After a delay of a few months, the second chapter of Pamali: Indonesian Folklore Horror has arrived on Steam. And, continuing on the path established by its first installment, it’s an intriguing deep dive into the superstitions and taboos of Indonesian culture. In The Tied Corpse, newly hired graveyard keeper Cecep is suddenly tasked with burying a dead body, which is definitely outside his job description. How the action unfolds from there depends on how observant the player is of certain traditions. Adhering strictly to burial rituals and respecting the cemetery’s resident ghosts will result in a relatively uneventful playthrough, whereas breaking custom will increase paranormal activity. Along the way, through the chapter’s multiple endings and the Sompral report that highlights each of your mistakes at the end of the level, you learn what to do and not to do, whether it’s throwing away sharp items (keep them around, in case of ghosts) or how to speak of the dead. The charm is not only in how the environment teaches you the rules in-context, but also in learning little tidbits about the day-to-day life in Indonesia. You’ll get just as caught up reading the flavor text of the items in Cecep’s world as you will in trying to figure out the game’s many endings.
Pamali is admittedly rough around the edges, especially the translation, which makes certain parts of the game difficult to parse. But it’s also a flaw I find easy to look over in light of the novelty of the game itself. If I had a wish for the second chapter, it would be that future updates make some of the ghost encounters a bit scarier. Whereas the first chapter, White Lady, had unpredictable phenomenon at almost every turn, most of the scary moments in the second revolve around sudden sightings of a Pocong or one of the other resident ghosts, which is scary when it takes you by surprise, but predictable once you start to figure out the game’s patterns. That said, chills ran through my body while I tended the cemetery, especially when stumbling blindly through the dark led to an ominous text message from beyond, a snippet of thought from the deceased whose grave I had just walked over. The game also makes sure to intersect with its previous subject matter, at one point leaving the long strands of a Kuntilak underneath her beloved banyan tree. Above all, its atmosphere is its strongest point, a darkened, misty maze of trees, narrow pathways, headstones and scattered buildings, with few scraps of light for guidance. I especially like it when Cecep wakes from his post-burial nap and it starts to rain; the heavy patter and looming sense of dread makes me want to smoke a cigarette from the safety of an overhang.
Despite the low-scare count on this installment, I’m relieved that the magic of Pamali: Indonesian Folklore Horror isn’t a one-off or a fluke. The window provided into its world is fascinating. Many times I don’t know if I want to figure out all 30 of each chapter’s endings by myself, or dig into the Steam forums for more answers. The mysteries are just too delicious. I’ve only just finished my run through of The Tied Corpse but I can’t wait for the next chapter.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.