Trek to Yomi is an interactive love letter to classic Japanese samurai films, designed with a cinematic aesthetic in mind. Creative director Leonard Menchiari leaned heavily on inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s movies, particularly 1954’s Seven Samurai. Combined with fluid, side scrolling combat sequences hammered out by the developement team at Flying Wild Hog, Trek to Yomi’s monochromatic cinematography creates quite an impressive experience.
That narrative does rely heavily on some classic samurai movie tropes, namely a village massacre that kicks off a revenge fantasy adventure leading straight to the World of Darkness while embracing some Japanese mythology for good measure. However, it leans into its cinematic aesthetic by maintaining a grayscale color palette complete with an optional film grain filter. Each scene of the roughly 5-6 hour run time is constrained by a fixed camera that continues to push the player into feeling like they’re witnessing an interactive movie as opposed to just playing a game.
Trek to Yomi
Bottom line: Trek to Yomi is an interactive take on the classic monochromatic Samurai films of yesteryear. Players take on the role of Hiroki, guiding him on his journey to exact revenge following the destruction of his village.
- Cinematic arthouse aesthetic
- Easy-to-execute combat
- Encourages replay with narrative branching
- Save is deleted upon finishing the campaign
- No chapter select
- Uninspired puzzles
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a copy of the game purchased by Windows Central.
Trek to Yomi: What you’ll like
Trek to Yomi opens up with players in control of a young Hiroki as he travels through his village with his childhood friend, Aiko. Chapter 1 serves primarily as a tutorial experience, allowing players to learn the rules of how they can properly explore the 2.5D environment of the village and master some of Hiroki’s basic movies while laying the groundwork for the story.
|Category||Trek to Yomi|
|Title||Trek to Yomi|
|Developer||Flying Wild Hog|
|Minimum Requirements||Windows 10, Intel Core I7-4770S/AMD FX-9590, 8GB RAM, GeForce GTX 970/Radeon R9 390X, 11GB available storage|
|Play Time||5-6 hours|
The combination of the fixed camera and 2.5D environment provides some interesting opportunities for the developers to encourage exploration of Hiroki’s surroundings, and they’ve leaned into this element when designing the village. Careful consideration went into creating the village layout so that players do not feel like they’re simply stuck walking left to right in a straight line like with a traditional side scroller. This gives players not only a sense of the size and scope of the village, but a reason to explore beyond just the most obvious linear path. Witnessing a villager run out of an open door can entice a curious player to try and enter that door, for example, and in doing so they find themselves rewarded with collectibles or upgrades for finding a secret room. Collectibles vary from bits of lore, health and stamina upgrades, to additional combos for use during combat.
Trek to Yomi’s combat is surprisingly simplified, with Hiroki having a light attack, heavy attack, a dodge roll, and a parry at his disposal. The unlocked combos do help add a little variety, allowing for moves like sidestepping around an attacker or parrying them into a stun that can result in a finisher move. While Hiroki’s move set is limited, there is a little extra challenge involved with maneuvering him in combat. Combat scenes are locked in to the a fixed side-view camera, putting the player on a 2D plane with only horizontal movement as an option.
To expand on Hiroki’s mobility, players must press a designated turnaround button (A on a controller, for example) to change the direction of attacks and blocks. This seems frustrating at first, but in the long run it allows the player to maneuver backward and forward before swiveling for an attack. Once mastered, the turnaround can be combined with with simple combos of light and heavy attacks to result in strikingly fluid animations. Executing two light and one heavy attack in rapid succession can result in stunning an enemy, which then allows players to follow up with a finisher move.
In addition to his standard issue samurai sword, players can find additional ranged weapons such as bo-shurikens, arrows, and even a 16th century Japanese cannon known as an Ozutsu. Each weapon, once acquired, is mapped to a direction on the D-Pad so the player can equip them dynamically, at which point it can then be used by simply pulling the right trigger. While the ranged weapons are nice to find, and ample ammunition was available near checkpoints, their usefulness in combat is debateable. It often takes too many hits with shurikens or arrows to do much damage, but they can help stagger armored enemies so that the player has a moment to dodge roll away.
