Trek to Yomi is a game I discovered through Xbox Game Pass. I’ve always had a fondness for that ninja/samurai-like thematics in media (my review of Mini Ninjas only re-enforces that) and those old films from the 1950s are a great example of that. If you’ve ever seen those types of films, then there’s a high chance that you’ll enjoy this game.
From the very beginning its clear that the game is a homage to those films. The cinematography, the lighting, the monochrome and even the film grain – it’s all there and it looks absolutely beautiful. Not only that, but the soundtrack sets the tone for each of the places that you visit including the towns, the forests and other areas that you’ll see. I think it’s really cool how people are transferring these old types of beautiful cinematography from films into an interactive adventure through video-games.
The villages that you run through, the caves and the forest, they feel authentic; and the artstyle doesn’t need to be super realistic either – turning the film grain setting off in the menu isn’t making the game look any worse and the models aren’t exactly going to be revolutionary or astounding, but they do their job and makes the world look like it was set in that Edo period.
However, you begin to realise that this homage is a huge part of the experience and at the core of it all.
The story is one of those which is good, but it’s not like it’s anything that hasn’t been done before or a narrative that’s completely new in videogames or media. A small child trained as a samurai and grows up and must protect his family and home is a pretty run-of-the-mill story but the way that it’s told through the interactive aspect of the game is what turns the story from good to very good.
It’s not that long of a game either, only 8-ish hours at most and features four difficulty levels and some achievements for the expected things like finding all the collectibles, no hitting bosses and beating the game on the different difficulties. So there’s much more than eight hours of playtime to be had if you’re a completionist or an achievement hunter which is always cool – and there’s a secret ending too. I love secret endings like the ones in the Far Cry games so seeing that in Trek to Yomi was a nice delight.
The free-form exploration segments of the game that split it up from the side-scrolling combat every-so-often is a nice change of pace instead of always being in a state of needing to fight people or always being in a side-scroller. In these free-form exploration parts, the camera minds me of those early 2000s point-and-click videogames, where it would be placed in areas just out of bounds, in corners and other places, like how Sam and Max works.
By far my biggest issue with the game is the combat, which plays a huge part in the game because of its obvious focus around samurais. This game would get a higher score if it wasn’t for the core gameplay being extremely agonising. The enemy variety is almost little to none and half the time the inputs are delayed, meaning that you’ll miss attacks on enemies. It’s much easier to just cheese fights by doing the same basic inputs than it is worthwhile doing the big combos that you unlock.
Parrying is an absolute nightmare, the frame in which you can do it is either too big or too small depending on difficulty (and on “normal”, or its equivalent), it’s tighter than trying to wear clothes that you haven’t worn since you were 10. One of the enemies, in fact, is able to teleport behind you and practically has no breaks in-between attacks and teleports very often. Combine that with the horrendous input and you’re basically dead quicker than you can say the phrase “this combat is awful”.
I’ve never been shy to say that I’m not a fan of games with extreme difficulty such as Soulslikes and found Elden Ring tough to play and not my type of experience. Somehow, someway, Trek to Yomi’s combat is more stressful and painful than that. Many times I found myself groaning at how stupid it was that I got killed when I pressed the correct button but it was delayed, so the enemy’s quick attacks got me before I could respond.
It’s fair to say that the combat needs a complete re-work from the ground up. It’s one of those rare times where the gameplay makes it hard to enjoy an otherwise great game because it’s so annoying to play through and dampens enjoyment of the game.
Trek to Yomi is a fantastically atmospheric game that’s very unfortunately hindered by a tiresome and often agonising combat system. If you really want to experience the game, I would recommend watching videos on YouTube than having to sit through the nightmare attempting to do combat without getting bored or frustrated.