Trek to Yomi Review
Japanese stuff is really in at the moment. Yet the likes of Trek to Yomi is a rare gem – a love letter to the old Japanese films, and to that old way of life we know so well from books. It’s a masterclass is atmosphere and is one of the bars for indie graphics. It’s also not always a great game.
In many ways, it’s that old indie complaint. Style should not make up for gameplay, and to be fair, it doesn’t entirely in Trek to Yomi. Take away all the shadowy scenes, all the music, all the fantastic moments and you still have a game that is decidedly not bad.
Put all those ingredients back in, and this is a title you’d be foolish to miss. And not just because it’s a quick and easy Trek to get through.
Way of the Samurai
Trek to Yomi is a simple game in many ways. Part side-scroller, part adventure game, there are two distinct parts to each level.
The first is exploration, and that might be too grand a word. Fighting segments are connected by pathways that sometimes have hidden areas in them. These might house collectibles, power-ups, enemies or little traps that’ll make the next fighting section easier. These segments are sometimes 2D, but just as often go for a kind of PS2 God of War style view. This is a stroke of genius, because it doesn’t add a bunch but gives it a dimension that entirely 2d or 2.5d games completely lack.
The other is the combat. This is almost strictly 2d, with very few exceptions. You walk to the left or right, fight some guys, move on. The fighting system is passable, but it’s hard to get more excited about it than that. X is a normal attack, Y is a harder attack, and there are a variety of combos up for grabs. There are ranged weapons, which can end fights extraordinarily quickly. Your best friend is the parry and the dodge.
If you can master a few basic combos and the parry, you will have zero issues on the regular difficult mode. There were a few sections that stumped me, but by and large it was easy.
Trek to Yomi and back
What the game lacks in gameplay variety, it makes up for in atmosphere. It didn’t feel as simple as I explained it above, largely because a whole lot of effort has gone into making sure its pretty and it feels right. And that effort has paid off.
The Kurosawa influence is undeniable. Black and white, moody locations, movement in weather and items in the background – it’s exactly what you’d like from something like this.
The story fits into the genre well, too. It’s a tale of revenge, and then some more revenge and, ultimately, revenge. That’s a lot of revenge to fit into six levels and fiveish hours, but it does it pretty well.
I’ve seen other critics bemoan the shortness of Trek to Yomi and I don’t fully understand it. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. I’m not sure that’d be true if it doubled in length. I felt it was just long enough and, actually, a little too long in times. In the interest of not spoiling anything, all I’ll say is the second half of the game can feel a little samey after a while.
I don’t know if people just expect every game to be an epic these days, but for me Trek to Yomi’s shortness was not a downside. It’s easier to feel that since I played it through Game Pass. Mileage may vary.
And if you are the sort of person who needs 50 hours for every dollar spent – good news. There are things to collect, branching storylines (although don’t expect too much) and multiple difficulties. You can easily double or triple your experience if you’d like to – but I wouldn’t like to. It was just about right.
Graphics and Sound
Trek to Yomi is undeniably pretty. Its play between light and shadow is a lesson for other indie developers. It fully utilises black and white, making everything look stark.
On my OLED, it blew me away.
The occasional stutter or framerate drop was annoying, but not gamebreaking. It tended to occur in places with a high level of lighting. On an Xbox Series X, I wouldn’t expect these kinds of drops, but that’s not necessarily a fault of the developers.
Sound works well too. The voice acting seems great, although it’s not always easy to tell with foreign language stuff, and the music certainly fits the bill. It is only because nothing in particular sticks out to me that it didn’t score higher. It was music fit for its purposes and little more.
Trek to Yomi – Conclusion
It’s always fun to play something that just feels right. It’s probably the most underrated metric of any game.
And yet style isn’t everything. Trek to Yomi comes so close to greatness, but falls short with an uninspired gameplay loop and slight repetition in the second half.
It’s the definition of being worth a play – but be careful how much you spend. Some fans will be disappointed by its length. Others, like me, will be happy with this quick and rewarding game.