Japanese horror really does feel like the home of it all. With so many classic movies that dive into folklore and local horrors, there is always a story to be told somewhere. Translating the natural fear that those very tales exude isn’t so straightforward, however, but the upcoming horror title IKAI hopes to introduce a worthy offering.
The story as we know it so far begins with the player taking the role of a shrine maiden, and your immediate job is nothing more than basic tasks such as drawing some talismanic symbols, sweeping up the floors and even doing some clothes washing whilst your uncle pops out. When he doesn’t return and night falls, the concern is raised and it’s your job to trek and find out what has happened.
The start is pretty slow in terms of putting any scares into you, but once you leave the comfort of the temple, it doesn’t take long for things to kick in with demons, and a cursed item leading to a flurry of yokai horrors making their way to your current path, however, it has to be said that these never caused things to feel overly scripted and whilst there is a typical chase scene to contend with, the scares on offer early on do feel surprisingly natural, which is helped by the slow build-up.
Another nice touch that is firmly on display is the interactive controls. Things such as doors and cabinets aren’t simply a button press to open and instead require a full open-swinging motion with the mouse to fully reveal their contents or open a door. This may seem like a fairly basic feature, but it certainly helps keep engagement up as you interact with various objects and is something that should be included more in gaming.
Onto the artistic side of things and IKAI is certainly one of the more pleasing titles to look at with fantastic visuals that bring plenty of detail to the environments and the many items within them. It’s not quite photorealism, but there is a real sense that the developer has managed to truly capture that Japanese folk horror within the atmosphere and especially the enemies.
The other key artistic area that affects IKAI is the audio and throughout the current hour and a half run-through, I have to say the audio is pretty impressive and only helps to aid the creepy feel and aesthetic that is on show. There is the occasional jump scare that is catered to well with audio cues but there is no reliance on these for things to feel alive, creepy and well designed.
Whilst we only have a bitesize portion of the game to experience at this time, with the same level of care and attention to detail, IKAI could very well be one of the better horror games to release in 2022, and one that does the horror of Japanese folklore proud.Become a Patron!