Categories: Video Games

Trek to Yomi review: in the soul of the samurai

Set in Japan during the Edo period, Trek to Yomi was released on May 5, 2022, and immediately presents itself as a small pearl for lovers of Japanese culture and cinema. In fact, we find ourselves in front of a title with a strong artistic and cinematographic character, which does not lack bloody fights and a compelling story. The latter – written by Alec Meer and Leonard Menchiari – follows the story of a samurai named Hiroki, from his youth training to adulthood. Here he will have to deal with barbarians and ruthless looters, ready to put his village to fire and sword. For this review we played Trek to Yomi on Xbox, and here are our impressions.

Hiroki’s redemption and his katana’s revenge

Forget the frantic Hollywood depictions of samurai and sensei. Here we go to the essence of violence and folklore. And there is very little poetry, although there is a lot of art. Young Hiroki is little more than a child when, during a lesson with his teacher sensei, the latter is called to defend the village from ruthless brigands, ready to kill the peasants to take possession of their goods. This initial chapter of the game will actually serve us to understand its basic mechanics, and will therefore serve as a tutorial. Armed with katana, we will then guide Hiroki’s character through a horizontal scrolling black and white world. Although the game is essentially 2D, there will be elements of depth that integrate well with the wonderful settings of the villages.

Hiroki will claim his first victims in an attempt to save his sensei, with little success. After this first and short chapter / tutorial, the real story begins: a few years ago we find an adult Hiroki, regent and protector of the same village, once again attacked by mysterious and ruthless criminals. Here begins our journey through nature, burning towns, rice fields and mines. All accompanied by a spectacular soundtrack, which makes the gaming experience as immersive and oriental as ever. We will be alone, armed with katana and some throwable weapon, against groups of brigands that we will have to make regret having attacked the village. But that’s not all: Japanese culture is made up of demons, ghosts of the past and the search for redemption. All elements masterfully inserted into the plot of Trek to Yomi.

Trek to Yomi review: simple but merciless combat mechanics

If from a narrative and stylistic point of view the game looks like a little gem, we cannot say the same about the game mechanics. Sure, slitting the throats of merciless killers is satisfying, especially for the sonic rendition of the colliding swords. However, the fights are likely to be repetitive, although Hiroki learns new combos as the game progresses. Progress saves take place in specific temples, which means that once we are dead we will have to resume from the last checkpoint. Not infrequently we find ourselves having to repeat a specific fight multiple times, which can get boring and frustrating.

To provide a minimum of variation to the infinite and repetitive combos to be made, are the traps scattered on the secondary paths. These will allow Hiroki to kill enemies through heavy loads dropped on enemies’ heads. From this point of view the strategic approach is well thought out, and leaves the players the possibility to choose between katana and ingenuity. We will also rarely find small puzzles to solve, which seemed more like a way to refresh the gameplay than to put the player in difficulty.

The map is full of collectibles, which is good. These provide interesting insights into Japanese culture, and will be kept in the inventory. However, many of these objects are located in back streets, and here we find the second big problem of the game. The player will often find himself in front of crossroads: one road will lead to a secondary area with objects or consumables, while the other will allow you to continue in the story. The real problem is that there is no indication to tell the two apart, and if you take the road that will take Hiroki forward in the narrative, you will no longer be able to go back and explore the other areas. Again, the result is definitely frustrating.

The shots, the black and white and the dialogues: the stylistic code of Trek to Yomi

Trek to Yomi is a game developed by Flying Wild Dog, distributed by Devolver Digital and written by Alec Meer and Leonard Menchiari. We are therefore faced with an independent game with a strong artistic and narrative component. It is therefore not surprising that there are limits from the point of view of gameplay, which however are well compensated by the general experience. The historical fidelity in representing the Edo period (from weapons to village reproduction) fits perfectly with the music composed by Cody Matthew and Johnson Yoko Honda. A tribute to the Japanese film productions of the mid-1900s, with a melancholy black and white coloring and an original dubbing in Japanese that only adds credibility to the dialogues.

In fact, we can say that there is a real cinematographic direction in the choice of shots, which on the one hand seemed not very functional in moments of battle, while on the other they allow us to simulate dynamism and depth in what it is, we must not forget it. , a 2D horizontal scrolling game.

Summing up our review: how is Trek to Yomi?

Wanting to sum up we can only recommend Trek to Yomi, especially if you are passionate about a certain type of oriental cinema and, in general, of Japanese culture. Spirits, deaths and ruthless bosses surround Hiroki’s journey. In fact, he will have to fight first against his demons, to then be able to defeat the enemies. As mentioned, however, the spectacular stylistic code of the game clashes with the playability (and replayability) of the title. Repetitive fights, wrong paths and frustrating defeats, will lead several times to consider the possibility of turning off the console. Furthermore, although at a certain point certain choices will influence the ending of the story, the repetitiveness of the fights will hardly lead the player to face the 6/7 hours of play necessary to complete the title again.

However, it remains a small work of art. Not too fun to play, but still a nice work of art, available on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S (included in the Xbox Game Pass catalog).

PRO

  • Accurate historical reproduction
  • Interesting fiction
  • Remarkable stylistic figure
  • Pleasant settings

AGAINST

  • Repetitiveness of the fights
  • Disorienting map
  • There is no chapter system: to replay you start from scratch

Published by
Marco Dellapina

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