I was browsing the “Coming Soon” section of the Switch eShop one day when a weird little game called Tamashii caught my eye. I did some research and discovered that it’s a Brazilian horror puzzle platformer that aims to make the player unsettled while it teases their brain. When it finally dropped, I downloaded it (the thing is dirt cheap on most platforms) and found that there is quite a bit to talk about regarding this title.
You are put in the role of an unknown spirit/zombie/thing. Essentially, some kind of entity that only exists in the afterlife. You are summoned by a deity, with a pyramid for a head, to said deity’s temple. Their concern is that there’s some kind of internal, malignant force setting out to usurp it in some manner, and they want you to stop it by exploring the temple’s different chambers and overcoming the obstacles within.
Right away, the game establishes a unique kind of tone that balances religious imagery with a stark, oppressive atmosphere. Like many of From Software’s games, the story is fed through cryptic bits of dialogue, meaning that you kind of struggle to get a full grasp of what the story is trying to say. And like From Software’s games, this serves to enhance the mood. After all, what is a mortal to a God? Why should a mortal being be able to understand divinity? It helps that the graphics are unique, with a muted color pallet that comes to life during the game’s many frantic chase scenes.
Despite all the religious posturing, the game is, at its core, a relatively simple puzzle platformer. Almost immediately, the player is given the ability to make up to three clones of themselves at once. These take the form of bizarre skeletal totems that laugh while they stand still and do nothing. You can’t take a hit from anything without being sent back to the beginning of whatever room you are in. It helps that the game adopts a “less is more” mentality when it comes to its puzzles, because you will die a lot. Puzzles only take a few minutes to solve on a successful run, though, and respawning is almost instant, so you’re never set back too far.
Even though the player never gains any other abilities, the game does a very good job of mixing things up during its brief run time (the game took me a little less than 3 hours to get through, and that’s with a lot of trial and error). Early in the game, puzzles are a simple matter of placing a copy on different colored pedestals to open up color coded blocks in order to reach the switch that opens the door to the end of the level. Later on, the game forces the player to use everything at their disposal—jumping, making copies in mid-air, and using the game space in a way that is unexpected and refreshing. It manages to introduce elements like switches that move copies when activated, leading to some very tricky moments.
Sometimes though, these moments feel more frustrating than anything. There is one puzzle in particular later on that requires perfect spacing of two copies, perfect switch timing, and the ability to guess what’s happening because the way the screen is positioned doesn’t allow for a complete view of what’s happening. None of the puzzles feel impossible, but it’s fair to say that later on some of them feel a bit cheap when compared to some of the earlier ones.
At the end of each of the game’s chambers are boss fights, although, like the rest of the game, these really are more puzzles than anything. The designs for these creatures are disturbing and memorable, with them almost taking the form of hyper-realistic kid’s drawings of human suffering. They go a long way to making the player feel trapped in a purgatorial state, like they will never fully understand what they are seeing, which only adds to the horror. Most of these fights are matters of pattern recognition, and each one feels distinct from the others since each one presents their own unique challenge. For instance, one has you dealing with appearing and disappearing platforms, while another has you running through a platforming gauntlet while the monster chases you.
Outside of the chambers, the game offers a small but dense hub world to explore. There are some extra rooms that mostly consist of Easter eggs and some extra story information. But exploring is kept fresh thanks to the degradation that plagues the temple as the game wears on. Corpses hang on the walls whispering about damnation in once empty hallways. The scenery of a basic platforming section might suddenly change to a dark, squishy aesthetic, filled with screaming and subliminal images. Despite the game’s family friendly genre, it is not for the faint of heart or easily disturbed.
Tamashii is a small scale release in its pricing and scope, but it fits nicely into a niche that many may not have considered before. In other words, it’s a solid game for people who like to be creeped out while solving simple but satisfying puzzles. It is an odd mish-mash to be sure, but one that should be checked out by those with a taste for something different. It wastes no time in getting to its unique form of action, and will stick with you despite its short length.
As a side note, I did play this game in both handheld and docked mode on my Switch. The game runs perfectly well in both modes, but while docked there was an odd screen blur effect that was quite jarring and took some getting used to. Eventually I did get used to it, but it was an odd technical problem that I wasn’t expecting.
Tamashii is now available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.