Trek to Yomi Review – Slog Through The Afterlife – Game Informer

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Yomi’s protagonist, Trek from Orphan to Samurai Hiroki says, “Fall seven times, stand eight.” This line represents not only his satire-like tenacity, but something players must take to heart to reach the end of this journey. However, I wasn’t always sure that the finish line was worth getting back on my feet. The flashy art direction can’t hide the title’s lackluster gameplay, empty characters, predictable story, and archaic design. The Indies is generally fertile soil for new ideas and unique experiences, but Trek to Yomi comes up disappointingly short here, with very few concepts I haven’t seen a dozen times before.

The opening is one of the high notes of Trek To Yomi. Glittering film. Sad music. A burning city. I had no idea where I was or what was going on, but the game prepared me for an old school, Kurosawa-inspired samurai adventure. The tutorial is cleverly tied into a sudden flashback scene that transports me to a time when the now-devastated city was humming with life.

I ran through combat basics with my sensei, Sanjuro, who embodies all the well-worn tropes of the aging samurai and father figure. He helped me master some basic combo-focused techniques involving my stamina bar. My repertoire eventually grew from humble two-button attacks to more complex strings of commands, and I added a variety of weapons to my arsenal. However, the fight never changes much from these initial moments, and, after meeting with them, my teacher was called to the urgent task.

Introducing important characters like Sensei Sanjuro and his daughter Aiko in a moment of peace—knowing that the city would soon be in flames—could have been a great way for me to emotionally connect with them. However, it doesn’t take time to establish any deep connections in this five-hour-long game, which largely relies on the implications and backstory included in the collectible details. The peace is broken very quickly, and I have to fight through a very clear and inspiring narrative. Hiroki follows a clichéd path of duty and vengeance that leads him to the depths of Yomi. And the game, like its protagonist exploring the underworld, takes off from here.

Trek to Yomi is a 2D side-scroller, meaning that both exploration and combat take place on a narrow plane. Whether battling sunny areas or supernatural swamps, fights have enemies awkwardly rushing out of your sight, then engaging you. The moment-to-moment gameplay essentially amounts to: encountering groups of enemies, running down a linear path, finding collectibles or ammo, defeating bosses, repeating. Technically everything is fine, but there isn’t much to get excited about.

This tedious loop with graphics told me about PlayStation 2-era games, with all the flaws and a bit of nostalgia. Characters stare blankly even in dire situations, some in-game options I felt mostly unimportant until the very end, and I had to stop at save points every few minutes. This last issue was particularly troubling.

On one hand, I was happy to have a health-restoring, progress-saving shrine after nearly every encounter. On the other hand, it took me out of the world and asked me why there were so many structures so easily in the depths of the underworld as well. Despite the abundance, dying – which I did a lot – was always a chore. Every time I died, I had to run down the same route, hear the same dialogue, and beat the same batch of baddies until I got to the next part.

While it doesn’t remove all the flaws, I can’t deny that there are dazzling visual moments where the game captures the cinematic atmosphere that inspired it. One of these is a wonderfully crafted scene where I face an opponent in the middle of a river while flashes of lightning illuminate the stormy sky. Or someone else, who puts me between the dancing wind-swept grass in the foreground and a soaring tori gate in the background, weaving in and out of the ominous, swirling fog.

Sadly, Trek to Yomi looks and feels quite old for such an aesthetically pleasing game. And its older gameplay can’t be completely covered up by its artsy black-and-white filter. Trek to Yomi tries to reach the heights of acclaimed Japanese filmmaking, but unfortunately, it almost falls flat as a 2D fighter.

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