The PS1 remains one of my favourite consoles, constantly surprising me with its hidden gems. One such gem is "Iru!", a captivating and mysterious game that has gone unnoticed due to its lack of a Western release. Fortunately, a community translation exists, allowing adventurous players to explore the enigmatic story and experience something unforgettable, similar to discovering hidden cinematic marvels that inspire.
"Iru!" is no ordinary game; it beckons players into a world where thriller and mystery intertwine. "Iru!" draws us into a realm where the unknown thrives, and inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
We are introduced to our character, Tatsuya Inaba, an exchange student, we are at a school on a Japanese island. It's after school hours and we are still at the school. Other students are preparing for a grand festival and the only thing Inaba can do is to talk to them or help them.
As we engage more with our peers, we notice a subtle shift towards the peculiar and something eerie. While nothing is explicitly bizarre enough to point out, this very element contributes to the game's captivating nature, urging us to delve deeper into the mysteries at hand. The more we explore, the further the story unfolds, guided primarily by the player's input. The game's progression is intrinsically tied to the player's actions; it halts when the player does, emphasizing their control over the narrative. Yet, amidst this player empowerment, "Iru!" manages to keep us actively immersed in the world around us. Even when we feel we understand something, the game surprises us with random and unforeseen events.
We venture through the empty corridors of the school in a First-Person perspective and the school's map design mainly consists of corridors, doors and rooms. This perspective offers an intimate and intense encounter with the game's world. The narrow, dimly lit hallways and claustrophobic spaces amplify the feeling of vulnerability, keeping players on edge as they navigate the unknown. The atmospheric design, including flickering lights, subtle ambient sounds, and haunting visuals, heightens the tension and creates a chilling ambiance that stays with players throughout their journey.
"Iru!" utilizes gameplay for discovery and exploration. As players advance, they uncover crucial clues by carefully inspecting their surroundings and searching for secrets hidden within the school. The standout feature is its atmospheric prowess. Walking through empty corridors and classrooms evokes an overwhelming sense of dread, making every decision feel consequential, both alluring and frightening. The game masterfully instills a feeling of loneliness, coupled with the unsettling sensation of being watched, adding to its overall eerie allure.
And...There are monsters in the game. I'm not going to spoil anything. But normally, I'm not drawn to outwardly comical or malevolent characters and monsters, yet "Iru!" successfully immerses players in its gameplay, making the characters and monsters a non-issue for me. The game's ability to enthrall us through interactivity and atmospheric subtleties overshadows any reservations about its darker elements.
"Iru!" takes us on a journey where curiosity and fascination merge with fear and uncertainty. The game embraces players with a chilling embrace, enticing them to unravel its secrets. As you traverse through the corridors, you'll find yourself piecing together clues, struggling to decipher cryptic messages, and uncovering the veil that shrouds the underlying truth.
While "Iru!" may not be considered a masterpiece, playing it in 2023 offered me a fresh perspective. From a user experience standpoint, it is great with its simplicity and easy-to-understand mechanics. Although the repetitive clue-hunting could be a drawback, it fits well within the game's context. Personally, I found "Iru!" to be an inspiring piece. While the story didn't change my life, the combination of gameplay, narrative, and creepy graphics made it one of my favourite gaming experiences.
Publisher: Takara - Platform: PS1