Indica Review – Profitable Belief

Indica is exotic, surprising and fascinating. As a young nun tormented by a demon doubts her faith, its titular heroine questions its reality. This odd adventure from its aptly named developer Ad Meter lacks some design polish, but the compelling story at its center instilled enough faith in me to see it through to the end.

The game unfolds in early 19th century Russia. Indika is considered an outcast in her ashram and for some reason she is regularly taunted by Satan’s voice. The story doesn’t delve into how this sacrificial relationship began, and that’s fine. The Devil is a storytelling device; Symbolic of Indika’s desire to be a good person, her growing skepticism and pragmatism in the Church’s strict views on morality and sin contrasts with her. This conflict comes to a head when Indika finds herself in an unlikely partnership with Ilya, an escaped prisoner with strong religious beliefs of his own.

As the couple searches for a divine cure for their ailments – Indika’s demonic presence and IIya’s injured arm – the third-person adventure sees them trek through places like deserted factories and frozen forests. Along the way, players will solve environmental puzzles and avoid threats in rare cases. The obstacles are respectably designed and varied, focusing on Indica inexplicably operating heavy machinery like a lift to move and stack giant cans or maneuver the massive gears of an industrial elevator. Less enjoyable moments, such as escaping from a stalking wolf in an annoying trial-and-error escape sequence, are rarely seen, thankfully.

The game becomes most interesting when a demonic influence engulfs Indica and the world around her turns a hellish red and the environment splits into a distorted version of itself. This leads to relatively simple but thematically interesting navigation puzzles as players switch between this hellscape and reality by pressing the “pray” button to find the right path. These are neat parts that I wish happened more often than the small handful that they do.

Surrounding the environment leads to hidden collectibles ranging from religious artifacts to “vulgar” publications that award reward points, which manifest as literally giant pixelated gems found in front of Indica. This weird visual flourish is wild wild wild for the realistic art direction, and these points make the story less literal through a two-pronged skill tree of indica point modifiers (themed around ideas like shame, guilt, and remorse). It appears.

This is just an example of Indika’s strangeness. Overtly video game-y elements such as quirky, chiptune melodies and flashbacks are sprinkled throughout the experience as the playable 16-bit platformer unfolds in sequences. It is unclear whether or not this approach has any thematic significance (perhaps symbolizing the relative simplicity of Indica’s childhood), but, at the very least, it gives Indica a surreal and playful charm.

From the strange people you meet in the game to the weird camera angles to its wild intro cutscene I won’t spoil, the game delivers a strong dose of absurdity that works strangely. Indica feels like black humor on some levels, and maybe that’s the intention. It swings for the fences, and that delightful courage is combined with a poignant commentary on the struggle to maintain unwavering faith in a harsh, unjust world. Indika’s engaging and at times, emotional personal journey of self-discovery drew me to a powerful conclusion that, as for the rest, leaves its interpretation up to the player.

The result is an adventure that is thoughtfully conceived, humorous and simultaneously depressing, and “off” in just the right way. Indica is one of the most impressive and memorable adventures of the year, and its themes stick with me as I continue to ponder their meanings.

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