Developed by Hidden Tower Studios and published by TheGamesFortress, Tatari: The Arrival is a prologue for the full game Tatari, which is listed as coming soon but doesn’t have a release date as it stands. This is probably for the best as, based on the content we have so far from the prologue, a lot more work needs to be done before the game is put behind a paywall.
The prologue is very barebones, covering the first three scenes of the full game and cutting off right when anything actually interesting happens. Invisible walls prevent you from exploring, and there is almost no guidance on where to go when you are asked to explore. It misses the mark in several ways which made it a fairly negative experience for me, but it is free and short.
Tatari: The Arrival is very short, with less than an hour of playtime. I will admit I felt a bit relieved when it was over, mostly due to never knowing what I was supposed to be doing at any point. Most of the hour was spent wandering aimlessly around, interacting with anything I possibly could in order to try and figure out what the game wanted me to do. There are two points where this is the worst: the initial scene in the apartment where you need to collect an unclear number of items scattered around the apartment before the game will let you leave, and when you get into the village, at which point you need to aimlessly wander around, opening doors and hoping that you open the right one at some point. I even thought that I had soft locked myself in the final location, simply because it was so unclear what I needed to do next.
This problem could be easily solved by the game providing some direction. Either in the form of objectives or even just a dialogue line saying “I need to grab my bags and keys before I leave” rather than the vague “I can’t leave yet” statement we get instead. A general lack of instruction is a trend which runs through the whole of Tatari: The Arrival. I found myself having to spam click keys on my keyboard to figure out how to access my inventory, for example, and there is nothing telling you what to do next other than occasional vague dialogue lines about something happening that you may or may not have seen.
Tatari: The Arrival follows a detective who is looking to solve several missing persons cases which have occurred at a campsite. The master plan, of course, is to visit the campsite and stay in the same plot as the most recent missing person. Tatari takes inspiration from a traditional Japanese urban legend. While the legend it is based on isn’t especially clear based on the limited information in the prequel, I think it might be the legend of the Okiku Doll. As part of the storyline, there are two occasions where ghostly apparitions, which look more like the wooden dolls used by artists, tell part of the story of a girl being given a doll. This could be interesting, however it looks so cheesy with the blocky ghosts that any impact was lost.
For a detective, the protagonist in Tatari: The Arrival doesn’t seem to do much thinking. The game opens with him remarking that the cases are totally unrelated and none of the victims have anything in common, however has pretty clearly said they all happened in the same place. While you don’t really do much detective work in the prologue game, short of trying to find out where you are supposed to go.
Much like the detective work, Tatari: The Arrival as a whole feels like a first draft of a game. The dialogue is stilted and doesn’t feel natural. Movement is even more wonky with the character being pushed backwards if you stand too close to a corner or chest of drawers. Graphically, the game isn’t bad but it comes across as a bunch of stock assets which have been thrown together in the hopes of making a cohesive scene. Nothing is so atrocious that it would ruin a game with a good plot, but it is especially noticeable when it is a short prequel that doesn’t showcase much of the actual game.
I think Tatari: The Arrival has probably taken a fair amount of inspiration from other horror games, which would be fine if it was done effectively. Any game with the suffix The Arrival is going to bring up memories of Slender, and this is not helped by the game being set in a wooded area that ultimately feels very similar, with a similar style of graphics and foreboding atmosphere. Another scene, which doesn’t seem to add a whole lot to Tatari: The Arrival, has the player walking down a repeating corridor which changes slightly each time, seemingly taking P.T. as inspiration in a half-hearted way.
There is a bit of gameplay in the form of puzzle boxes to find items hidden in the village. These aren’t especially complicated and the two I found were both sliding puzzles in some way shape or form. I do think these added to Tatari: The Arrival a bit, however they aren’t especially original and didn’t really help when I was wandering aimlessly around the village setting trying to figure out where I was going.
I hate to say I was glad when it was over but I was. I think there is room for the full game of Tatari to be more interesting and to pull itself together in time to be much better, however Tatari: The Arrival ultimately fails at the one thing it is supposed to do: make me want to play more of the game.
Megan reviewed Tatari: The Arrival on PC with a review code.