Trek to Yomi copies the style of Akira Kurosawa’s iconic black and white samurai films: rice fields blowing in the wind, villages burning, a great black swirling vortex in hell. Okay, so Trek to Yomi goes to some places Kurosawa’s films didn’t. But the path there is littered with glitches, and I only stuck it out through the finicky, floaty combat to see where my samurai’s descent into madness would lead him.
Need to Know
What is it? A 2D side-scrolling game in which you assume the role of a vengeful samurai.
Expect to pay: $19.99
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Reviewed on: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-5600U CPU @ 2.60GHz, 2.59 GHz
Link: Steam (opens in new tab)
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After his town is ransacked by bandits, protagonist Hiroki must decide whether to remain bound to his duty, protect his loved ones, or seek revenge. It’s classic samurai stuff, but the story is well-told, as Hiroki faces his personal demons (also, literal demons) and I got to make decisions that influenced exactly how this samurai tragedy would end. All of the Japanese voice actors give raw performances, and Hiroki’s actor in particular manages to convey his downward spiral into anger and regret.
I like Trek to Yomi’s supernatural elements, too. Hiroki straddles the line between life and death as he journeys through literal hell for the latter half of the game. It reminds me of the supernatural elements of Uncharted 1 and 2, monsters and ghostly apparitions catching me off guard in what I thought was a more grounded world. They add an intriguing mysticism without being overbearing.
Unfortunately combat is weightless and repetitive, and most of the trek in Trek to Yomi is spent swinging a sword. I spent most of the game repeating the same combos, occasionally parrying enemy attacks to create openings. I had a limited supply of long-range weapons like shurikens and arrows and picked up some new sword skills along the way, like a flurry of quick strikes and a piercing thrust through armored enemies. All of them ended up feeling irrelevant when the same parry and slash routines could kill essentially every normal enemy.
(Image credit: Devolver Digital)
Wanting to find as many upgrades as I could to make Hiroki better in combat, I’d choose one path and stick with it, hoping to find what I’m looking for. But if I chose the critical path I’d end up dropping down from a ledge that wouldn’t let me back up. Trek to Yomi is generous with save points before and after nearly every encounter, so restarting from a checkpoint is usually an easy option. But it’s strange and counterintuitive to have to savescum just to explore those alternate paths.
I might have forgiven some of Yomi’s design misdemeanors were it not for the progress-blocking glitches. Sometimes I’d clip through the floor after jumping down from a ledge. Other times my character would vanish into the air after falling through a collapsing roof, nowhere to be found. I’d have to restart from a checkpoint to try again or close the game and relaunch it.
A few times enemy encounters simply wouldn’t activate, and enemies that were supposed to spawn just didn’t—including the final boss. I had to relaunch the game every time I died and wanted to fight it again because otherwise, the arena would be empty.
For all its visual grandeur, Trek to Yomi isn’t much fun. It tries to tell a story worthy of a samurai drama, but the combat never graduates from the boring part of a sword training montage: it’s just the same moves, over and over again.
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