Tamashii, released on Switch and PC, is a side-scrolling puzzle game featuring puzzle rooms. It’s also something of an abstract, surreal horror inspired by Japanese films. Maybe a bit of Giger? A whole lot of Junji Ito.
It revels in proper nouns, strange noises and stranger visuals. Beyond basic mechanics, it refuses to explain anything. It’s a form of horror that bugs me. It’s my favourite by far, I love immersing myself in something that trades in semiotics and the unconscious. It taps into the more raw and unspoken parts of our brains and takes you deeper into the fiction. Usually, the symbols amount to something more than “oh wow, that looks cool” or “ahhh yes, I will see that whenever I close my eyes for the best month.” In Tamashii?
Not entirely sure what it amounts to; Perhaps I was frustrated with the basic puzzling running against the surface complexity of the imagery. A schism, so to speak: the surface complexity of the narrative stacked against a simple clone based puzzle platformer, which while never bad, is never as seemingly ambitious as it’s visuals. Maybe I just got bored. That’s the balance of horror trading in obscurity. Horror, to me, is looking into some kind of void. Sometimes the void answers, sometimes it deepens. It can reach up, holding a mirror from some other place and time.
Horror, intrinsically, knows something about you that you do not want to know. Junji Ito’s Uzumaki knows that the comfort of the known is fleeting. That a symbol can be a threat as well as a home. Kitty Horrorshow’s Anatomy knows that your home rots, hates. Lives with you. Tarsier’s Little Nightmares knows you live in a world predisposed to eating itself. Tamashii doesn’t feel like it knows something beyond a fear of the unknown.
To play Tamashii is to revel in how cool Japanese Horror is. How beautifully hideous the pixel art is. How the puzzles skip along nicely. It is worthwhile, for sure. I like this game. It was my own expectations going in — a mystery is enticing, inspired by Ito? Obscure horror? God, yeah sure let’s go.
But I’m let down by what lies behind the curtain. It doesn’t linger in the mind like the works it reveres. Like the works I revere. Perhaps over time, but it has been months, and still… Nothing.