in issues, particularly whenever you load proper right into a save, to the purpose the place typically it will possibly take dozens of seconds (if not longer) for big, blatant swathes of textures to load in, abandoning ugly blocks. Loading, too, will be surprisingly long- and I performed this on an Xbox Series X.
All mentioned and executed, Ikai is a irritating recreation. There’s a kernel of a good suggestion in there – psychological horror impressed by Japanese folklore is all the time fascinating, whereas the ambiance the sport builds from the primary second can also be commendable – but it surely’s all outmatched to an virtually overwhelming diploma by the sport’s many points. The indisputable fact that it’s as brief as it’s and nonetheless manages to really feel longer than it ought to be ought to inform you what you have to learn about Ikai– that it’s a good suggestion that’s did not evolve into a very good recreation.
This recreation was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.