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Indika review - A bizarre, beautiful, and unforgettable journey of a scorned nun

Indika isn't just any ol’ nun, however. She happens to be accompanied by the devil.

The Indika logo is shown above a four-star review score for the game, with Ilya and Indika blurred in the background
Image credit: VG247/Odd Meter

Indika is a game that definitely isn’t for everyone, as I very quickly learned while stepping into the titular protagonist’s shoes. The story first starts in a Russian Orthodox monastery, where Indika - a nun who is hearing a devilish voice - is clearly scorned by her peers. As the others tire of her, she is expelled from the monastery and ends up on a philosophical journey of self-discovery and self-loathing, questioning everything that she has known up until now.

Who determines what acts are more sinful than others? And are the punishments for our sins fair? If humans are sinful, why aren’t animals? Is a soul needed to experience love? If so, is God capable of truly loving anyone? These are just a small handful of the increasingly analytical questions that Indika raises on her short, puzzling adventure; an adventure that forces you to conjure up your innermost thoughts on morality and religion, while experiencing what is a stoic criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church and institutional religion.

Indika, put in the simplest of terms, is a relatively serious game (with some offbeat, comedic moments) that has you traveling from place to place as a troubled nun in an attempt to deliver a letter, but of course, other priorities come to light. There’s platforming, clever environmental puzzles to solve (that aren’t too troubling), and a thought-provoking story which is heavily influenced by directors Ari Aster (Midsommar, Beau is Afraid) and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Poor Things), as well as writers Nikolai Gogol and Mikhail Bulgakov.

As a result, you find yourself whisked away into a small but thorough world - set in an alternate late 19th century and early 20th century Russia - where you must pay the utmost attention to your surroundings…as well as the voice inside Indika’s head… to truly get the most out of the experience.

You can expect all the uncomfortable feelings that come with viewing any Aster or Lanthimos movie, as well as much more explicit ties to Bulgakov’s writing, especially The Master and Margarita. Even the darkly comic elements you’d expect from each director or writer are persistent in Indika. It clearly strives to make you, the player, uncomfortable, while also keeping you on the edge of your seat, and Indika is very successful in doing so.

Indika runs through a factory while being pursued by a creature in Indika
Image credit: Odd Meter/11 bit studios

Indika’s perilous journey is somewhat lightened by vibrant flashbacks to her past - to begin with, anyway. These take the form of colorful, 16-bit minigames that directly contrast with the snowy, hyper-realistic landscape Indika has been trawling through, and they have you doing all manner of tasks: driving a bike with her father, platforming to her rooftop to meet a mysterious boy. These, alongside the chiptune music that accompanies much of the game, definitely feel out of place much of the time, but that aids Indika with achieving the bizarre and positively maddening atmosphere that it is so clearly striving for.

The more flashbacks you experience, and the more you progress with Indika’s journey, it becomes clear as day that Indika’s story is one of trauma and unjustness. A story of a girl experiencing endless shame and guilt for reasons she has been taught are fair, but she clearly - deep down - feels they are unfair. This is where our narrator comes in, a being that not only establishes the scene for us, but torments Indika about her innermost thoughts and desires, revealing them to us, the player.

It’s plain to see how Indika has felt slighted by her elders under the pretense of sin and punishment, just as it’s plain to see why Indika has ended up amidst an internal battle with herself. Indika is a game that takes the idea of having an angel and a devil on your shoulder and employs them literally, with the angel being Indika’s conscience - her beliefs, prayer, and everything she has known up until now - and the devil being our narrator, detailing all of Indika’s temptations. Whether these temptations are Indika’s personal beliefs or ones that the devil on her shoulder is tormenting her with, I’m not quite sure. Nor is Indika sure, given how things play out. The final result is a conscious battle between Indika’s reality and her desires, and an utterly thought-provoking experience for the player.

Indika can be seen clutching a crucifix as the world splits around her in Indika
Image credit: Odd Meter/11 bit studios

The voice inside Indika’s head leads to some interesting gameplay, too. For example, there are moments when the narrator’s accursed voice is too much to bear, and the environment begins to crumble as a result. Indika can use prayer to manipulate the environment back to its original state, helping her access new locations, but she won’t be able to flee the decaying environment and devilish narrator entirely if she wants to make it all the way.

That's not to say that the whole story plays out inside Indika's head, and her relationship with the narrator isn't the only touchstone for communication in the game. Indika also very quickly meets an injured soldier, Ilya, who saves her from a situation gone awry before kidnapping her. The two go on to form an unlikely bond that sees them discussing God and miracles, and here, we see Indika’s skepticism of Ilya’s beliefs. He believes he can be cured and that this is all part of God’s plan for him; a voice in his head that he believes to be God tells him so, but Indika seems to doubt this.

Even with her doubts, though, Indika trusts him, with Ilya seemingly providing Indika with a glimmer of hope that she, too, might be cured of her affliction - her temptations - by God. The journey that the two then go on appears to be a journey of redemption, but it soon becomes all too clear that their fate was already laid out for them…raising even more questions about repentance, sin, and of course, what’s fair and unfair? Who decides this?

Throughout the game, Indika also finds herself collecting religious items and lighting candles, which all award her with ‘points’ that the game repeatedly reminds you are pointless. These points are put into a skill tree, with skills such as ‘repentance’ and ‘guilt’ to choose from. It’s never explained to you why these points exist, but Indika, if you choose, continues to mindlessly collect religious paraphernalia and pay respects to the dead in spite of it all. All in all, it goes to show that no matter how religious Indika is, how much she practices or prays, how much good she does for the world around her, Indika’s fate - and Ilya’s - is already sealed.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this is an active criticism of institutional religion and the Russian Orthodox Church, which developer Odd Meter has been vocal about. I also think that Indika perhaps knows this, and this is just a portion of why the voice inside Indika’s head is just so loud and callous.

Indika speaks with soldier, Ilya, about some belongings he has found in Indika
Image credit: Odd Meter/11 bit studios

I say that Indika isn’t for everyone because while it’s a short 5-6 hour experience, it can be rather dire at times, and it requires the player to be able to focus and listen throughout. This was something I struggled with during the game’s quieter moments, but something that is very worthwhile given the many ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moments there are, as well as some questionable environmental decisions. One thing I constantly pondered was why animals are so large in this game…but that’s just one small cog in the machine for Indika and all of its eccentricity.

Ultimately, the more you give to Indika, the more you get out of it; whether it’s pondering the philosophical questions it asks you or soaking in the environment… just don’t anticipate any concrete answers. Indika wants you to come to those conclusions yourself, much like its troubled protagonist.

In an interview between Odd Meter’s founder - Dmitry Svetlow - and Polygon, Dmitry shared their thoughts on Russia’s war on Ukraine. Much of the team at Odd Meter has fled Russia to continue development in Kazakhstan, and a portion of the game’s revenue will be donated to children affected by the war in Ukraine.

Indika was reviewed on PC with a code provided by the publisher. It is available on PC via Steam, Epic Games, and GOG as of May 2, 2024, and will become available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S later in the month.

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