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Ikenfell is an endearing tactical RPG that gave me earworms

It's showtime

Magic is weird. And, since an Ordinary (non-magical person) suddenly getting magic is also deemed weird in Ikenfell, it stands to reason that it’s practically guaranteed to happen. We can only assume the odds become even higher as the Ordinary ventures closer to the big magical fantasy school, which protagonist Maritte quickly discovers. Upon approaching the gate in search of her missing sister, Safina, Maritte suddenly starts to sling fiery spells.

Those new spells certainly come in handy, as Maritte finds herself fired up (hehe, geddit?) and ready to fight through this Paper Mario-style tactical RPG. Along with some of Saf’s old friends, you explore the titular school and surrounding areas, searching for clues that might help unravel the mystery. Ikenfell has challenging combat and lots of little secrets hidden in its 8-bit world, but it’s the loveable bunch of pals (both allies and rivals) that really made me smile. Oh, and some of them have killer theme tunes that I can’t stop singing.

Watch on YouTube

Of Maritte's pals, Petronella is an easy fave. They're an anxious teen who you first meet slumped against the wall of their bedroom after a big old cry. I think their theme, "My Happy Place", sums them up best. It's a chill, yet melancholy tune with a slow, calming melody. I reckon it's the musical version of snuggling up under a blanket with a big bowl of ice cream when you're feeling sad, and that's essentially how you first encounter Petronella. Sat by a fire alone, worried about their friend. Warm, yet sad. An easy place in the playlist for this one.

The rest of their first interaction focuses on that vibe presented so perfectly by Petronella's theme. Maritte heads in and, after a nervous hello, slumps down beside them. It’s a small thing really, hunkering down on the floor rather than just standing at the door, but Ikenfell is full of small touches that make it endlessly endearing. They sit and chat by the fire, and the theme persists.

A screenshot of a group 2D pixelart scene in Ikenfell, as a group of students regard a barred gate that will lead to the magical school Ikenfell
Image credit: Humble Games

There are occasional upbeat notes that fill you with hope, no doubt matching Petronella's feelings while meeting Saf's sister for the first time, but it's always tinged with sadness. Like Petronella, it's a nervous beat, one that's unsure about embracing that hopefulness. As Maritte goes to leave, Petronella remains slumped until the last second, when they jump up and sprint after you. Again, a small touch, but that last-second decision to confront their anxieties and join the adventure reiterates why Petronella was an instant favourite.

Ikenfell is full of similarly cosy tunes, warm bops that try so hard to sell that Ikenfell is nice and lovely, that it's immediately obvious that it's actually fuckin sinister and should be avoided. And they're all stuck in my head. Ikenfell has a fantastic soundtrack, and I can't stop humming along.

Well, just humming would be one thing. But there's also this. Perhaps the best song ever:

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This is the theme song for Gilda, a fellow student who has a crush on Maritte and occasionally shows up to swoon over her while they have a duel. Gilda is full of energy, and how can you not feel equally pumped after listening to “It’s Showtime”? It’s been stuck in my head for weeks, popping up at the most inopportune moments. Just as I’m dozing off to sleep, I hear the beat kick in. When I’m trying to write words and make coherent points, the lyrics are just looping around in my noggin. An absolute banger. An all-time classic. A bestest best tune. Someone please help get it out of my head.

There's lots to love about Ikenfell. I didn't even mention how the save points are cats that you scritch to restore your health, for example. How great is that? Very witchy. But, it's the characters and their themes that kept me playing. Some are beautiful melodies, while others are electric battle tunes. They always match the energy of their character, though, and it made me desperate for just one more chat at every step of the journey. You can be sure that whenever a new character pops up, they'll be accompanied by a new bop that'll burrow into your brain and refuse to leave.

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Hayden Hefford avatar

Hayden Hefford

Former Guides Writer

Hayden was a guides writer for RPS between 2021-2023. They're a big fan of survival games, especially those that focus on the undead. Zombies. Walkers. Shamblers. Whatever you call them, Hayden is definitely a fan.