Developed By: Vikintor Published By: Digerati
Release Date: 12.25.2019
It can be no mere coincidence developer Vikintor would release the horror puzzle-platformer Tamashii on the day of Christ’s birth, one of the holiest of all days. And what better way to undermine the cheery, kitsch decorations of Christmas than with disturbing, satanic symbolism? Despite the brutal, but fascinating visualizations and unique sound design, Tamashii comes up a bit short, but ultimately worth the couple hours in the end.
You play the role of an emissary of light, the child of a god-like being from which you’ve been spawned to seek out and destroy an evil that has corrupted the temple in their honor. With your objective of purging this ancient evil, you set out to explore the different rooms of this temple, clearing each one to purify this black and white world of an unknown curse. Things get complicated, however, when you meet the only other character in this short story, a witch who offers a different perspective on the matters at hand.
Beyond the introduction and each subsequent meeting with the witch, the story is kept in the background. The game chooses to say more about its story through pulsating, disturbing images that fill the space behind your character. It’s a world that seems like it’s always vibrating, alive with some arcane energy. As you grow accustomed to the limited color palette of greys and occasionally fleshy pinks and reds, a series of terrifying images will flash across the screen, accompanied by screams of agony that break up the monotonous hum of the game’s soundtrack.
I whole-heartedly endorse the game’s recommendation of playing with headphones, as well as the use of its abrupt, subliminal imagery to keep things tense. Much of Tamashii’s horror comes from indecipherable symbolism and cryptic instruction that suddenly appears without warning. I didn’t think there was a lot of gore, per se. There are gross-looking things wriggling in the background, a lot of eyeballs, and certainly a little blood, but its distinct soundscape and propensity to surprise you with an ancient marking you can’t make sense of are what make it a fun horror game.
That’s not to say playing is confusing. Quite the opposite, in fact, as it’s a fairly straight-forward, stripped-down platformer that leans heavily on its puzzle elements to drive the action. Your little emissary only has the power to jump, speed up time, and lay three clones at a time, the latter of which is key to mastering many of the game’s challenging puzzles. Tamashii features a lot of trial and error as you activate a series of switches and disappearing blocks in the right order, but it was never too much of a hassle. In fact, the game is quite forgiving in terms of puzzle length, emphasizing your ability to speed up the life of a clone or restart whenever necessary.
The boss fights, in particular, were a blast to play through. Each one serves as a mini-puzzle with the same frantic, unsettling noises and flashes urging you to finish the fight before it’s too late. They’re tough, but far from impossible. If I have any complaints about the gameplay, they’re directed toward the platforming aspects, which were fine in their own right, just a little stale and occasionally touchy. Thankfully, the game’s death mechanic is forgiving and you’ll be right back to where you started in no time.
I would’ve liked Tamashii to be a bit longer. I left feeling like the fun was only beginning after a few hours. There was also a glitch near the end of the game I kept running into that forced me to restart. I can’t fault the effort of Vikintor, because this is a pretty impressive title for a one-man team, but it’s worth noting because it was a fairly consistent bug. Despite those minor complaints, Tamashii was a short, but fun ride.
Good for an afternoon of play, Tamashii’s weird carnival of horrors and bizarre aesthetic won’t last long. But if you wanted to immerse yourself in the world of a metal album cover, you’ll find a home here. The puzzles require some thought and–when it works–the platforming requires some quick fingers. I had a fun time with it, and if I could make one more recommendation, it’d be to play in the dark. Maybe I’d light a few candles at an altar, but that’s it.