Indika Is a Sinful Adventure

Indika Preview

We’ve all watched games evolve from simple blobs of pixels to grand epics filled with action, drama, memorable characters, and challenging content. Games now frequently traffic in big ideas and moral conflicts. Religion is a dicier subject, but not entirely absent. A few weeks ago, developer Odd Meter dropped an intriguing demo for their new action-adventure game Indika. Aside from its obvious surreal weirdness, Indika is hard to describe.

Genre Bender

In part, this is because Indika only vaguely follows genre expectations. It’s an adventure game, but very tightly scripted. It has puzzles and some awkward action sequences that almost seem out of place. There are steampunk elements in its setting, and it’s filled with heavy religious symbolism and all manner of weirdness. If the demo’s slice of gameplay is representative of the entire game, Indika will certainly be interesting.

You play as a nun in an alternative history, Steampunk-esque Russia. In the demo, you are escorting a mortally wounded captive named Ilya (soldier? tormentor?) to safety through a howling snowstorm. Right off the bat, the art direction and photo-real visuals create an unsettling environment and mood. The dialogue is terse and brutal.

Immediately, there are questions. What is the relationship between the characters? Where are they going? What’s going on in the world? From the way the characters move and are controlled, and from the tasks at hand, Indika suggests it’s a puzzle game. You know, find the ladder to access the roof, drop down into a room, and open a door. Suddenly, Indika faces off with an immense black dog and flees for her life.

Unfinished Business

As the demo progresses, so do the puzzles. We also learn that Indika hears voices and has psychedelic hallucinations of an even more disturbing reality. Ilya is an old-school mystic believing he has a mandate from God. Whether directly or via gameplay mechanics or narrative subtext, religion as both a positive and negative force saturates the experience. Redemption, pain, suffering, guilt, and the power of prayer are pretty heady stuff. All those themes appear in Indika’s brief demo.

What also appears are a few smudges and stumbles. There’s no controller support to speak of, making fluid movement in the action and exploration sequences frustrating. The game has an ill-fitting RPG-like upgrade system that doesn’t quite mesh. Although at first glance, Indika’s graphics are impressive, some of the textures and most of the lip-syncing don’t hold up to scrutiny. Sometimes Indika feels like a walking simulator, other times it seems to head in the action direction.

In other words, there’s a lot of conflict going on. Some of it is narrative or thematic, some comes from a clash-of-genres tension. For me, all of the negatives paled in comparison to the totally unique and sometimes hallucinatory vision–both of the game and the character. I don’t know if, over the long term, the frustrations will get more in the way. In the demo, at least, they could be overlooked. For certain, I want to see how this whole thing turns out.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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