Sorry, babies. Your playing of this week’s reviewed title is ill-advised, because according to the internet it is only for those with nerves of steel. I first saw Akemi-tan recommended on Reddit, where it was lauded for its graphics, though many possibly found the title via The Free Games Blog, which gave it what in the realm of horror amounts to a glowing review.
“It’s the sort of horror where you innocently look out of the window one moment, and the next you’re curled up in a crying ball and soaked in your own piss,” writes Viv, taking over for co-blogger Mickey, who dropped the title out of PURE TERROR. These guys aren’t just any two plumbers off the street, either: they’ve played the whole indie RPG gamut. You know, all those scary games, like… Well, you know, the scary ones.
(Remind me if I’m ever freaked out by a game that I can always give it a huge promotion push like this, just sayin’.) To be honest, though I’ve written about these sorts of games for a while and played them for even longer but I never actually thought they actually scared anybody (obviously except Pom Gets Wi-Fi). I figured if you were that kind of person you wake up one day and look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Yep, I guess I’m Pewdiepie,” and then use your absurd lack of composure to make ridiculous bank.
The kind of realism needed for purely visceral fear is just totally absent in this genre. Truly lingering fear from powerful storytelling is closely connected with an all-consuming sadness, and also actually requires powerful storytelling, in the vaguest sense; sound design, for one thing, is important, and so are graphics, mechanics, themes, dialogue…
The fact that Japanese game engine-made horror RPGs often rely on the same narrow set of tropes means it takes a distinctive approach to any of these categories leave a lasting impact. Excepting that it’s meant to be a biblical allegory, “Akemi-tan” is pretty standard as far as these games go — same resources, same themes, same style.
The cast is mostly kawaii anime girls, which is fine, though it seems to be more a limitation of the medium than an aesthetic decision, as drawing anime-style portraits is clearly not the artist’s forte, and the kawaiiness is kind of… botched. Also, it’s 2015 and I never want to see the RTP sprites ever again.
What is unique in “Akemi-tan’s” graphics is the collection of horrific monster images that have been generating a lot of buzz in the player community, though these are largely only used in-game to the effect of jump scares. For me, though, the disturbing high point of the game is a CG about halfway through which subverts the archetype of the innocent Japanese schoolgirl protagonist because the main character is vomiting on herself and laughing to tears after bashing a woman’s head in with a hammer. It’s really effective, but she passes out promptly afterwards and wakes up with no recollection of the event and totally clean. A sad trick.
Have you heard of VitaminChii? No? You have probably heard her, though. She is the boilerplate young Japanese horror girl voice in the indiesphere. I wish this were only time I felt the need to address this, but I recognized her Greensleeves cover here from its equally ludicrous use in Mad Father. Game developers of Japan? Yeah, uh, hi. Greensleeves is a Christmas song. Dance of the Mirlitons, Kona5, is also a Christmas song.
My god, this means that someone is distributing these files on a free bgm site to unwitting Asian content producers, who then use it in their horror game. To ye who can read English, I make this humble plea: please stop using Christmas songs in your horror soundtrack. Actually, don’t use them in any soundtrack, ever. The only emotions evoked by Christmas songs in the horror genre are confusion and Christmas, and most attempts to combine the two have ended with historical sloppiness.
The story itself, in no way aided by the lackluster sound effects, is decent enough; the game was translated by Tosiaki7 and by the author separately (I think?), though I only played the version on RMN. It was legible (a great adjective to review story-writing with) though not without its hiccups, which is to be expected — though if you are the Japanese developer(s) addressed in the last paragraph, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of English speakers willing to proofread for you, myself included.
You are a girl named Shimoko who brings an offering to the village shrine to placate their patron god, the Ou. Taking any of the food meant to be offered is forbidden, but it’s like three steps to your house and you are a growing woman, dammit, so that’s the last we see of that episode, and naturally things go to hell pretty quickly. There’s a little more depth to the plot, though suffice it to say that depth consists of an angry maid, your two morally reprehensible friends, and magical girl Jesus. My first run of “Akemi-tan” was sort of bothersome.
