Recently I had the pleasure of previewing Ikai. This was an exciting and terrifying experience, to say the least. Ikai is a first-person horror game that draws its inspiration from Japanese folklore. With superstitions at full tilt driven by a unique story that will have you on the edge of your seat.
This game features a different type of interaction that involves neither fleeing nor attacking. Players need to solve puzzles and calculate obstacles to stay safe and away from harm while progressing through the story. The story starts relatively slow by having players attempt to draw Japanese calligraphy. Just as it is important to write them correctly in real life, the same holds in the game. Once you have finished the task you are sent off to perform various tasks that lead the player to the wood where they will trigger one of the most heart-pounding events I have had the pleasure of playing.
I would like to add, I thought it would be interesting to play this game of course at night with lights low, on an ultra-wide immersive monitor while wearing my Razer Kraken Hypersense headphones. Let’s say the first jump scare practically gave me a heart attack while using various words even my kids shamed me for speaking out loud. If you are a player into full immersion, I do highly suggest these to amplify the experience.
Back to my preview, Ikai pits the player into performing different rituals that will either advance the player safely through obstacles or create barriers to block evil spirits from reaching you. There is also a fair amount of running as you need to balance your tasks while staying light on your feet to avoid being trapped and dismayed. The preview ended on a cliffhanger, this alone is nicely done as now I am itching to finish the story and see what else makes me jump and no longer trust my surroundings.
My initial experience was as tragic as it was splendid. Some puzzles left me wanting, while others had me guessing and hitting my head metaphorically against the wall to numb the pain of failure. IT felt like I had to relive the event over and over again until I figured out the mechanics of the game. Until then, it was like the most horrific version of groundhog day I have experienced. Once I figured out the mechanic and was able to solve the tasks required, it was smooth sailing. So I thought! This continued to drive me until the previews ended.
While the game is primarily keyboard and mouse controlled with partial controller support. My initial testing was with the Xbox One wireless controller that worked flawlessly out of the gate with no additional configuration required. Though not all games support it, I decided to see if it would recognize my Playstation 4 controller and at this time was unsuccessful.
Overall the controls are easy to learn but did seem to follow a different layout than typical games, well ones I am used to anyway.
Visually speaking the game is beautifully detailed with a great deal of time spent on details and textures. I would classify it as a grunge look with traditional Japanese-inspired models. This of course keeps with the theme and inspiration of the game. During my gameplay, I did not notice any type of clipping or anomalies that would result in artifacting. The lighting was on point only being brightly lit when required and aided in setting the overall mood of the scenes.
At first, I was tempted to up the gamma a bit to allow me to see more detail. However, I wanted to let myself fall victim to the atmosphere of this title to experience everything it had to offer me. This meant not being able to see the scary thing chasing me? Yes betcha, I put on my running gear and continued to be as scared as the character I was playing.
Since this was a preview of what is to come, I am unable to give you more details but my prediction is I should be in for a treat.
Another notable mention is like most titles, this one does support ultra-wide resolutions without needing to be altered. This played well as it allowed a deeper sense of immersion into the story.
Something that makes all great movies and games alike push everything to the edge is the audio. Ikai features a wonderful selection of music and audio effects to drive the story and experiences to the very limits. I do highly suggest playing this title using surround sound audio or at the very least a good set of headphones.
Each moment in the game is carefully curated to include audio effects and sounds to exhibit an emotional response from the player. In most cases, fear and anxiety seem to be the target.
Titles such as Ikai often show great promise and can also fail at meeting my expectations. Nothing is worse than a strong beginning and a weak ending. I will eagerly await my opportunity to finish out this delightfully adventure into the fearful world of evil spirits and the unknown. Based solely on this preview, I believe we are in for a real treat.
P.S. Careful with walking under those trees
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.
- Challenging Puzzle
- Atmospheric immersion
- Unclear direction during gameplay
- Fragmented stories during the preview