Devolver Digital has become one of the best indie publishers out in the gaming scene. Known for their unique business model of giving developers absolute creative freedom while also giving them enough funding and promotion in order to achieve their vision (an absolute rarity in the gaming industry), Devolver has a diverse portfolio of games under their belt (in addition to being the absolute KINGS of E3 conferences). Now, Devolver has teamed up with developer Flying Wild Hog and game director Leonard Menchardi to release one of their most ambitious titles to date, Trek to Yomi.
Yomi is a side-scrolling action game that is meant to invoke classic samurai films like Seven Samurai or Lone Wolf and Cub. The game follows Hiroki, a young samurai trainee whose village is attacked by bandits. After witnessing the death of his master, Hiroki swears to protect his village and the people within it at all costs…even if that path may end in tragedy. As Hiroki, you must slay your enemies, confront your honor, and avenge those you once swore to protect.
The first thing that makes Trek to Yomi so distinguishable from most games is its presentation. The game wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve, which absolutely adds to the game’s authenticity. The most impressive element is the game’s camera work. The way the camera moves with Hiroki going off into the distance gives these absolutely breathtaking shots that genuinely feel right out of a movie.
In addition, Menchardi and Flying Wild Hog have made the absolute wise decision to not only create the game in black and white but also have all of the voice acting be in Japanese using Japanese actors. There’s no English dub or anything of the sort in this game. In doing this, it adds more authenticity to what the game is trying to achieve. Not only in terms of its cinematic influences but also in real-life cultural influences as well. The story is a fantastic tale of loss and honor, but it’s the way that it respects the time and culture that truly makes it stand out.
(Writer’s note: at the time of this writing, I am currently on chapter 4 of 7, so I am well enough into the game).
Sadly, the only real gripe I have with the game is the gameplay itself. While it’s genuinely fun to be slicing and dicing everyone in your path, after a while, the gameplay feels rather…static. There is a slight learning curve, but once you get the hang of things, there really isn’t much else to it. It’s disappointing, as the way the game presents fight sequences is rather interesting. It opts for a 2D side-scrolling style whereas exploration is presented in a 3D style. It’s just a shame that for me personally, the gameplay fell short of expectations.
However, the story and visual presentation more than absolutely make up for it. Trek to Yomi is an absolutely breathtaking adventure. It proudly lets its influences wave freely in terms of visuals while also delivering a brutal yet poignant story. The gameplay might feel a bit unchanged to some, but the pros far outweigh the cons here.