Trek to Yomi Review

The first time you start to play Trek to Yomi you may briefly find yourself wondering whether you are playing a game or watching a classic samurai film. Trek to Yomi lovingly captures the look of a Kurosawa film from the 1950s or 60s – the black and white film, the slightly grainy look of the stock, the lighting and camera angles, it’s all been captured by the game. It really is striking.


Screenshot

Appropriate to its inspiration, the game is set during Japan’s Edo period. It opens in the dojo of a samurai warrior as he trains his young apprentice. You are that young apprentice, Hiroki, and this training session serves as the game’s tutorial. Once you’ve learned your way around the game’s controls and can handle your katana, you’ll suddenly find a need to put them to the test. An army of bandits launches an assault on your village and your master rushes to its defense after instructing you to stay behind and out of danger. However, the samurai’s daughter and your close friend, Aiko, fears for his life and encourages you to find him and fight by his side. As you rush through the village to meet the bandits, you’ll learn more about playing the game. Though each screen that you’ll traverse through this side-scrolling game features a fixed camera angle and a set path for you to traverse, there are a few side areas and alternate routes to discover. Some of these will lead you to the game’s collectible items, but others will provide you with an opportunity to use the environment to get the drop on enemies, eliminating them with boulders, logs, and the like without the need to unsheathe your katana.

When you do have to face enemies, the battles will be two-dimensional duels. The fights are timing-based, with you looking for openings to use your light and heavy attacks while countering those of your enemies with blocks, parries, and dodges. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock additional combos that give you a larger repertoire of attacks. A stamina bar prevents you from simply spamming attacks – get too aggressive and you can find yourself too tired to protect yourself from a counterattack. You’ll also have ranged attacks at your disposal, but ammunition is limited and hard to find, so you’ll want to save these for when you need to soften-up a tougher opponent a bit before moving in closer.


Screenshot

Lesser enemies aren’t too difficult to dispatch once you get a feel for the rhythm of the game’s fights. When faced with multiple enemies on screen, they are generally kind enough to wait their turn so that you don’t have to fend off multiple attacks at once. When you face others, such as armored enemies or bosses, things become a bit more challenging as they can absorb more damage or posses some unique combos of their own. Ultimately, these fights feel like a bit of a slog, more battles of attrition than epic samurai duels. For a game that put so much work into its visuals, you’re left wishing that the same level of effort was put into the gameplay.

The game also falls short with its narrative. It may have the look of a Kurosawa film, but lacks the dramatic impact. Cutscenes and dialog are somewhat limited, which in turn limit the game’s opportunity to tell a more compelling story. We’re left with a relatively straightforward story of revenge and honor played out by characters we’re not given the time to become invested in.

Trek to Yomi’s opening chapter really builds expectation for what will follow, but what does follow doesn’t live up to that promise. It’s a gorgeous game to watch, but the gameplay simply falls short of matching the quality of the visuals.

Final Rating: 68% - If only Trek to Yomi played as well as it looks.

 

Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.



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