Indika Review (PS5) | Push Square


Indika is a game of wild contradiction. It’s compelling, thoughtful, and ambitious, but also tedious, rote, and derivative. It’s the sort of video game that ruminates on the nature of devout faith, free will, guilt, shame, temptation, and morality, and then asks you to solve boring box puzzles. It’s the sort of video game that asks you to solve boring box puzzles and then leaves you earnestly wondering whether the box puzzles were intentionally boring just to mess with you.

You play as a young nun at a convent in 19th century Russia — she’s also named Indika — who doesn’t seem to be popular among the other nuns, perhaps because she’s awkward, fidgety, and odd. She’s in regular communication with the devil, too, which we suppose doesn’t help, although whether that’s literal, a metaphor, or a sign of mental health problems remains up for debate.

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The devil is an amusing presence, frequently challenging Indika on her faith and posing her ethical quandaries in an attempt to illustrate the inherent absurdity it sees in Christian fundamentalist teachings. The entity doesn’t so much mock her or her faith, but rather pokes at loopholes and looks for contradictions, chipping away at the foundations of her beliefs with each barb.

At one point the devil asks Indika to rank sins. Surely, it posits, if after a confession a priest can assign a penance based on the severity of the transgressions confessed then there must be a hierarchy to sin. If the priest demands you say a ‘Hail Mary’ after confessing a theft, and ten after a murder, then are ten thefts equal to a murder in the eyes of God? Is a rapist better than a murderer, it asks? Wisely, the game never attempts to answer these questions.

Close to the beginning of the game, Indika is given a letter that must be hand-delivered to a monk in a far-off monastery, but she’s instructed not to read it under any circumstances. She sets off on her journey across Russia with only the voices in her head for company, but she soon meets an injured prison escapee and begins to care for him, and the two become travelling companions.

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The convict — Ilya — is a generally well-meaning but quixotic sort; a man who believes himself to be chosen by God after cheating death. Ilya, like the devil, serves as an interesting counterpoint to Indika, and the interplay between them forms the basis for some of the game’s most interesting narrative ponderings. As the devil pokes holes in Indika’s beliefs, she too jabs at Ilya’s conviction that his survival can be attributed to a miracle, that God has chosen him for something greater.

The game touches on some pretty serious topics and it left us slack-jawed on more than one occasion at just how bleak it’s willing to get, but it breaks up all of the sour and the dour with some true moments of levity. There’s an absurdist element to the game, and it frequently drifts into surrealism. As mentioned previously, the devil is a source of comedy, but Indika herself is funny too, with an occasionally biting wit.

The writing of her character is strong, but Indika is also wonderfully animated and acted. We played the game using the Russian voice acting, but we tried it in English too and it’s an excellent translation. The way that Indika moves is unsettling in just the right ways. She’s constantly fiddling with her hands, biting her nails, twitching awkwardly. She seems entirely uncomfortable in her own skin, and however you choose to interpret her relationship with the devil — be it supernatural or all in her mind — it works.

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What works a little less well is the moment-to-moment gameplay of Indika, which we’d charitably refer to as serviceable. Most of the game is spent walking from one point to another with some light platforming elements and some pushing around of boxes, none of which is anything special. Brevity works in the game’s favour here, as while the puzzle-solving and platforming remains the weakest part of Indika from start to finish, at five or six hours the game simply isn’t long enough for it to ever become a real problem.

But for all of our disappointment with some aspects of Indika’s gameplay, now and again the game will unexpectedly shift genre, or play with conventions in a way you might not expect. For example, throughout the game you can earn experience points by finding artefacts or solving puzzles, and you can use those points to work through a skill tree to unlock skills that are absolutely worthless.

Lots of games have skill trees that feel worthless due to poor planning rather than design, but here it’s intentional. You can unlock nodes on the skill tree to increase rank in things like shame or guilt, neither of which help you at all in the game. At one point, very early on, you’re tasked with collecting water from the well and you’re asked to do this over and over again to fill a barrel, your hard work for the convent earning you more Jesus points to spend on the useless skill tree with each pour.

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There are moments like this peppered throughout Indika, and we’ll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions as to what the game is trying to say. That’s part of the joy of Indika, honestly. It asks a lot of questions but answers few. It’s ambiguous in just the right ways, right down to the somewhat astonishing finale, which could be seen as devastating or hopeful depending on how you interpret it.


While we’ve got issues with some of the less than adventurous gameplay mechanics, in most other regards Indika is an absolute triumph. It teeters on a cliff edge, tonally, but never goes too far in any one direction. It never becomes preachy, or maudlin, or too silly for its own good. It’s a wonderful balancing act, and one that it continues right up until its final moments which will leave you unsure about whether you should laugh or cry.

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