Yurukill: The Calumniation Games from NIS America is a unique blend of genres to provide a visual novel experience unlike any other. It’s out for PlayStation and the Nintendo Switch next week, and we played it on a PS5 to see what you can expect.
Premise-wise, Yurukill immediately grabbed us. Taking place in a remote amusement park called Yurukill Land that designed for a dark purpose, the story feels a bit like Stephen King’s The Running Man. You’ve been convicted of mass murder, and only by taking place in the Yurukill Games do you stand a chance of winning back your freedom. So far, so Running Man. In a bizarre twist, you’re also paired up with the sole survivor on the slaughter that you were allegedly responsible for, which of course creates a strange dynamic as you tackle the challenges in front of you.
As its core, this is a visual novel title not too unlike genre greats like Zero Escape and the Danganronpa games, but it’s one which more so than those games infuses the experience with other gameplay styles. Some of these make a lot of sense, others will feel completely unexpected if you have a few visual novels under your belt already. We’re not sure if the game’s better for it, but it certainly makes it memorable and kept the journey interesting during its 12 to 15 hour runtime.
Because this isn’t an action game per se, much of the narrative is presented a crime/mystery story, so it makes sense for Yurukill: The Calumniation Games to feature puzzles and cross-examinations. There’s a good story here with interesting characters, and the puzzles aren’t challenging enough to stump you for too long (and there’s a hint system if you get stuck anyway), so the game keeps its pace up well.
And if we were forced to make some kind of connection here, then that fast pace is probably why the game also features bullet hell shooter portions – which certainly seems like an odd pairing with the more laid back visual novel genre. Luckily, our taste in videogames is broad, so we welcomed the inclusion. With well designed levels and solid gameplay, this diversions (presented as games that take place in “in-game VR”) were fun, and there are even difficulty levels and leaderboards for them.
For a visual novel, Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is a very streamlined experience that welcomes gamers from outside this niche genre. It’s doesn’t go all out on a forty hour narrative like others do, and good pacing and changes in gameplay styles make it so you’re never bored. It’s on the easy side, but could be a good first step into visual novels for players who find some of the games within the genre to be a tad too daunting.