CHIYO Review: A Paranormal Tale With A Lot Of Promise

The latest horror game from Malaysian indie studio Nimbus Games, CHIYO is a first-person horror puzzle game set in Japan during the Edo era. You play as Idate Chiyo, a paranormal investigator with supernatural abilities, tasked with her first assignment to investigate an abandoned mansion in the small coastal city of Gotsu in Shimane Prefecture.

Within the mansion, challenge your wits and nerves with escape room style puzzles and a ghostly presence haunting your every step. Activate unique supernatural powers to pierce the veil of the paranormal realm. Uncover the secrets behind a powerful family’s dark dealings, and the consequences of love and sacrifice.

Developed by: Nimbus Games

Played on: Steam

Length: 8 hours

A paranormal story that breeds paranoia

As one of the most beloved game genres, and one of the hardest to execute, you’ll seldom see horror games make the rounds among the Southeast Asian indie development scene. That’s what made me so excited to pick up Nimbus Games’ latest horror title, a dark and supernatural escape room style game surrounding a powerful family’s buried secrets.

As a fan of horror games myself, CHIYO gets a lot of things right from the get-go. Set in a classic abandoned house on the hill scenario, the player is thrown into a decrepit building with only a dim light and their wits to guide them. Coupled with the game’s award-winning audio design, the game presents a tense atmosphere that breeds delicious paranoia as you turn around every corner.

But what surprised me the most was its narrative, which only grew more compelling as I got further into the game. Told through 2D animated cutscenes and impressive Japanese voice acting, CHIYO contains one of the darker narratives I’ve experienced in recent horror games. For horror game fans looking for an experience that doesn’t dull its fangs for its audience, this title is worth a try.

Unique puzzle solving that’s a little puzzling

CHIYO is largely structured by its puzzle box approach to gameplay. Unlike most horror games, this one allows players to complete most puzzles in any order they please. The flexibility can be refreshing, but it is also a double edged sword as players will need to keep track of which areas of the house they have or haven’t explored yet. Seasoned horror and puzzle gamers will be able to stay afloat, but newer players to the genre may struggle with navigating the mansion; especially with the absence of a map.

What adds to the horror is the ghostly presence haunting your every step, manifesting in the form of an malevolent spirit that you have to avoid as you explore the mansion. If you weren’t already panicked by the presence of the evil spirit, try puzzle solving as she’s right around the corner and your heart will begin pounding.

The puzzles themselves are unique and innovative, showcasing a strong appreciation for Japanese culture through its execution. However, it is worth noting that the puzzles can be a little vague in nature, and I personally spent around 30-45 minutes stuck on solving certain puzzles in my playthrough. In those cases, CHIYO could have benefitted from more overt directions such as quest markers or hints if the player got stuck for too long.

One example is the lack of a Quest Items system in the game. There are several interactable objects that you can add or drop from your inventory as you explore, but only a few are important to the main questline. Although you can certainly backtrack to pick up any important items you’ve left behind, this quality of life feature would be a helpful upgrade.

Worth a play for horror and puzzle gamers

For a reasonable RM32 price tag on Steam, CHIYO boasts an impressive 6 to 8 hours of gameplay. It is definitely not a horror game you can turn your brain off and play, which makes it a worthy experience for the thrill-seekers out there. Amidst the puzzles and thrills is a surprisingly dark story that doesn’t hold back on the horrors. This is only amplified by the game’s excellent voice acting and sound design.

Overall, CHIYO is a good showing from Nimbus Games and certainly worth a play. As a fellow Malaysian and horror game fan, I can’t wait to see what this studio will create next.

Buy or wishlist CHIYO on Steam, follow the developers on Twitter, or watch this writer play the game on Youtube.

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