Review : Trek to Yomi : Best Served Cold

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There are games that claim to be cinematic by delivering complex characters and deep themes that engross the player in 40+ hour epics, and then there is Trek to Yomi. This short but sweet experience is filled with traditional Japanese history, tight gameplay, and a classic tale of revenge that feels complete, satisfying, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Developed by Wild Flying Hog and published by Devolver Digital; Trek to Yomi is an homage to the famous works of Akira Kurosawa in a truly accurate manner.

You take the role of Hiroki, a trained samurai who goes on a journey of vengeance, sacrifice, and self-reflection. There are no convoluted story elements that take you down several layers of disjointed storytelling, it is as straightforward as you can get. While the story may be simple, everything else that surrounds it makes Trek to Yomi an incredibly unique experience worth visiting.

Hiroki’s journey takes him across a variety of distinct environments, making up one of the most appealing concepts that gives Trek to Yomi its identity. When I say it is like stepping into a Kurosawa film, I mean it perfectly encapsulates the concepts found within his classic movies; complete with authentic Japanese voiceovers, subtle yet powerful soundtrack, and striking attention to detail.

Trek to Yomi’s lack of color is a strength, building a sense of awe within each environment. Forests, cities, and burning fires use black and white to produce dread-filled landscapes and mystery while also offering a natural way of traversing the world. My only gripe is how some directions aren’t as clear as they should be. I was getting caught on some parts of the environment as well, but that only occurred a couple of times and didn’t take away from my overall impressions.

Despite it feeling problematic in rare cases, the camera work is what gives Trek to Yomi that cinematic feel. A still shot will hang over the environment, giving you a look at ancient stoic statues, detailed temples, and burning streets. It wants to surprise you with story elements that hide in the background while remaining subtle. At one point, you know exactly where you are, but Hiroko does not, and that creates something compelling within the narrative. Trek to Yomi is all about “show, don’t tell.”

Trek to Yomi’s approach to exploration and combat combines 3D and 2D elements. In some instances, you will walk around on a 3D plane, climbing up rocks and traveling through the streets. When enemies become present, they reposition themselves into a 2D format, creating a natural and familiar combat engagement. Engaged enemies will gather in front of and behind you while others remain offset, waiting for their moment to enter the fray.

There is a methodical approach to combat as your strikes play off a rhythm. You could button mash your way through Trek to Yomi, but the game feels most rewarding when you master the rhythm behind each attack, plus you’ll run out of stamina and health quickly. Luckily, there are items that help extend both resources so you can fight for longer.

Encounters can occur in mere seconds or take a minute or two and every second longer that your opponent stands, the more dangerous they become, so it is always in your best interest to optimize your combat potency. Enemy design tells you exactly how you should approach each fight. Barely-clothed bandits should take 1 or 2 hits while an armored samurai will take several more, making you think on your feet especially when ranged enemies come into play.

Trek to Yomi has a fair share of abilities that you learn as you progress along with a wide range of collectables that provide you with additional historical context. Finding all of these could stretch a 5-hour game into 7 (or more) hours. A shorter game isn’t bad especially in this case where Trek to Yomi feels like a fulfilling experience that can be revisited and mastered.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Trek to Yomi. Tight gameplay, beautiful cinematography, and the yells of my slain foes are only a few parts of what makes this game incredibly enthralling.  Flying Wild Hog has proved that you don’t need to create an open world pseudo-RPG to be considered theatrical or cinematic. It can be done with passion, heart, inspiration, and a dish best served cold.

Final Verdict : 8

     Fun Factor : 8
     Technical Prowess : 8
     Time Investment : 4 to 5 Hours
     Replayability : 8

For more on Trek to Yomi, read the interview with Creator Leonard Menchiari

Find Seasoned Gaming on Open Critic

Trek to Yomi was played on PC and Steam Deck via code provided by Devolver Digital
PC Specs: 3.8 GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5700G, 16GB 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM, 2TB M.2 NVMe SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti

By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

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