Trikaya: The South Asian Inspired Puzzle Game I Didn’t Know I Wanted

Trikaya title screen. Screenshot by author

There is so much I liked about Trikaya I frankly don’t know where to begin. I suppose an overview of the game’s story would be as good a place as any to start.

Upon entering a mysterious temple, the player spies a McGuffin containing four jewels. As soon as the player approaches this item, the jewels fly out of it and hide themselves within the temple. Then starts the meat and potatoes of the game: finding the jewels and using their powers to navigate through the temple. That’s all well and good standard video game stuff, but it’s not why I enjoyed Trikaya. Where this game really shines is its South Asian-influence.

The four jewels. Screenshot by author

The temple itself is a beautiful fantasy re-imagining of Indian architecture. The towers that loom around the maze-like temple bring to mind Moghul forts, and the vibrant colors of the wall murals are reminiscent of North Indian paintings.

The Red Fort, Delhi
A painting in the Phad style, one of a number of Rajasthani painting styles

The core of Trikaya’s gameplay is puzzles. To complete the game the player must secure three of the four jewels. These jewels align with the elements Wind, Earth, and Fire. Each of these jewels allows the player to cast spells that impact some of the objects in the temple. At first it was somewhat confusing keeping track of which spells did what, as some objects can have more then one spell cast on them, but the spell effect it in different ways. I eventually embraced this as part of the game’s challenge. There is no time limit placed upon the player, so the challenge comes from figuring out what interacts with what, and which objects should be used in what way in order to advance. Due to most elements of the environment being some shade of orange or brown, there is also a degree of “hidden object” style gameplay involved. Carefully looking around the temple, I felt a sense of accomplishment whenever I noticed an interactable object. Hints are also given to the player in the form of the aforementioned murals. I simply love this as a way to guide the player. Note only is it simple yet effective, but it also adds to the worldbuilding. When examining these visual aids, I could sense the ancientness of this temple and the mystery of what happened to the people who came before me.

One of the instructional murals in Trikaya. Screenshot by author

Even though the route the player takes through the game is a pre-determined linear one, the turning passageways and various elevations traversed gives the feeling of being lost, but in a good way. Think of the feeling you get wandering through a nature trail or roaming an abandoned beach. The warm orange walls that surround the player create an inviting yet mysterious mood. There are just a handful of objects that can be interacted with, allowing the player to not constantly be on the lookout for something to control. Yet instead of this making the game feel like it’s lacking elements, it creates a casual, almost walking simulator-esque mood.

South Asian influences continue to be lacking in video games, so I hope other game designers take note of Trikaya. Until the triple-A games industry realizes that there is more to life then medieval western RPGs and military inspired FPSs, I will continue to enjoy Trikaya’s delicious content of magic, puzzles, architecture, and elephants.

Trikaya is free to play on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1410870/Trikaya/

Sources

Trikaya. Dallas, TX: SMU Guildhall, 2021. PC.

Images

Festive Celebrations 1. Unknown. https://www.artzolo.com/traditional-art/festive-celebrations-1?

Red Fort- Closer view of the top part of the gate above the Meena Bazaar. Delhi, India. Dennis Jarvis, 2007. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India-0037_-Flickrarcher10(Dennis).jpg

Trikaya Screenshots by author.

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