INDIKA Review – Sympathy For The Devil

INDIKA is unlike any game I’ve played before – from its themes, deeply rooted into religion, to its setting in a surreal, alternative 19th Century Russia where Jesus could have fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish without a miracle as certain species of animal in this world are giants.

In Odd Meter’s strange, story-driven puzzle game, INDIKA, we play as the titular nun who is tasked with the rare occurrence of leaving her monastery to deliver a letter. While INDIKA is primarily a third-person puzzle game, it also features retro elements and segments as we look back on Indika’s history and the events that led up to her choosing a life as a nun.

20240428122505 1
Shoutout to the best opening credits so far this year.

But despite her innocent appearance, Indika isn’t your average nun as she frequently speaks to the Devil, who is constantly at her shoulder to tempt her into sin. Her journey to deliver the letter is thrown off track when she meets Ilya, an escaped prisoner on a journey of his own to find a miracle that will heal his severely wounded arm.

Indika is massively likable as a lead character. In the game’s introduction, we are shown her life in the monastery as she tries to complete the menial tasks set for her by the other nuns. While she is faithful in completing these tasks while the Devil at her shoulder rants about how pointless they are, the other nuns treat her cruelly, and her tendency to be distracted by the voices in her head and her own vivid imaginations and daydreaming has given her a reputation as a klutz. I also adored Isabella Inchbald’s portrayal of Indika, she really brought this character to life with her gentle, soothing voice and whispered tones.

20240428132859 1
Indika is brought to life by Isabella Inchbald.

Similarly, Louis Boyer as Ilya also puts on a brilliant performance. These two characters are juxtapositions of one another yet end up on the same mission of self discovery and searching for this miracle that will save Ilya’s arm. They both have differing views on their faith and their conversations when discussing this topic and other philosophical questions were fascinating as well as thought-provoking. One of the things that intrigued me the most about playing INDIKA was the chemistry between the two and they do have great chemistry, it’s just such a shame we didn’t have much time to thoroughly explore it.

Speaking of performances in INDIKA, I would also like to give recognition to Silas Carson as the Devil himself, who brilliantly portrays Indika’s sly and snickering companion who constantly tempts her into sin.

20240428140655 1
In this world, some animals are giants.

While other narrative-driven games often fall into the trap of trying to cram in uninspired gameplay elements and minigames for the sake of including some gameplay rather than sticking to being a walking sim, INDIKA does not make this mistake. While INDIKA is mostly narrative, there are several level puzzle sections which involve working out how to leave the room or move to the next part of the map. This is usually combined with surreal physics or imagery, such as Indika coming across an upside-down church and needing to push a heavy safe around to lean the church to the correct side in order to climb out. What gameplay elements are included are well-thought out and often challenging.

This was especially the case in the retro segments which I thought would just be tacked-on minigames to put a unique twist on Indika’s flashbacks. Only the latter point is correct as these are also well designed. They range from a race with her father, a Pac-Man-style level where the character you’re controlling must collect the coins he’s stolen from a shop register while the shop owner throws spanners at him, a platforming section, and a rhythm-platforming section. In fact, these were not just well-designed but also incredibly challenging – especially the platforming sections.

20240428140145 1
INDIKA takes on retro levels as we explore the titular character’s past.

The retro themes also seep into certain parts of the main gameplay, such as the soundtrack and INDIKA’s mysterious points system. The game has a points meter in the upper left hand corner of the screen, which goes down at certain parts of the game and you can increase it by exploring the area and finding items and books that have lore descriptions to give you further background into this world, or by praying. This then extends to a leveling system, which you can increase Indika’s faith to build further points. But the trick is that the points are completely useless, and act only as a visual purpose to show Indika’s growing faith. In fact, the game actually tells you this in various loading screen tips.

Speaking of the soundtrack, much like INDIKA as a game, its music is unlike anything I’ve heard in another game before. It’s wacky and ridiculous, yet strangely fitting for this wacky and ridiculous game. It’s sharp, exciting, and dips into those retro themes rather than relying on something more befitting of the time setting – which really makes it stand out.

20240428133303 1
Some of the best moments in INDIKA are sections where the Devil rants at you, tearing apart your world, and you must use prayer to put it back together again in order to move on. 

On top of this, INDIKA looks stunning. The motion capture makes a massive difference in making us feel sympathy for these characters and every minutiae detail and change of expression in Indika’s face is readable. The surreal elements are also stunning, with the color palette sinking into a deep red during the sections where Indika must pray to rid herself of the devil’s rants, and there are some really incredible scenes as Indika and Ilya make their way through a fish factory – putting into perspective the strange addition of giant animals in this world as they move past giant fish and huge cans of tuna. This alternative 19th century Russia has also invested heavily into steam machinery, featuring some really interesting and unique inventions that almost tap into the steampunk genre – or we can at least see this world is heading towards that.

If up until now it sounds like INDIKA is a standout and brilliant game, that’s how it felt for me too – right up until the end. INDIKA is four hours long, and while I don’t usually have a problem with this so long as the narrative still feels satisfying, INDIKA did not. What is meant to be the journey of self-reflection for a nun started off being so, with a strong growth in both Indika and Ilya as we learnt more about them. However, this falls completely apart at the end which felt like a severely rushed resolution. While I have no qualms with how INDIKA ends (the game is described as a tragedy after all), it’s more about how the ending is laid out and how quickly it runs by – it ultimately left me so deflated that it entirely ruined my whole perception of the game with this dire ending being my lasting memory of it. In fact, events turn so suddenly that it doesn’t feel like a journey at all, especially for Indika and there’s barely any time to reflect on what’s happened. I think this is almost made worse by the fact that I was so heavily invested in these characters and whatever journey was laid out for them that this ending was a real punch in the guts for me.

INDIKA‘s motion capture allows us to see the detailed emotion in Indika’s face

I would also like to mention that INDIKA covers some VERY hard-hitting topics, especially surrounding sexual assault, which the game features no warning about. While these scenes aren’t graphic, there are still many players who would avoid playing this if they knew it was featured, in which case I do not recommend INDIKA to those people and I hope a warning is added later on by the developers.

While INDIKA started off as a standout and excellent narrative-driven puzzle game, which presents thought-provoking, philosophical questions, brilliantly written characters and unique imagery, it becomes memorable for all the wrong reasons, with its abrupt ending leaving an extremely sour taste in my mouth.

Jess played INDIKA on PC with a review code.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments