After several hours with Tamashii, I still don’t know how I feel – my senses feel violated, that’s for sure. It’s not often a piece of entertainment can inflict a feeling like this. I remember when I was roughly around 11 years old and watched The Shining for the first time. It was a completely unnerving experience that rattled me to my very core; still to this day. Now, none of it is particularly scary or intense, but it maintains a certain air of dread that keeps me enclosed for its entire runtime. Tamashii left me with that same feeling – a constant sense of claustrophobia, bubbling with Japanese horror influences. For the few hours my playthrough lasted, I felt like a victim to its skin-crawling beauty – for better and for worse.
Absolutely oozing with horror-fuelled vibes and with its roots firmly buried in Japanese lore, Tamashii takes place in a twisted world of its own. It’s more of an experience than a story. A descent into the underworld which this game has crafted for a series of intense platforming challenges and an array of puzzle sequences. Tamashii isn’t interested in telling you a story, but instead allowing you to soak up its atmosphere, which it feeds by the bucketload.
What makes Tamashii such a unique experience? It’s the unrelenting attitude it has to push an assortment of horrific sights and sounds to assault your senses. Your journey plays out through separate rooms built upon platforming and puzzles. Its lack of combat adds to the sense of unease that these grotesque creatures that crawl can pounce on you at any second. This isn’t an easy game by any means; it’s a fairly intense platforming challenge, but a quick respawn system keeps the momentum flowing. Although, it never really clicks as a competent platformer, with jumping mechanics that lack weight and feel far too floaty for the challenges thrown at you. Certain sections will sometimes task you to outrun a creepy creation to up the tension, but ruins the pacing when jumps are easily misjudged or completely missed due to the lack of responsive controls.
Puzzles quickly grow in challenge as well. Starting off fairly simple involving switches and basic jumping, they rapidly increase to make use of all your abilities. One main element that’s used is the ability to clone yourself up to three times. Each clone is only available for a small amount of time and are often used to solve a variety of switch based puzzles. They never really evolve past this and you won’t be finding any Portal-esque levels of innovation here, but they’re serviceable to see you through this hellhole.
It’s a shame these two elements don’t marry up together as well as they should. Tamashii could have been a real cult gem. An interesting element that does work is how often you’re invited to choose how hard particular challenges will be. Instead of providing you difficulty options, you will be presented two doors – one leads to a harder environment, and the other is for the faint of heart. It’s a wonderful concept that helps cater the gameplay to your own preference, but when long stretches are built around its own terms it serves more as a missed opportunity of what could have been.
One element Tamashii absolutely nails though is it’s presentation. Make no mistake, this is not for the squeamish and definitely more inclined for those who are fans of the horror genre. Many staples from Japanese culture can easily be seen from its disturbing monster designs, to its disgusting use of gore to convey its decrepit world. There are no jump scares here, which makes for a great change of pace. Tamashii relies more on soaking you into its world and placing you on a psychedelic descent into hell, all while maintaining an 80’s VHS aesthetic. The screen cracks and wobbles to recreate the reminiscent feeling of celluloid film. It wastes no time in explaining its world, why you’re there or your objective, but instead takes you on a devilish thrill ride into its erratic nightmare.
Another major horror influence Tamashii on Xbox One reminded me of was The Ring (or Ringu in Japan). Not due to the context, but the fact that in The Ring, victims would be sucked into watching this terrifying video that would later come back to haunt them – Tamashii gave me that same feeling. While nothing has claimed me yet, I still find myself peering over my shoulder at anything that may go bump in the night. While it’s general gameplay may be far from great, the world is unique and best experienced rather than explained. From its opening moments Tamashii dug its claws in and wormed its way into my body. It’s wretched journey is not one I wish to experience again anytime soon, but one that I’m strangely glad I took. Maybe I need help.