top of page
  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Indika - Faith Value (Review)


Released:  May 2nd, 2024

Developer: Odd Meter

Publisher: 11 Bit Studios

Systems: PC, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox X/S

An old nun opens her mouth to reveal a small man wearing baby clothes and he dances around to an aggressive drum & bass track. 

There’s no better way to begin a summary of Indika than to simply describe the moment the game makes clear it’s something special - and Indika is special. 

Jumping into themes that other games would be terrified to approach, this compelling exploration of faith and morality is definitely weird, but what’s weirder is how its strangeness isn’t the most notable aspect. Indeed, as the game continues, it reveals some of the best writing I’ve seen in a videogame, presenting a journey I’ll never quite forget.

Indika is a young nun, ostracized by her convent despite her subservience. Questioning her belief in God’s great plan, she is egged on to further doubts by a devilish voice in her head. His goading and taunting, however combative, carries with it one of the most dangerous things of all - a bloody good point!

As a game, Indika is a changeling for which genres have no fixed borders. It’s not quite an adventure game, not quite a walking sim, not quite a horror game. It begins with deceptive tedium, making you slowly ferry water from a well multiple times when doing it once is slow enough. This sluggish start does nothing to telegraph what’s coming. 

Indika’s subsequent mission - deliver a mysterious letter - is derailed by a shifting and sometimes surreal trip through disparate gameplay experiences. It should be a mess, and maybe it is, but it doesn’t feel like one at all. 

There’s plenty of walking and talking, but it’s constantly pulled into chase sequences, environmental puzzles, and platforming. Sometimes there’s an entire graphical and mechanical shift from visually standardized third-person to pixel-based flashbacks evoking Mario, Pac-Man, and a rhythmic take on Frogger. 

You earn points for finding religious artifacts and taking certain actions. Earning enough will allow you to level up and choose from a skill tree that only offers upgrades to the amount of points you earn. The points, as loading screens warn, are pointless, a waste of time. It’s the kind of indie trick I’d be tempted to find pretentious, but it fits the tone far too well for that. 

Oh, and what a tone! It’s morbid, it’s dark, it dabbles in sensitive subject matter, and it can be funny when it chooses. It is strange, packed with thoroughly bizarre imagery. It’s also startlingly human. 

Over the course of the narrative, its weirdness melts away, always hovering in the periphery but ceding ground to an intelligent, touching, exploratory story about a young woman trying to make sense of a cruel and perhaps Godless world. Her story brings her into contact with Ilya, an escaped prisoner who believes his gangrenous arm will be healed by the power of faith, and their debates are fun to listen to. 

Ilya’s relentless, if sometimes confused, belief in God’s favor is challenged by Indika’s piercing questions. She asks if free will really matters if the god who gifted it only wants us to behave a certain way. She asks if the threat of Hell encourages genuine love or a coerced and fearful reverence. 

While questioning her faith in some really salient ways, Indika is clearly trying to retain it, trying to convince herself that it’s not all bullshit rather than convince Ilya it is. This is where the Devil comes in, the mocking voice that very much falls on the “it’s bullshit” side of things. The interactions between these two are where the dialog absolutely glimmers. 

In one particular sequence, the Devil twists Indika’s assertion that reading a private letter is a sin, asking her to quantify it in relation to other sinful acts. How many opened letters does it take to make you as bad as a murderer? Simply by attempting to clarify and classify the concept of sin, the Devil makes an intimidating amount of sense.

Then he plunges the world into a crimson Hell so Indika can solve puzzles by praying to switch between realities. Y’know, it keeps things spicy. 

Where so many games fear creeping anywhere near contentious portrayals of real-world organized religion, Indika openly challenges the tenets of the Catholic Church. If mainstream games had an iota of Indika’s spine, they’d almost stop resembling invertebrates. 

I think it should be obvious I’m not a religious girl. I don’t believe in God, and I am disturbed by the opinions and actions some people perpetuate in his name. I spent fourteen years in Mississippi, I have a problem with unquestioning obedience to that which is less than a ghost. I won’t assume the developer’s beliefs, but I was nodding along to a lot of the eloquently worded cynicism.

Visually, Indika can be a little basic and rough, but the environments are perfectly moody and the facial animations do exactly what they need to do. More stylized moments - such as when the world becomes a Hellish landscape - look striking as… Hell. Those retro flashback sequences particularly stand out. They can be a little frustrating to play, but they look gorgeous.

Voice acting deserves a special mention. It’s bloody good. The characters play off each other so well. Indika’s fearfulness and social anxiety are wonderfully conveyed, and it makes her all the more likable in her moments of confidence. Ilya is a sympathetic character, and the Devil is performed to perfection, a sneering, contemptuous little shit who nonetheless hits out with some real thinkers. 

Indika reminds me of another brilliant game, What Became of Edith Finch? The engrossing writing woven through a genre-bending production steeped in memorable imagery deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as a true indie classic. 

Wait, no… this game deserves to be seen as such in its own right. 

Whether being stalked by a monstrously vicious dog, riding a motorbike through treacherous woods, or moving gigantic fish cans with heavy machinery, players will see and do a lot over the course of a game that only lasts a few hours. Those hours are packed with ideas, propelled by compelling and peculiar scenes. 

Indika is a treasure of a game, an adventure that truly defies expectations. Constantly surprising and laudably bold in its subject matter, this story of a questioning nun and the devil in her head is among the best things I’ve ever played. A little dash of jank does nothing to take away what this game is - a landmark of strange and fascinating storytelling.



bottom of page