Game review by
Carolyn Koh, Common Sense Media
Tulpa Game Poster Image
Beautiful puzzle platformer challenges, easily frustrates.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Summoning inner strength, partnering with a friend to "rescue" each other from a nightmare world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Neither game character has a personality; both are poor role models. 

Ease of Play

Simple controls, but puzzles can be confusing, creating frustrating roadblocks without available in-game help.


Characters will die often, shattering like glass. Some hanging/crucifixion scenes, nightmare landscape disturbing.


Game narration done through scenes. No words or text besides tutorial that instructs player on controls.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tulpa is a downloadable 2-D puzzler with light platforming elements set in a nightmare world. A "Tulpa" is something like an imaginary friend that's connected with Tibetan Buddhist mysticism as well as the horror genre. Although the controls for the game are simple, Tulpa is a challenging puzzle game that can potentially frustrate and confuse even the most experienced gamer, especially due to its lack of in-game hints. Given the horror imagery associated with the Tulpa concept and the missing hints, we recommend caution when searching for information on the game to avoid disturbing images. Apart from the tutorial that explains the controls, no text is used through the game and story elements are shown through basic cut scenes. But Tulpa does have some disturbing, nightmarish imagery, including hanging and crucifixion scenes, as well as showing the main characters shattering like glass when they die during puzzle sequences.

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What's it about?

In TULPA, you start out as a young woman named Ophelia, who finds herself walking through a nightmare world. Along the way, she finds her imaginary friend or Tulpa named Oliver. Together, they must traverse this strange mystic world and overcome obstacles by using their powers and abilities. As a human, Ophelia can push and pull objects while Oliver, being a phantasm, can interact with things from a distance. Over the course of their adventure, the duo will cross wildly changing environments while confronting huge monstrous beings; some of these are seemingly benign, while others evoke an atmosphere of horror.

Is it any good?

Tulpa is a 2-D puzzler with light platforming elements that has dark but beautiful graphics. It's full of imaginative, creative levels with minimalist imagery based on various religions, mysticism, and horror tableaux. For example, Ophelia and Oliver move through scenes with monstrous beings depicting ancient gods or animals associated with them in mythology, such as owls. Players will be exposed to some shocking images with these creatures, such as half-formed figures or pictures of crucifixions. Despite the startling sights, Tulpa's design is minimalist -- it has an Asian psychological horror sensibility evoked through the subtle use of color, sound, and imagery rather than graphic and shocking scenes of violence.

Players learn that the floating Oliver is a Tulpa: a being drawn from the imagination of a person, although he seems more like a ghost or spirit. Why he exists, what his connection to Ophelia is, or why they're in the nightmare world appears to be more of a mystery, much like the mechanics and puzzles of the game. But movement through the game isn't very accurate, so it's easy to overstep an obstacle and kill Ophelia (who shatters like glass), but the character reforms with no other consequences than a little time being lost. Some puzzles in Tulpa are simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, most puzzles are confusing and frustrating.  Even worse, there aren't any "help" functions to allow you to move forward, so it's easy to get stuck on these illogical brainteasers, which will make players lose interest in the game quickly. Tulpa is a game with interesting visuals, but the gameplay likely will keep all but the most hard-core puzzle fan away from unraveling its mysteries.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about imaginary friends, ghosts, and doppelgängers. Did you or do you have an imaginary friend? Is it a good thing to have one? 

  • Talk about perseverance. Do you relish or avoid challenges? How do you feel when you are finally successful at something that's considered to be really hard? Is it worth the effort?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love puzzles

Themes & Topics

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