To illustrate my point, I played this game to procrastinate on putting together a powerpoint, but about thirty minutes in I absent-mindedly minimized it and worked on the powerpoint regardless, because my brain had just wandered off. The structure of gameplay is awkward, and usually involves doing rounds on every room of the building to see if something has changed, repeatedly. Enjoy such puzzles as:
- Going to the bathroom
- Sometimes the things break when you hit them with a hammer but sometimes they don’t though!! (/ w \)
- Wandering around the house until a jumpscare pops up
- Wandering around the house until a jumpscare pops up
I was a lot more interested my second time, even though I was only speedrunning to write the walkthrough you see below, because I think the game is best appreciated while leaning on a step-by-step guide, instead of getting bored during the time it takes to figure out the next requirement. With that said, here’s the walkthrough, with jumpscares bolded. (The gr8 chapter titles are my addition.)
Chapter 1: Trouble in Paradise
Approach the shrine. Go up the stairs. Go back down the stairs and interact with the table to the right. Mourn the loss of the dead cat (RIP you were the best NPC). Endure cutscene.
Chapter 2: Comeuppance
Go directly to your room (upper hallway, bottom left-most door). Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Walk two steps. Endure cutscene. Try the main door. Go up the hall towards Octopus Man. Enter the top left-most door into the sitting room and check out the window. Enter the dining room (left on the vertical hallway). Run back to your room in fear. While you’re at it, read the diary at Shimoko’s desk. Go to the bathroom (upper right-most) and look in the basket for your cell phone. Rather than escaping, dawdle around the house like a dumbass so the monster has plenty of opportunity to gut you like a pig.
Let’s return to the sitting room! Look at the top bureau and you’ll see you need a password to open the NANKIN LOCK. Lucky for us, Mr. Shimoda is a dum-dum and anyone who’s ever emptied an ex’s bank account via ATM should be able to solve this puzzle.
Save in the kitchen (vertical hallway, right) before entering the washitsu, the only room left unexplored. You probably shouldn’t come in because monster kill you! Admire the squiggle art and then try the door you came through. Once the monster is fully emerged, you have a good chunk of time to position yourself in front of it and use the shotgun from your inventory. You know, the shotgun! The thing you use to shoot people at point blank range. Enter the hole against all reason and start walking forward right away. There will be a door you can step on, and if there isn’t, it means u done goofed and need to start over.
Chapter 3: A Bird in Hand
Investigate both of the upper rooms. The left is Ebiko’s, where you can look at a photo of Shimoko and her friends. The right is a storage room, but there are two mannequins blocking your way.
That done, go to the washitsu (downstairs, around the corner, right on the vertical hallway). There’s nothing to do in here. Also, one of the mannequins is now outside. SPOOKERS MCGEE!!! That means you can get the shiny object in the attic. It’s a backscratcher. You know… like a shiny backscratcher.
Enter the living room with your new apparatus (straight down from the stairs) and retrieve the shiny on top of the bookshelf. It’s a key for the bottom-most storage room, wherein lies a hammer. Jesus, why not just give us a hammer. Always with the roundabouts. With the hammer you can become a master safecracker and break open the NANKIN-LOCKED box in the attic. The memo inside doesn’t really make any sense, but it does trigger our next event.
Save in the living room and walk towards the mannequin in the hallway. The bathroom door will open, allowing you inside. There’s a shiny in the bathtub, but unfortunately Samara Morgan won’t let us get to it. After a dramatic closeup on her tacky dress, she will chase you around the house (“She is chasing me!” Shimoko adds helpfully). Go through the living room, through the kitchen, back into the washitsu, and quickly hide behind that one open door.
The freed-up key in the bathtub leads to the basement… area… through the door beside the main entrance. Kyoko
Sakura Kirigiri Irisu Ise, your friend’s mom, is locked inside a closet. She doesn’t know where the key is (It’s only her own house!), so now you finally have an objective and gotta go find it. Go upstairs and to the room on the right.
