Folks, it’s October, that time of year where people are obligated to write about spooky things. Personally, I’m not too into horror games because I’m a huge baby, but hey, gotta get some kinda horror content for synergy.
Today, we’re taking a look at Tamashii, by Vikintor. A temple dedicated to the Patriarch has been desecrated, corrupted by grotesque beings connected to a witch. Your character is thus born for the purpose of ridding the corruption and making the temple holy once more. However… is that the way you want things to be?
Besides the gift of life, the Patriarch has blessed your character with the ability to produce clones, which is the central mechanic to this puzzle platformer. Much like how he created the character to solely be a disposable tool for his will, the clones acts as their disposable things. Your character can produce up to three clones at a time, who all live on a timer that you can choose to speed up for the sake of puzzle timing or wanting to reset. Usually, these clones will be holding down buttons to help you proceed.
It sounds basic, but Tamashii constantly finds new ways to play with this concept. There are switches that force all current clones to move in a fixed direction, which the clones can themselves trigger in a domino effect of puppeteering. Some pieces of level architecture kills all clones, forcing you to fall back on your platforming skills to get around. A few of the bosses in particular utilize clones in inventive ways, with one such battle having your clones firing upon the boss with turrets while you run around as a decoy for it. As a puzzle platformer, it’s pretty satisfying.
And it isn’t exactly a game you can relax with. In this tale of purging a once holy place of corruption, you won’t find any peace. When it comes to presentation, Tamashii is a horror game, portraying a corrupted world where its supposed good guys look just as fucked up as everything else. The game’s palette mainly leans toward dark colors, sometimes shifting to reds when you’re set against fleshy grotesqueries. Background details convey a corrupted world, body parts stretching out of the architecture and body horror figures lurking, watching.
There is a VHS filter over the game, which I’m normally sick of since people use it to look “retro.” However, within the context of Tamashii, it gives a cursed VHS quality that really ties the experience together. Furthermore, Tamashii leans on some fourth-wall breaking and glitchiness that’s befitting of the game’s general concept of rebellion.
Tamashii refers to itself as a Luciferian tale, where your character slowly comes to doubt their nature and the Patriarch with each visit with the witch Feucirl. There is a rot within the world, but the purity of the Patriarch represents a different sort of rot, demanding glorification of him and the destruction of enemies. The player character is told to question the religious order they’ve been born into and to rise against that and break the structure – which manifests on a more meta level with the fourth wall breaks breaking the structure of the game itself.
The game obviously draws on religious elements, from its main plot to the first four levels being corruptions of the ideals of the four worlds of the Kabbalah. Personally, there’s probably a lot that’s flying over my head. However, seeing Feucirl’s rant about how high ranking religious people project their own ideals on a god to justify their own atrocities really feels apt with recent events like, say, a Christian group donating thousands of dollars to an unrepentant killer.
The worst part of playing through Tamashii though has to be the jumpscares. When playing a stage, you’re given the option between doing some easy and hard rooms toward the end, with the latter netting you a key and some lore. You also get the reward of a sudden jumpscare while walking around the hub world with visceral imagery accompanied by the sounds of screaming. It succeeded in scaring the shit out of me, sure, but after I calmed down, I was mad because it felt really cheap. In a game where most of the horror is atmospheric and existential, putting what are basically screamers into the game feels ill-fitting and lame.
That said, Tamashii is an excellent game. I definitely feel that you’d get more out of the experience if you have a greater understanding of certain spiritual practices, but even then, it’s an enjoyable game for the Halloween season and may invite you to look into these spiritual elements to find your own understanding.