Trek to Yomi is a bit longer than its cinematic inspiration, though it doesn’t risk overstaying its welcome. The story moves relatively quickly, with players exploring the village as a fledgling who helps field off an attack by bandits. This leads to the young samurai swearing to protect the village from that day forward, kicking off a series of events that leave players to choose one of three narrative paths. On different occasions, players will be prompted to determine whether Hiroki’s quest is driven by love, duty, or revenge.
The game briefly draws on elements of Japanese mythology to flesh out Hiroki’s journey, with the players choices dictating how and when it comes to a close. In order to see all potential endings, players will need to go back through the entire campaign again. This can be great for replayability, but ultimately leads to Trek to Yomi’s other issues.
Trek to Yomi: What you won’t like
Trek to Yomi’s biggest sin is how the game lulls you in with the promise of replayability by presenting different narrative paths but then ultimately punishes you for daring to finish it by deleting your save file after rolling credits. There is no chapter select option, so if you happened to miss any collectibles or did not take the time to read the additional lore bits, then you’re simply out of luck. Your only option is to fire up from the beginning and start the trek again.
There is, thankfully, a little bit of variety with each playthrough thanks to difficulty modifiers like one hit kills for Hiroki and non-boss enemies alike that become available after finishing the story. The game has four potential endings, so there is also the option to choose a different path on subsequent playthroughs. Unfortunately, though you certainly run the risk of ending the game prematurely depending on your choice which is going to push you back to the start all over again whether you want to or not. While the different ending cutscenes and story beats are a nice touch, the amount of changes to the story over the course of multiple playthroughs are decidedly minimal and typically wrapped up with just one or two changes to dialogue, making the forced replay a hard sell.
While the early chapters of Trek to Yomi lean heavily into learning your way around combat, including exploring off the beaten path to find traps that take out groups of bandits as opposed to fighting them one on one, the second half of the game sees the introduction of half-hearted puzzles sprinkled in as afterthoughts. Their absence in the early portion of the game and their lack of variety in general leaves them feeling out of place in the experience. One specific set requires the player to find symbols around the scene, then stand on a pedestal to bring up a wheel on the center of the screen, which is then rotated to reflect the symbols you found.
Up until the introduction of these puzzles, Trek to Yomi has a limited HUD displaying only the health and stamina gauges in the bottom left corner, the subtitles in the bottom center, and the occasional flickering white dot to indicate a collectible. The stark white glowing Kanji and sudden introduction of the puzzle wheel seemed at odds with the simplified cinematic feel the rest of the game tries so hard to imitate. When you’re trying to go for a minimalist, cinematic look, the inclusion of something so jarring as a puzzle like this doesn’t sit right.
Trek to Yomi: Should you play it?
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
The long answer is a bit more involved. Trek to Yomi is a love letter to classic samurai movies, and it wholeheartedly embraces that with its fixed camera, monochrome color palette, and slightly cliché story. Its clear that the goal here is for the players to witness the events of the game similar to what it would be like if they were watching it as a movie, albeit with more interactivity. While the game is absolutely gorgeous, it is still viable to play even on a budget laptop or PC thanks to its simplistic design in gameplay and aesthetics. There are some missteps, however, like when it breaks from its cinematic inspiration to add some nonsensical and completely unnecessary puzzle mechanics.
Achievement hunters and completionists may find Trek to Yomi more daunting with its multiple playthrough requirements and the cursed decision to forego a chapter select feature. The majority of the game’s challenges come from completing boss encounters without taking any damage, and failing to do so means rerunning the entire campaign or manipulating cloud saves to try again, which simply feels like forced padding of otherwise solid gameplay.
Trek to Yomi lends itself well to being the kind of game you run through once in an afternoon, or it can easily be more involved if you feel like hunting down all of the endings and collectibles. Regardless of your preferred difficulty, the challenge of combat is finely tuned and balanced to keep you on the edge of your seat as you push through each chapter. However you choose to play the game, what you’re certain to find is an experience that is absolutely stunning in both its attention to detail and its simplicity. Trek to Yomi’s launch into Xbox Game Pass makes its easier than ever to try this distinct experience for yourself.
Trek to Yomi
Bottom line: Trek to Yomi’s a 2.5D action adventure where players guide Hiroki, a fledgling samurai, on his quest for revenge following the destruction of his village. It is up to the player to determine whether it will be love, duty, or revenge that drives Hiroki in his quest to bring honor those he was sworn to protect.
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