We mostly think of games like Shadow Warrior and Hard Reset when developer Flying Wild Hog comes up, but Trek to Yomi is a big departure from the usual first person shooter mechanics we’ve come to know from the studio. As an incredibly atmospheric ode to the classic black and white samurai movie, it’s been on our watchlist for a while now. Devolver is on publishing duties, and it’s out now for PlayStation, Xbox and PC.
Calling it a cinematic 2D action adventure with a samurai film theme is as fitting a descripition as you can come up with for Trek to Yomi – an homage to the classic samurai cinema culture of the black and white era. That cinematic approach also carries over to the game’s length, because at about four to five hours in length it’s relatively short (though it has a price tag to match). It’s rare to see a title with such an expertly crafted audiovisual presentation at this price range, although Song of Iron does come to mind as a reference.
In Trek to Yomi, you play as Hiroki, who finds his people under duress once war breaks out – prompting him to take up his sword and defend his home with the use of his skills as a samurai. Much of the narrative that unfolds from there is delivered visually, and dialogue is used only sporadically – but with visuals that are this striking that’s not a bad thing at all.
As you’d expect from a cinematic title, Trek to Yomi is fairly linear in its approach, and thus offers little in the way of replay value. Your actual “trek” is far from peaceful though, and often spent fighting enemies with your sword when you’re not traversing the scene from one location to the next. Combat’s a large part of the experience, and (as we already knew from the trailers) looks fantastic. It’s fun to play these combat scenarios as well, though the actual gameplay isn’t as deep or responsive as we would have liked.
The biggest reason for that is that once you figure out how to easily take down enemies, that method is probably going to work just fine for you for the rest of the game as well – often resulting in a method of parrying and then unleashing a set combo over and over again. The beautiful visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting in making sure the experience stays engaging, but there’s no denying the fact that combat can get repetitive after a while.
What’s unfortunate about that is that your move list does gradually expand over the course of the adventure – there’s just not too much use for the new attacks you learn. With some balancing adjustments of different combat tactics by enemies, the fighting could have been more engaging than it is at the moment.
As a cinematic videogame experience, however, it’s hard to fault Trek to Yomi. The black and white visuals, combined with fires that rage in the background and rain that pours down on you, are a joy to watch. Some of the animations could use a little polish to make things a tad more fluid at times, but that’s really just nitpicking. Despite a combat system that could have been better, this is a title that leave an impression and that you’ll want to play.