Trek to Yomi Review – Slog through the afterlife

“Fall seven times, get up eight times,” Trek tells Yomi’s hero, the orphaned samurai Hiroki. Not only does this inscription show his caricature-like perseverance, but it’s also something players should keep in mind if they want to get to the end of this journey. However, I’m not always sure the finish line is worth getting back on my feet. The eye-catching art direction can’t hide the title’s lackluster gameplay, empty characters, predictable plot, and antiquated design. India is often a fertile ground for fresh ideas and different experiences, but Trek to Yomi shows up here disappointingly short, with very few concepts I haven’t seen a dozen times.

The opening is one of the high notes of Trek to Yomi. The movie is shaky. Sad music. A town is on fire. I didn’t know where I was or what was going on, but the game got me ready for an old-school, Kurosawa-inspired samurai adventure. The guide is cleverly inserted into an unexpected flashback that transports me to a time when the ravaged city is now bustling with life.

I learned the basics of fighting with my master, Sanjuro, who embodied all the well-dressed images of the old samurai and the father figure. He helped me master some of the basic combo-centered techniques that are tied to my stamina bar. My repertoire eventually evolved from humble two-button attacks to more complex command sequences, and I added a bunch of ranged weapons to my arsenal. However, the war never changed much from these early moments, and, after just meeting him, my teacher was called on an urgent business trip.

Introducing important characters, like sensei Sanjuro and his daughter Aiko, to a moment of peace – knowing that the city will soon be engulfed in flames – can be a great way to bond with them emotionally. However, the five-hour game does not take the time to establish any deep connections, relying mainly on the implications and plots contained in the descriptions of the collections. The stillness was broken too soon, and I had to battle a story that was all too clear and engaging. Hiroki sets out on a trail of quest and revenge that leads him to the depths of Yomi herself. And the game, like its protagonist exploring its underworld, only starts here.

Trek to Yomi is a 2D side-scrolling game, which means exploration and combat both take place in a narrow plane. Whether fighting through sunny fields or supernatural swamps, battles include enemies scurrying into your field of vision, then engaging you. The moment-by-moment gameplay basically consists of: Confront groups of enemies, run down a linear path, find collectibles or ammo, defeat the boss, repeat. Technically everything is fine, but there’s not much to get excited about.

This tedious loop, along with the graphics, reminds me of a PlayStation 2 game, with all its flaws and a bit of nostalgia. Characters stare blankly even under dire circumstances, a few choices in the game that I feel are mostly unimportant until the end, and I have to stop at the following save points Few minute. This last issue has been given special attention.

On the one hand, I’m happy to find a temple that restores health, improves progress after almost any encounter. On the other hand, it takes me out of the world and makes me wonder why there are so many structures conveniently placed around, even in the depths of the underworld. Despite the excess, dying – which I did a lot of – was always a chore. Every time I lost my life, I had to run down the same passage, hear the same dialogue, and defeat the same bunch of bad guys until I made it through to the sequel.

While it doesn’t erase all flaws, there are undeniably visual moments where the game captures the cinematic atmosphere that inspired it. Among these was a wonderfully framed scene where I faced an opponent in the middle of a river while flashes of lightning lit up a stormy sky. Or another place, placing me between the wind-blown grass in front and a looming torii gate in the back, weaving in and out of the swirling, terrifying fog.

Sadly, Trek to Yomi looks and feels remarkably outdated for such a game aesthetic. And its archaic gameplay cannot be completely obscured by the artistic black-and-white filter. Trek to Yomi managed to reach the pinnacle of acclaimed Japanese filmmaking, but unfortunately, it fell almost as flat as its 2D fighter.

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