When I first saw the itch.io page for Gates of Ivory, my hopes soared high. The synopsis is cryptic, the pictures are disturbing, and the vibe is unsettling — perfect for a horror addict like me. I eagerly downloaded the game and found the absolutely creepy‘ReadorRot’ file accompanying it. In a very Doki Doki Literature Club fashion, the note warned me I would have nightmares if I dared to open the gates. I accepted the challenge — it did not disappoint.
“Gates of Ivory explores the idea of dreams.”
Just like Yumi Nikki and OMORI, Gates of Ivory explores the idea of dreams. However, there’s no protagonist to control; the only playable character is yourself, and you’re bored. Life is repetitive and too quiet. Eat, drink milk, check the cupboard, and then sleep. The only place you can escape the endless mundanity is in your dreams. But at what point do dreams become a reality? And at what point does reality become the dreams?
If you enjoy games that leave you in a state of disarray, you’ll love Gates of Ivory. The story is engaging, though, perhaps, too perplexing for some audiences. Nothing is bluntly revealed, meaning plenty of inferring needs to be done. That being said, the game is left open for different interpretations and theories, which makes for varying player experiences. The bulk of the story comes from reading text in the form of articles, chat windows, and websites. There’s no voice acting and hardly any cut-scenes, but that suits the isolated feel Gates of Ivory gives.
“Where the fun comes from is how well Gates of Ivory does fear.”
Mechanics wise, this game isn’t much more than a walking simulator. However, there’s an incredible build-up of dread that stems from asking players to repeat the same tasks in a horror setting, and the developer takes full advantage. Similar to In Sound Mind, the scares are subtle; small changes will mess with the heads of those paying attention. Every single error and glitch the player encounters is entirely intentional. For a game developed by a single person, Gates of Ivory is outstandingly clean, and a well thought out descent into madness.
Unfortunately, a part of that descent is from the painfully slow fetch quests scattered throughout. With no maps and an extremely limited field of view, it’s easy to get lost. Gates of Ivory does not help you find your way. The graphics are plain to the point that there are no distinguishable landmarks to base your location on. Having to resort to hugging walls, a game that could have easily been finished in a couple of hours took four hours instead. Unlike other walking simulators such as Layers of Fear or P.T., there’s just not enough happening to keep the players immersed during these tediously long sequences of fetch.
It’s also worth mentioning that Gates of Ivory quotes itself as a single-play experience. There’s no replayability whatsoever. Quite literally, as it warns, the game will not launch after completion. I personally did not find this to be an issue. However, players wanting to go back for a second helping may be disappointed.
“For a story that only takes a few hours to finish, you’ll be left thinking about Gates of Ivory all night.”
At 3.99 USD, Gates of Ivory is a great one-nighter to play alone in the dark. There’s no combat, easy gameplay, and slow-paced fetch quests. But don’t let that deter you; the simple mechanics do not make this game any less scary. For a story that only takes a few hours to finish, you’ll be left thinking about Gates of Ivory all night. And maybe even in your dreams—or rather, nightmares.
Gates of Ivory is available on P.C. via itch.io
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on P.C., code was provided by the Publisher.