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:


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


Festive Celebrations 1. Unknown.

Red Fort- Closer view of the top part of the gate above the Meena Bazaar. Delhi, India. Dennis Jarvis, 2007.

Trikaya Screenshots by author.

How Do You Change a Game’s Aesthetic?

All games, at least ones deemed successful, are enjoyable to play. The most common way games achieve this is by having an aesthetic (defined by Hunicke et al. as “the desirable emotional responses evoked in the player” [2]) that falls somewhere under the broad umbrella of fun. This near universal aesthetic of games has caused me to have the opposite of fun this past week.

As part of an upcoming class assignment, I have been tasked with changing the aesthetic of an existing board game. My originally idea for this assignment was a variation on Cards Against Humanity, mainly because it’s the closet thing to a mainstream board game I own. In original CAH players compete to make the most hilarious and/or offensive card combination, but in my version they would work together to make the most wholesome combination. However, upon reflection and consultation with the course’s professor, I realized that this would not be enough to change the game’s original aesthetic. After rereading Hunicke et al.’s “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research” I concluded that CAH might not be the best game for this assignment. This is because CAH’s mechanics (i.e. the cards and their hilarious statements) are designed to be funny. For example, the CAH card that reads “David Bowie flying in on a tiger made of lightening” is amusing regardless of what context its used in. If I wanted to change CAH’s aesthetic I would most likely have to change the cards themselves. Since the assignment called for changing a game’s aesthetic and not it’s mechanics, I went back to the drawing board.

This setback led me to ponder upon the thoughts expressed at the beginning of this post. If the majority of mainstream boardgames make the player feel like they are having fun, how can I change that? The answer came to me while reading “Personality and Play Styles: A Unified Model” by Bart Stewart. In his article Stewart attempts to categorize the different types of gamers and their playstyles. While personally I felt Stewart’s approach to categorizing play styles too rigid and limiting, it did illustrate a fundamental truth: we don’t all find the same things fun. This made me realize that although I might not be able to change a game’s aesthetic on a macro scale, it can be achieved on a micro scale. Take for example a game where players compete to make the most eloquent sentences. The fun of the game would come from players using their intellect and speaking skills in competition. Now consider a second version of the game where the sentences players make are what an animal would say if they could talk. In addition to this, players must guess what animal each of them is representing. Both versions of the game are fun, but not all people would find both fun. Hopefully by playing (pun intended) with how a game entertains its participants I will be able to successfully alter its aesthetic while still keeping things fun.


Dillon, Josh et al. Cards Against Humanity. Chicago, IL: Cards Against Humanity LLC, 2011. Card Game.

Hunicke, Robin Et al. “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.” Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 2004.

Stewart, Bart. “Personality and Play Styles: A Unified Model.” Gamasutra, 1 Sept. 2011,

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