The door is open ‘cuz there’s blood now. Walk around a bit until the middle part of the wall starts to bleed. Use the hammer on the wall because when a wall is bleeding that means there’s a secret room behind it, even though there wasn’t all the other times a wall was bleeding. Go in your newly formed hidey hole. SOME DUDE is BLOCKING THE WAY. You would think Shimoko would notice that whilst tearing the wall down, but that’s expecting too much from our spinach-headed friend.
Go back to the wash-it-sue to trigger the next event. It’s a contrived method of preventing you from using that hiding place again. Return to the attic and wait there for about a minute for the woman in Ebiko’s room to go away. If you try to go past her door otherwise you’ll initiate an unbeatable chase. The black notebook she was fixed on contains an eyeball(?) which you can use on Statue Bro back in the hidden room. There’s nothing of value there once he moves out of your way, but it’s nice sometimes to do a good deed. Eh, maybe you should give up.
Save in the living room and go tell Ebiko’s mom she’s on her— oh shit! Samara Morgan is there. Again the cutscene will throw you off the scent of where you’re supposed to go, but if you examined the open (doorless?) locker in the hidden room, you’ll remember Shimoko’s incredibly ominous comment about how she could hide in there during the next chase scene. This chase is not a close shave like the last one. Cross through the kitchen/tv room again and make a break for the locker room. Statue-san will nobly give his life to buy you enough time to hide in the locker. RIP in pepperonis Statue-san. You died a hero.
You’ll find Akemi-tan in the washitsu. Guide her up to Ebiko’s bedroom, where a cutscene ensues.
Get the key and save before rescuing Kyouko. She’s—! She’s flashing, she’s— oh. She turned into a head. … I don’t get it. This is the worst chase in the game because the door is locked and so you just run around in shitty circles. Start by going up towards the door. Do a lap around the room clockwise while she hops after you. On the second lap she’ll start thrashing around so you might need to double back to dodge once you’re towards the bottom of the room again. Then she’ll get tired out and stop, so as fast as you can, try to run into her (from the side the sprites give the illusion that they’re lined up when they aren’t, which will fuck this up) and quickly use the hammer.
Chapter 4: Humble Origins
After the cutscene, go up again until you find the next door. This is my favorite part of the game because there are sparklies, which tells you a lot about my standards. The third room upstairs has a new photo of Shimoko and her friends. The first room has a doll in the closet, and the middle room has a book about the Ou and a memo, which actually only rendered correctly for me when I wasn’t using app locale and window title was still garbled. If you can’t see it: > > > > >. This is not a hint for the dark room downstairs but for the library downstairs right (hover for puzzle answer!).
Use this key to get the lighter out of the cabinet in the memo room. Now you can light up the dark room (left) downstairs. Grab the 5 OIL UNITS from the basket in the northeast corner. Go visit the big doll again. It will chase you but it’s not very fast.
Save upstairs before examining the red doll in the library (you actually have to interact with it). You’ll need to do laps around the library ideally to get the four dolls in a line towards the bottom of the screen. Then go as fast as you can to the red one and use one of your oils on it. Repeat this process four more times before finally setting him ablaze. I’m not kidding.
Do not let the four tan dolls get too far apart from each other because their greatest strength is their ability to spread out. Just wait towards the bottom until they’re pretty close and then run to the red doll, applying oil from the opposite side so you can make a quick getaway and do figure eights. The oil-dumping process delays you about a second, while setting it on fire is instantaneous.
Briefly celebrate your victory. Go into the washitsu and then the double washitsu behind that. Octopus Man is eating(?) some corpses. He will turn into a silhouette with buggy eyes which does not start a chase sequence but is a portal to the next segment of the game.
Chapter 5A: Fair-Weather Friends
Go upwards generally following the eyeballs until you get to the next door. After the cutscene, go up the forest path (to your left is the shrine from the start of the game, with the exit path blocked off, and to the right is a path that leads to a gameover). There are stumps in the way, so you’ll need to go around the right-hand side beneath the trees. Enter the cabin, read the memo, and save. Notice what’s on the roof before moving on.
