"ikenie" by Nicolas Daniel Azzali
"ikenie" has me stumped in more ways than one. Should I start by saying how much I like it or how bad I am at it? Both are relevant...
See, I would like to tell you about the story, but I am too bad at the game to have earned knowing it yet. The cold facts: You start in a creepy crypt with white glowing people, presumably ghosts. There is a bone next to you. You move to pick it up, a prompt tells you "Hit, Left Mouse Button" and a voice that has "omnipotent master of ceremonies" written all over it says: "You'll figure it out." Being the good Pavlovian gamer that I am, I obediently follow my instincts and hit one of my fellow crypt dwellers. It evaporates and leaves me with a small flame next to me. So... I am some kind of ghost vampire?
After my numerous deaths, the voice drops a hint that I should try again, since I don't want to end up like "them"... So, these ghosts are my former selves? Sounds legit, I definitely see my boneheaded tactics in their mindless charge towards me.
After you have done whatever you needed to do, a portal opens that gets you into another room and into another problem. What has the Voice in store for you now?
You have four buttons for movement, one for hitting people and one for casting spells. Simple. And you need things to be that simple, because in combat you want things to flow without too much thought.
Fighting is not everything, you also need to solve puzzles, which is one big reason why I only managed embarassingly few levels. Still, solving them was satisfying and me failing was just that - me failing, not the game cheating or hindering me.
I appreciate the game telling me just enough to figure things out. Few things beat this kind of Eureka-moment, even if it is only that you figure out that the cannibalised ghost souls pull double duty for two important functions.
When you die, you go back to the crypt, bash a few ghosts to get all your weapons and spells back and the portal will take you to the room you died in. As much as I resented to be back there again, the former mes and the other ghosts looking at me with smug "Oh, look who's back again"-expressions, I see the value of this system and am grateful that it only slightly sets me back.
Another one of "ikenie"'s strong suits. The background music is atmospheric and unobtrusive. And though whenever my player character was hit, he made a sound like someone stepped on a hamster, sound effects are good.
The window is relatively tiny and so are the characters. It sets the atmosphere down right between creepy and cute.
Where I think "ikenie" excels is in the little things that make the atmosphere. When I returned to it after taking notes, I noticed subtle moans and screams in the background while the souls of the damned shuffled across the screen. You won't hear them if you are running about whooshing your sword all over the place, you have to listen for them.
And speaking of listen: The Voice reminds me of Handsome Jack from "Borderlands 2" in that its smug superiority was irritating enough that you want to beat the level, just to spite him. That's some powerful motivation.
Another nice touch is the words that pop up when you kill a ghost. They seem innocent like "My head hurts." or "Look at that. Pathetic." But then you come to realise that they are probably last words. My brain immediately started making up stories for these poor souls.
So it's the light touches that elevate "ikenie" above just okay.
No bugs to report, the game ran solidly for me.
On the whole...
I will probably return to "ikenie" at some point when I am more inclined to challenge myself and have some time to kill. For now I hope that you spend some time with it. It's a nice little thing that is well worth your time.
Dev: Nicolas Daniel Azzali
Time Played: 30 minutes
Got My Vote? Most definitely.