Trek to Yomi
Gameplay 6
Graphics 9
Sound 8

Trek To Yomi is a side-scrolling action game steeped in classic samurai movies’ cinematic style. It features an eye-catching black and white art style along with an authentic soundtrack. However, even with the inclusion of multiple combos, the combat never encourages players to move beyond the same basic attacks to win. This is a pity as it can make enemy encounters repetitive instead of exciting. Nevertheless, samurai fans, especially those familiar with the movies of Akira Kurosawa, should definitely check out the game.

Gameplay: The game is very short and quite linear, with plenty of combat sections interspersed with brief bouts of exploration.

Graphics: Fans of vintage samurai movies will love the black and white aesthetic of the game and the cinematic camera angles.

Sound: The music is authentic and filled with Japanese musical instruments from the period in which the game is set

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Trek to Yomi

Developer: Leonard Menchiari, Flying Wild Hog | Publisher: Devolver Digital | Release Date: 2022 | Genre: Action / Adventure| Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Yomi, the land of the dead. According to Japanese mythology, it is where the dead goes in the afterlife. Here, the swordsman Hiroki finds himself after trying to repel an attack by the warlord Kagerou. Many years before, Hiroki’s master, Sanjura, was able to drive away Kagerou, but it cost him his life. So Hiroki made a vow to his dying master to protect the town and the people he loves against threats. However, when Kagerou appears again many years later, Hiroki finds himself unable to fulfill his vow and paying the price in Yomi.

The tutorial level, which is set during Hiroki’s youth, teaches players some of the basics of combat and sets up the story of the game. It is clear that Hiroki takes his vow very seriously, so when a new threat arises in a neighboring village, he is quick to rush there. Unfortunately, this decision costs him dearly, and the rest of the game deals with the aftermath of his failure.

One thing that is immediately apparent is that classic samurai films heavily inspire Trek To Yomi. It’s impossible not to see Akira Kurosawa’s influences, from the black and white art style to the film grain and cinematic camera angles. Each scene of the game oozes style, and it is clear that everything was planned around the color palette instead of just having a filter slapped over it. The dramatic contrast between lights and shadows is visually captivating, and the fixed camera means that everything is framed in the most dramatic way possible.

From a gameplay perspective Trek To Yomi is a side-scrolling action game. It is split into distinct chapters, each with a boss awaiting players at the end. While the levels are relatively linear, players can occasionally wander off the beaten path to find collectibles or upgrades for Hiroki’s health and stamina. It’s not always obvious which path is the route to the next encounter and which one might lead to something optional, though. The camera is fixed during the exploration parts but provides a cinematic view of the area. Hiroki can climb up ladders, kick down doors and move in any direction. However, once he encounters enemies, ranging from bandits to supernatural beings, the camera switches to a typical side-on view of the action.

During combat, Hiroki can only move left or right but can be surrounded by enemies from the front and back. His primary weapon is a katana, and throughout the game, players can learn new attack combos. Unfortunately, button-mashing won’t get players very far as Hiroki has a stamina bar, and enemies can quickly deplete his health if it runs out. Instead, players must block or parry attacks while looking for openings to retaliate. Enemies can also be stunned, which leaves them open for a violent execution move from Hiroki. Once we mastered the timing of the parry move, we had no trouble disposing of most enemies in the game, although bosses and foes with ranged attacks still posed a challenge.

If done correctly, the combat in Trek To Yomi is a nice blend of light and heavy attacks, dodges, blocks, and parries. Unfortunately, at least on the normal difficulty, most players can simply stick to the same combo for the game’s duration. There’s no real incentive to try out anything else, as some combos are sufficient for dealing with almost everything. Ranged enemies can be a real nuisance as their attacks are hard to dodge, and they have no problem shooting at Hiroki even if their friends are in the way. On the other hand, Hiroki has to deal with all the enemies in front of the ranged ones before getting to them, which makes for a few cheap hits in the process. Some enemies also put up shields that harm Hiroki if hit with a melee attack, while others create shadow clones of themselves that slow down Hiroki if attacked.

Fortunately, the game is littered with shrines that serve as checkpoints as well as an instant refill for Hiroki’s health bar. This means that even after death, players won’t have to replay too much of the level before getting to where they died. Although most of the game is focused on combat Trek To Yomi also features the occasional puzzle. However, these are so easy and obvious that their inclusion feels more like an aesthetic choice than a gameplay one. Players simply need to spot the three kanji in their immediate surroundings and input them in the correct order on the puzzle wheel to proceed.

Trek To Yomi is quite a short game, but players can pad out the experience by opting to play on higher difficulties or trying to track down all the collectibles for each level. Each collectible has a story to read, but the lack of a chapter selection means there’s no going back to search for the missed ones. The tale of Trek To Yomi is fleshed out by a few brief cut-scenes, while a journal that is tucked away in a menu provides further details about Hiroki’s trials and tribulations. Hiroki can also choose whether he is fighting for love, duty, or revenge during his journey. This choice also influences the ending of the game, which provides further reason to replay the adventure.

As with the visuals, the audio in Trek To Yomi does not disappoint. The game is set during the Edo period, and the soundtrack actually features instruments that are authentic to the time. Everything from shamisen and taiko drums to a traditional Japanese orchestra was used for the music, and the results are incredible. All the voice acting is also in Japanese for added authenticity. We played the game using a controller, and everything was responsive for the most part. It takes a bit of practice to master the timing needed to parry enemy attacks, but once done, Hiroki is virtually unstoppable. Some elements, such as having to press a button to turn around in combat, feel strange at first but soon become second nature. The inclusion of secondary long-range weapons, such as the Bo Shuriken, bow and arrow, and Ozutsu, also helps to even the odds, but ammo for them is limited. Players can even find certain spots where the environment can be used against enemies to take them down without engaging in combat.

There’s no doubt that Trek To Yomi is a great-looking game with an incredible soundtrack, but the gameplay might leave players with mixed feelings. Initially, it’s quite exhilarating to duel with opponents and cut them down with a stylish combo or stun them before performing a brutal execution. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that using the same combo repeatedly or parrying every attack is also a valid strategy. The weak puzzles and lack of variety also count against Trek To Yomi.

Although Trek To Yomi doesn’t quite live up to the hype, it is a fun game while it lasts and even better if players take the time to try out all the combos and master all the moves. Even with some of the cheap bosses, the game is not very difficult, but the unlockable Kensei mode is recommended for players who really want a challenge. Trek To Yomi is worth experiencing despite the hit-or-miss gameplay for its beautiful visuals and soundtrack. Even more so for players who enjoy the work of Akira Kurosawa or vintage samurai movies in general.

System Requirements

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-8250U / AMD Phenom II X4 965
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce MX150 (2048 VRAM) / Radeon R7 260X (2048 VRAM)
  • Storage: 11 GB available space
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770S / AMD FX-9590
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 970 (4096 VRAM) / Radeon R9 390X (8192 VRAM)
  • Storage: 11 GB available space

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