When you enter the forest clearing, a horde of angry red ocarinas will surround you, but they’ll be repelled by use of the lighter. Darn, if only everything were that easy. Ignore the warehouse, go up and follow the path left (to the right is the gameover path… again) and retrieve the key from the cabin. Just south is a cliff (ah… perspective is hard…), but ignore it for now and instead go back to the second cabin to get access to the delicious pushable crate inside. This shouldn’t be much of a maneuvering puzzle because there’s space underneath the trees on either side of you. Bring it down to the first warehouse and retrieve the rope on top.
Use the rope back at the cliff to climb down/up (I’m actually not sure) and retrieve Ebiko’s cell phone. The black-haired lady will appear and reveal that secretly all along she’s had really ugly teeth. I think the implication is supposed to be that she ate Ebiko, but we already saw multiple times that she just goes around and claws things to death, so… maybe she was eating the ocarinas.
This is just a cutscene, so enjoy not having to be chased around yet again. Shimoko decides to stand up for herself and beats the shit out of Samara Morgan, saying “GO HELL! GO HELL!” She used to be on the varsity cheer squad; hell is the local school mascot for obvious reasons. God bless Kona5.
Finally she’s dead. She’s obviously not dead, because if Shimoko were any good at demon streetfighting, she wouldn’t have had a problem with a severed head and some wooden dolls that were both completely defenseless. Talk to Samara to make DOUBLY SURE she’s dead and trigger the next cutscene. That’s… not really what she looked like before. Akemi comes to save the day, and banishes the monster who was possessing Ebiko’s body the whole time. Oh my gosh!
Chapter 5B: SHE LOOKS SO TOUGH
The game briefly branches off after chapter 4 if this is your second playthrough. Grab the four daggers in the chest and save. After you encounter the woman in blue, Shimoko will start to run. Don’t press any keys so you can tell when the cutscene stops and the chase starts. Make sure to stay straight down the middle; the four daggers are to stun your enemy because her running speed is faster than Shimoko’s casual trot (could you hurry it up, please?).
Unless you have incredible reaction time, do not wait for her to enter the frame to turn around and throw one. Instead, do it about every few seconds so you can leverage the stun time enough to make it down the entire hallway. There’s another portal waiting for you at the bottom, and you’ll be taken back to 5A.
Chapter 6: The Meaning of Christmas
The whole town has taken refuge inside a… hotel, I guess. You can’t access any of the rooms but your own, though you can chat with the locals wandering around. “This is so irritating!” says one woman. Yeah, the townspeople being slaughtered is so irritating! You know what else was irritating? The BOMBING OF DRESDEN. Can I get a woot woot from all da Germanz in da house?
Takeshi or whatever the dude-friend’s name is will tell you your room is on the second floor. You’ll encounter your parents for a moment before they lazy-RPG-flash-of-black away, which is part of the reason why Shimoko has trust problems.
Once the friends are settled in your room, you’ll need to wander off by yourself in search of a toilet. You could check every possible door for the right one, or if you ask Tofu, he’ll teleport you there and say “Here, please,” implying you have a history of peeing on the floor unless otherwise asked. The one on the left is for women, the one on the right for guys, although the two bathrooms are identical. This font of mine still isn’t working, but I assume what appears as a dot is supposed to be a male symbol. Here you go: ♂ Now you have the complete experience.
Somewhere, someone produced a pouring coffee sound effect and naively failed to anticipate it would be used to denote a 19-year-old anime girl peeing. To be honest, I’m surprised she held it in this long if you consider the game scary, though to me the scariest thing is the fact she LEAVES THE BATHROOM WITHOUT WASHING HER HANDS. Think of how many things and people she will touch with her pee-hands!
Return to your room and you’ll be taken to the town meeting cutscene. Take a look at that construction chick top-right. WHAT IS SHE DOING. That had to be on purpose. That’s great. Also there is a panda on the left. After Ebiko faints, go in your room and talk to Akemi, then head downstairs and down the top-left hallway (seems to be the magic direction). Keep walking until the cutscene happens. Then go back upstairs and check on Ebiko. Akemi offers to sacrifice herself instead, and the rest is history, or slightly different history if it’s your second time through.