I’ve spent some time playing Trek to Yomi, a new combat-oriented game from Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital, that sits in a similar space occupied by Ghost of Tsushima and Sifu. That is to say, what we have is a game that is deeply inspired by the aesthetics of classic Asian cinema, but from a very western point of view. Each game has its own degree of research, but the vibe is similar.
Trek to Yomi Review
What makes Trek to Yomi particularly interesting is its commitment, often chasing the style of an Akira Kurosawa film (specifically Seven Samurai, natch) at the cost of visibility or self-seriousness borderlining on camp. Early in the game, you’ll be running through a village during a bandit attack, complete with wailing villagers and imperfect monochrome lighting, the kind that happens when you film a movie outdoors in the 1950s. It reads more authentic than, say, the sterile blockbuster polish in Tsushima’s Kurosawa Mode filters.
But it also goes in its own direction, incorporating the supernatural and other aspects of Japanese culture and history I can’t speak to the authenticity of. But the effort to do more than recreate tropes is visible. That said, we’re still looking at that very western Hollywood media version of what we think a “samurai” is, which feels especially flimsy when the ostensible samurai or ex-samurai is just here to be the dead mentor motivator. I think we often forget that Seven Samurai, the one everyone always invokes, was about a bunch of washed-up, dangerous ronin. Failed cops who ultimately do good but are indistinguishable from bandits to the villagers.
The videogame parts are also interesting, as I was surprised to find Trek to Yomi’s combat closely resembling the classic Prince of Persia series. The ones that predate Ubisoft’s time-traveling and immaculate facial hair. The older games in which players often fight their own physical limits as much as the enemies. Or at least, you know, my vague childhood memories of what those games were like.
Obviously, Trek to Yomi feels much more contemporary, and it being a samurai movie-inspired game has a big emphasis on speed, accuracy, and countering. It’s almost like a black and white Prince of Persia with the speed dialed up, and some of the more finicky aspects of those games ironed out. There are also multiple difficulty settings and ample checkpoints to help muscled folks through regardless of skill level. Yomi isn’t a Git Gud game, which I appreciate especially in 2022.
What I mean really, is that you’re largely looking at combat on a 2D plane, and you have to really pay attention to small details to find a spot to strike and know when to guard. This isn’t Dark Souls with huge tell animations, nor is it stiff and unforgiving. It’s somewhere in-between, and it feels pretty solid. There just isn’t a whole lot more to it than that. You get the most mileage out of paying attention, blocking, then mashing attack a couple of times.
If this specific aesthetic is something you’re really into, then you’re the player who’ll get the most out of Trek to Yomi. But if you also want the substance of a Kurosawa film in addition to the vibes, well, Yomi doesn’t hit the target. It’s a fascinating game that has a little more of a brain compared to its peers, but it is admittedly missing a wow factor or compelling hook to really drive the experience home.
- Hits the intended aesthetic pretty well
- Gets in and out without overstaying its welcome
- Combat is not particularly engaging
- Surface-level storytelling
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.