The art of Bushido shines on the small screen. A "Trek to Yomi" Review

  Yomi is derived from the Japanese word  Yomi-no-kuni, which means  the land of the dead. According to legend this is the place where the d...


Yomi is derived from the Japanese word Yomi-no-kuni, which means the land of the dead. According to legend this is the place where the dead go to dwell and rot indefinitely. A hunger comes over those who enter and once you have eaten the forbidden hearth of Yomi it will be impossible to return to the land of the living. In the west they say that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and if that is the case then you definitely face the consequences when visiting Yomi where you will face those you have wronged in life.

Flying Wild Hog, the studio from Rzeszów Poland wanted to make a videogame that conveyed a cinematic experience inspired by Japanese movies of the 50s and 60s. This would not be limited to the visuals and setting but also the pacing, acting and overall feel.

During development it was important to stay true to the culture and in order to so extensive research and the assistance of native Japanese Experts were pulled in to assist with the direction of the game and the story it is trying to tell. All dialog in the game is in Japanese voiced by experienced actors such as Akio Otsuka, Masayuki Katou and Hiroshi Shirokuma,    and the lore is pulled straight from Ancient Japanese stories and beliefs. Creating a unique experience.

The story of Trek to Yomi starts with the main protagonist Hiroki as a child taking lessons from his sensei Sanjuro as your village is attacked. You repel the bandits but at a great cost. Time passes and now as a young adult you find yourself facing the bandits once more.
Taking on these foes on pretty much alone takes its toll on our hero and he ends up finding himself hurt and pulled into Yomi. Here he has to face the hunger, his self-doubt, and balance his desires and sense of duty with the guilt of his mistakes current and in the past. Fighting literal demons and ghosts you make your way deeper into yomi looking for a way out. During his travels that could rival the journey in Dante's inferno, Hiroki has to make choices that will determine his ultimate fate.

Based deep in the lore and mystic of ancient Bushido, the way of the warrior, the hero Samurai uses the sword as his main weapon. The gameplay is straight forward with a light attack, heavy attack, a block/parry button and a roll/sprint button. Additionally, you can use the triggers for ranged attack if you have any weapons and ammo for it. Each action will cost you stamina. This means you cannot hold your block up forever as a big hit on your block will drain stamina, neither can you spam your attacks. Run out of stamina and you become vulnerable for some time which is often punishing, especially in crowded areas. Ammo is limited as well and with such restrictions the game asks you to manage your attack careful between blocks, parries, ripostes and when to throw a shuriken or fire that arrow. 

From this basic control scheme, a series of combos is unlocked over time as you progress through the game and you will need to master them to get through the challenges in Yomi and beyond. Hidden through the levels are also upgrades to your health, stamina and ammo capacity as well as collectibles that tell parts of the lore. 
The combos you get will allow you to better fight of the enemies you face in the game and allow even a finisher move on stunned enemies for a brutal takedown (we are talking flying limbs and head here) and recoup a slight bit of health back.

Pulling of all these attacks and blocks is not easy, a quick finger and trigger timing is needed in order to survive throughout the game and when you get crowded from both sides it becomes especially challenging even on the easier difficulties. Patience and assessment of the enemies as well as managing your stamina and ammunition is important.

There are 3 main enemy types in the game. Transitional enemies that are easy to bring down, encounters that are tougher and often have some dialog, think a general or specialist . There are group encounters where you have to dispatch 3-7 various enemies which will require you to anticipate their moves, know their techniques and find a way to take them down before they bring you to your knees. Finally there are boss fights which have larger enemies that use a combo of physical attacks and magic and have a large health bar making them hard to take down. 

Scattered through the levels are shrines that will save your progress and fill your health bar, but also here you cannot keep backtracking to recharge your health over and over. Once you used it, that is it. The only way to go is forward onto the next part and the next shrine. If you fail you will restart at the last shrine with all your health and ammo back intact and you can try again.

Trek to Yomi most stands out with the way it is presented. Entirely in black and white with applied effects that make it look like a movie, one of those that is still on actual film. Scratches and specks, light bleed from the camera and even the edges of the film of you move near the edges of the screen give the game its authentic feel. There have been black and white games before, but Yomi feels like a movie the effect is very well done. 
The game is played in a 2.5 D view moving horizontally through the game with some paths up and down. Every area is shown in a static camera setting, much like the old resident evil games but with some added camera movement that creates intense scenes that emphasize and amplify the feeling the director is trying to convey. Further making the entire scene look more like a movie set than a videogame. Small cutscenes tie the whole together seamlessly and the few load screens that are there feel more like those old fashioned title cards naming a chapter like you see a lot in older movies. 

The character animations look good overall but there are moments the transitions in stances or moves are a bit jerky and with everting else in the game so well recreated to represent its inspiration source material I would have loved the animation to be a little more polished. The clarify, it is not bad, but it stands more out because the rest of the design. Music feels authentic but stays minimal knowing its role as a support to the presentation instead of becoming overbearing. Often there are moments of no music as well, leaving room for dialog or atmosphere.The voice acting is top quality and the talent of the actors comes across well even if I don't speak a lick of Japanese. Lastly the sound effects do their job well in creating an eerie scene and help complete the total package reinforcing a sense of the combat, overall dread and horror.

Even though the game seems a linear 2d game it actually hidden rooms and branching paths you can take and SHOULD take in order to find your upgrades as well as unlock different parts of the story. The branching paths also give you ways to get past by or knock out the enemy as an alternative to direct conflict. One path for example I chose to go up, this led me to rafter above a group of bandits discussing their next move. A quick slash of my sword and a group of barrels on a rope above them came clattering down crushing the bandits underneath. Too...Easy.  

You can play Trek to Yomi in various difficulties, 
Kabuki:  Easy or story mode, which still requires some effort in the later games.
Bushido: This is normal mode you have to be more on point with your combat and ammo management
Ronin: This is a mode for experienced players that will require every part of your ammo and combat moves to be executed perfectly. There is not much room for mistakes.
and finally there is Kensei: One hit , one kill, enough said.

You can expect the game to take you about  5-7 hours on your first playthrough if playing on Bushido or Ronin difficulty. If you play the easiest mode it could take a little less, depending on your level of experience. The choices you make in the game will give you different outcomes of the game making it ideal for multiple playthroughs.

I really enjoyed Trek to Yomi, the unique style and presentation as well as the authentic story telling were done very well. The gameplay worked well despite giving me some fits when things got more chaotic but overcoming the challenges was a great feeling. The game is pretty violent and the story is dark and brooding, but the black and white esthetic softens it somewhat and, in a way, enhance the story more as the game is not focused on the gore but on the psychological impact of conflict.  From my point of view, Flying wild hog studios more then succeeded in accomplishing their vision and as a result this small game with a big heart shines on the small screen. 

If you have Gamepass then you are in lock as the game will be available today on the platform for XBOX as well as the PC. For those on PlayStation or without Gamepass you can now also buy it on the respective stores and steam.

Game: Road to Yomi
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Release Date: May 5th, 2022
Platforms: PC, Playstation (4&5) and XBOX, Gamepass
Review Platform: XBOX Series X
ESRB: M for Mature ( 17+) For blood and gore, Violence.

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks 


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