• Developer: Vikintor
  • Publisher: Digerati
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC
  • Price: $11.99
  • Release Date: December 25, 2019
  • Date reviewed: January 11, 2020
  • Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
  • Review Code Provided: Yes

Tamashii is one of those games that is difficult to describe. What it boils down to at its core is a challenging puzzle platformer with a Japanese horror theme. It has a simplistic style right out the gate, with an easy to grasp jump, double jump, clone management control scheme that can be deceptive… until things… happen. This is where it becomes difficult to put down on paper exactly what Tamashii is and what it puts the player through.

The game opens with a childlike demon in front of a pyramid headed deity figure who fills you in briefly on your purpose in life. You are then tasked to venture out into the game world taking on puzzles, and bosses along the way, all in the hopes of restoring your father’s power to end the plans of what is described as a witch, but looks like a Persona-series demon. After this the tutorial takes over, where you learn the controls for the game. As I mentioned, you have a jump and a double jump, which is standard fare. You also have the ability to place up to three “clones” of yourself in the world at a time. These clones look nothing like you, and sit on the screen like totems. Their use is limited to setting off switches so that you can progress through the puzzle rooms. This starts off incredibly easy, and was actually kind of fun in the beginning stages. Beyond being able to speed up their degradation, as each clone only has a limited time to exist on screen before disintegrating, these are the moves you will use throughout the game. Three buttons, basic movement and your mind, that is it.

This may seem basic, and perhaps boring, but early on in the game the main star of the show raises its ugly head, the horrific imagery. Throughout the game, Tamashii likes to make the player uncomfortable and confused, as the difficulty of the game slowly ramps up. I will try to risk spoiler territory here, but to not talk about the horror elements would be to ignore the best part of the game. Early on, when travelling between one point to another, the entire game shifts with no warning at all to something torn from a hellish horror movie. The soundtrack, which is really interesting and moody, shifts into feedback and screaming, constant tortured screaming, which matches the undulating world or viscera and red, so much red, that has replaced the game’s typical black, white and grey presentation. This frightening and off-putting section ends as it began, with no warning and a flick of the wrist change back to the monochrome presentation that in comparison feels much more comforting. At that moment I was SOLD on this game.

The discomfort, constant feedback, creepy abortive imagery, Gigeresque statues and pulse pounding music feeds into the stressful puzzle rooms that replace the previously easy ones. Boss battles have a Super Meat Boy feel as I constantly struggled with staying alive, but was met with immediate resurrection right in the thick of battling the boss at the beginning stages again and again and again. The bosses are interesting, frightening and challenging in equal measure. Some involve being chased by something that can only be described as a giant tape worm, while others involve a surprising and difficult bullet hell shoot em up involving…. a fetus. The game is disgusting at times, with zero explanation, and completely baffling in others, and that is where the majority of the draw is. If you are put off by horror games, this one is not for you. If you liked the creepy ambiance and bloody death scenes from games like Corpse Party, you may just dig this game.

I really had a blast through the majority of the game, but it was marred in the final sections. The end levels were excruciatingly difficult, involving split second timing that was not required anywhere in the rest of the game. There is no build up to this kind of platforming, it’s just thrown at you and multiple deaths follow. Some may have no issues with this, but it really marred an otherwise enjoyable experience for me. Another possible negative is the confusing story. There is a lot to unlock in the game, which will involve either scanning forums for hidden secrets, or spending a ton of time trying to figure out every hidden and purposefully glitched out piece of lore presented in the game. On top of the horror, the game constantly provides the “cake is a lie” moments that pull you out of a horror game and make you wonder what you are actually doing in the story, and what the game world actually is. I will spoil no more here in regard to that, but I felt the need to mention this as the story is so convoluted and disjointed, that many may complete the game scratching their head further.

All in all, Tamashii is completely worth the price of entry. It’s a challenging and shocking homage to bygone Japanese horror games, and is an experience to be had. The music, jump scares, and imagery is worth playing the game for, even when the simplistic platforming can have you wanting to chuck a controller into hell when facing some of the more frenetic challenges.