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CVG
1 Reviews

Ikenie no Yoru

Import review: Ghost console

Wii isn't short on games to turn bums inside out. Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Calling, Ju-On, Fatal Frame IV... not all great (with the best stuck in Japan), but a solid dedication to trouser-spoiling nonetheless.

The latter three serve as a neat lead-in to Ikenie no Yoru, charting a gradual peeling away of ideas towards a purer horror ideal. Fatal Frame gave us spooks and the means to fight them. Ju-On followed with spooks and quick-time event combat. Then came Calling, packing spooks, but preaching the ancient art of running away.

By simplifying, by stepping away from traditional design - the innate desire to add more mechanics, more features, more 'so called' value - each game presented its scares in greater clarity.

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Enter Ikenie no Yoru. Or rather, watch Ikenie no Yoru go hooning by. Here's a game without combat, quick-time events or health bars. It has but one condition for failure: get touched by a ghost. And not in the emotional Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze sense. You touch a ghost, you die.

LOOK WHO'S STALKING
Ghost avoidance could be a problem, what with our intrepid heroes exploring a mansion heaving with spectres. Seriously, this is spook central. There something strange in your neighborhood? You fibber: all the strange things are in this neighborhood. We got ghost girls. We got slack-jawed yokels with hollowed out eye sockets. We got possessed dummies.

There are even bald ghosts, though these hardly raise the pulse. A bald patch adds insult to the injury of being dead and you feel rather sorry for them.

Aiming with the remote, you walk forwards with B and backwards with the D-pad. No shooting. No inventory. None of Resi's amateur botany. Just a pair of legs and a torch. Yes, Marvelous have produced the world's first nervous creeping simulator.

It feels like we've trained for Ikenie no Yoru our entire lives. All the visits to art galleries, with their precariously placed exhibits. All the drunken stumbles past sleeping flatmates. All the drunken stumbles through art galleries. 'Not bumping into stuff' is one of the stronger points on this writer's CV

This may sound as appealing as a dip in Lake Fukushima, but Marvelous find mileage in the idea. We're so used to brash, boisterous combat - stomp the Goomba! headshot the zombie! - that it's genuinely unnerving to be so powerless.

Survival depends on scampering through gaps as and when they open, using a spurt of speed - by tapping B - to skim through. That look on someone's face as they dash through closing tube train doors at the last second? Ikenie no Yoru is that face multiplied by a thousand.

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WAR ON SPECTRE
Ignore the gory context and Ikenie no Yoru could be a quirky spatial puzzle. How to get from A to B, avoiding ARRRRGHHH. Some ghosts patrol a single stretch and are sprinted past in gutsy cover to-cover dashes.

Others stumble in strange formations that require delicate footwork to weave between. It's like one of those Jane Austen ballroom scenes, only Mr Darcy wants to devour your soul. Working out safe passage involves a bit of trial and error, though generous checkpoints prevent frustration setting in.

Chase sequences are less successful in this regard. Pursued by faster ghosts or the mansion's chainsaw-wielding maniac, you hammer B to dash through branching corridors. Again, very trial and error, with sudden dead ends impossible to predict.

The game's eye for cinematic set-pieces also threw us on occasion. Certain routes are temporarily blocked or obscured to heighten the tension, but, at the time, can seem obtuse. How are we meant to know that a dead end isn't a dead end if we hang around five seconds longer?

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