Ikai from developer Endflame is a first-person psychological horror game. The story takes place within a shrine overrun by spirits in feudal Japan. Players will control the shrine priestess Naoko to find cursed objects to purify with sacred seals. The story draws heavy inspiration from Japanese folklore and culture. The team published a demo for players that featured key mechanics involved within the final game. Of course, I could not resist the temptation to see what Ikai was all about.

During the demo, players are given the task of finding a cursed object and then creating a seal to cleanse it. Exploring the shrine at first felt very linear. But, the more I progressed forward the more open it became. Interactions with objects felt natural. The simple task of sliding open a door or pulling open the cabinet made the world feel more alive. Ikai also has built-in collectibles to find as you explore. What made them feel more special is that when you access them through your inventory there is a short description that helps explain their importance to Japanese culture.

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The mechanic I was most excited to test out during the Ikai demo was writing the seals. It requires the player to use their mouse to trace the faint markings on the scroll. From the description provided it appears to be a time-sensitive thing, but I never felt rushed in the demo. There is a chance that part of the mechanic may come later in the game. It will be interesting to see how they are able to build on this mechanic. At this moment in time, I feel it might end up a bit redundant and force players into a loop of finding cursed objects, create a scroll, cleanse objects, and repeat.

Now, I couldn’t close out this preview without touching on one of the most important parts of Ikai. And that would be how scary the atmosphere was. This is a horror game after all. Well, let me tell you that from the demo, it does not disappoint. The shrine itself feels like a character on its own. With each step forward you can hear the creaking in the floorboards and the wind hitting the walls. It is eerie in the best kind of way. It definitely kept me on my toes while I crept silently through the halls on the lookout for the Yokai.

Ikai will release in 2021 on PC through Steam. If you are interested in checking out the demo it can be found here.

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Julia Roth
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