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Chiyo Review (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 & PC)



Ghostly figure standing in hallway in Chiyo

There's this old saying: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Such is the case with Nimbus Games' hot take on the Edo period—an era that has single-handedly managed to spawn more survival-horror video games than you could dare shake a stick at. Chiyo is out, and it's equally rife with all the appropriate writings and visual components to constitute a genuinely convincing love letter to one of Japan's most influential periods. The question is, are the passages worth reading, or are they merely canon fodder to overcompensate for an otherwise short romp through the traditional motions?

Having spent a fair few hours traipsing through Chiyo and plucking its paper mache wards of all their contents, I can safely say that, from a local standpoint, I'm just about ready to part ways with the Tokugawa shogunate-ruled era. But before I collect my thoughts and nudge the calendar back to its rightful position, I think it would make sense to pepper some well-needed context over the IP—a project that, in all honesty, I was surprisingly keen to pluck clean — if only to unearth the answers to the questions that Nimbus Games had devised several hours prior. Care to join us as we rewind the clock a few hundred years? Then let's go ahead and don our yukatas and jump right in.

Evil in Edo

Chiyo Promotional Art

Chiyo tells the story of Idate Chiyo, a paranormal investigator who, while equipped with supernatural abilities that essentially let her see into the unknown, must unearth the sinister secrets that loom over an abandoned mansion. Think Ghostwire: Tokyocomplete with all the same magic-studded hand gestures, and you'll have a vague idea of what Chiyo's duties entail: going toe-to-toe with the paranormal, and basically using a variation of traditional all-seeing powers to eradicate the alluring threats that wallow between the nooks and crannies of a former residence.

A bread-and-butter survival-horror game at heart, Chiyo doesn't rely on combat to steer its narrative, but instead uses an escape room-like format to churn out a relatively linear progression system that's not only atmospheric in all the right places, but vividly haunting, to say the least. As the newly recruited paranormal investigator of Tokugawa Shogunate's Magical Arcane Division, your goal is to examine objects in the former haven—a mansion that has since been reduced to a shell of a memory—and channel your inner powers to develop a tapestry of clues that explain the dark truth that's hidden behind it.

Story-wise, there isn't a whole lot to wrap your head around: there's a mansion with an evidently questionable history, and there's an evil presence that lurks between the crags and crevices in a desperate attempt to maintain a watchful gaze over your supernatural tendencies. It's all rather straightforward, and so, puzzles aside (that's another story altogether), there isn't all that much to fret about. Again, that isn't taking the copious amounts of brain-bumbling puzzles into account — which we'll gradually segue into shortly.

You'll Never Escape

Parchment on wall in Chiyo

Chiyo rolls out an admirable share of A-to-B puzzles for you to overcome—obstacles with which you must either accommodate while exploring vast open areas in tandem with other disturbingly pressing matters, or reluctantly solve whilst also staying beneath the radar and a stone's throw away from an entity that carefully shadows your every move. Whichever puzzle the game decides to serve you, there's always an alluring sense of dread that stalks you, as is the need to progress before something awful steps in to deplete your momentum and send you back with your tail tucked firmly between your legs. And honestly, that's exactly what kept me moving forward: the paranoia, and not to mention the possibility that something could very well lunge out to claim me at any given moment.

Let it be said that, as far as solving those puzzles went, I often found myself scratching my scalp and hunkering for the next clue—a beat that would course me towards the next portion of the game. However, due to several of the puzzles involving a great deal of consideration and frequent backtracking, I did often lose sight of the overarching threat on a number of occasions. Sure, I could've died, but more often than not, I found that death was insignificant when aligned with a myriad of seemingly unsolvable puzzles and mismatched pieces. But hey — that's an escape room for you, I guess.

Don't get me wrong, when the combinations started to click and the stars began to align and usher in a new scenario for me to explore, things were great—perfect, even. But again, when the puzzles proved to be a tad too perplexing, that feeling of excitement soon took flight and left me worse for wear, and even slightly frustrated, as it turned out.

Forever Watching

Vacant hallway in Chiyo

Of course, I'm prepared to give Nimbus Games the benefit of the doubt and say that, while a minor portion of Chiyo's gameplay does invoke the right to be seen as an escape room-type experience, it isn't all that difficult. Moreover, it's all rather straightforward, providing you know where to look, that is. To this end, I found that if I wasn’t aimlessly roaming about in search of the next clue, I was merrily threading the pieces together to form a complete puzzle—a theme that soon became common throughout the latter portions of the story once the initial tasks were no longer a burden.

Aside from all the puzzles, which, to be clear, are what makes up the lion’s share of the experience, Chiyo also offers a genuinely terrifying glimpse into the unknown—a charcoal-coated, paranormal-infested realm in which watchful entities peek from behind open doors, or stand dauntingly in the shadow of a vacant hallway. Nine times out of ten, I always felt that something was hanging over me, which often led me to peek over my shoulder out of pure fear. To that, I say, kudos, Nimbus Games — you got me.

Chiyo does an excellent job at creating an unsettling atmosphere, that’s a given. If it isn’t presenting you with a creepily unnerving score, then it’s pretty much leaving you to root around in absolute silence, which is equally horrifying in its own right. With headphones, too, it’s thrice as chilling — again, making it easier to get lost in the narrative and a few field goals from reality. And so, atmospherically, Chiyo really does tick all the right boxes, and I’m over the moon about that.


Exterior of vacant mansion in Chiyo

I've often found that if there is indeed something to break a sweat over, then there's a good chance that it's also worth sticking around to see unravel and, eventually, culminate in a theatrical showdown of some sort. As luck would have it, Chiyo ticks all the right boxes to make such a climax worth holding out for. Atmospherically, it's bang on the money, and it certainly captures the aesthetic appeal of the Edo period remarkably well, too. So again, while its puzzles are often a little unruly and, at the worst of times, slightly unfair, I can't find any real reason to complain all that much, either.

Having played a vast collection of survival-horror titles over the past several years, I can safely say that Chiyo, even with its minimal technical flaws, is still one of the best visual representations of Edo Japan I've seen in quite some time. And that's putting it lightly, to be fair, as I’ve certainly had my fair share of forgettable romps through the same era over the years.

The spooky season may be over, but when all’s said and done, I will say this: in Edo Japan, it’s always Halloween, and Chiyo serves as a reminder of such a fact. So, to answer the initial question, is Chiyo worth picking up? Yes, it most definitely is — especially if you’re on the hunt for something that’ll scratch that post-Ghostwire itch. Saying that, if you’re after something—anything that will keep you on your toes and in a constant state of terror, then you ought to give Nimbus Games’ newest arrival a chance.

Chiyo Review (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 & PC)

Terrifyingly Beautiful

Chiyo stands its ground as one of the best love letters to Edo Japan I’ve ever seen, and it does so by conjuring not only a genuinely terrifying world that’s overly atmospheric, but also a web of puzzles that are thought-provoking and surprisingly rewarding.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.