Developer ARVORE are prolific for their creativity in their virtual reality titles. Just look at their Pixel Ripped series, which sees players playing video games in a video game whilst also dealing with real-life shenanigans – it still stands out now as one of the more creative and unique titles available on virtual reality headsets today. Now, with YUKI, they’re bringing more of that inventive flair to a more traditional gameplay experience, with the roguelite bullet-hell shooter powered by the imagination found in a young child’s mind.
Check out a gallery of screenshots for the game down below:
I’m sure that last sentence might leave some readers a little confused, so let me explain. YUKI puts players into the role of a young child who is playing with their favourite action-figure: a space hero known as Yuki. Think of Yuki as a MUCH cooler (and more anime-inspired) Buzz Lightyear, and you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect. Whilst the action begins in a typical child’s bedroom, it soon spans out across six different levels as players partake in an imaginative adventure that’s akin to one of the many escapades I created in my own mind when playing with toys as a youngster. In YUKI’s case, it’s a journey to recover the Creative Drive that powers the universe, with an evil alien threat having stolen it.
This adventure sees players battling across an array of vibrant and creative environments full to the brim with fancy sights to see and enemies to blast away, with the gameplay feeling similar to the 3D vertical shooting found in the Star Fox series. It embraces the whole ‘Yuki is a toy’ motif throughout too, with the player essentially holding her and using her as a gun to shoot all of the enemies in her path – she’s stylishly animated though, so it certainly won’t feel like you’re just holding a toy. Yuki is also armed with a shield that can be temporarily activated as well as a freeze ability that locks enemies in place, whilst additional power-ups found across each level will improve her capabilities too.
“Think of Yuki as a MUCH cooler (and more anime-inspired) Buzz Lightyear, and you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect.”
However, Yuki is also vulnerable to incoming attacks, so players will have to keep moving both her and themselves around in order to avoid the splurge of bullets coming their way. It’s a very traditional gameplay experience that will be familiar to anyone who has played a vertical shooter before, though the imaginative flair of the world and the immersion brought with virtual reality does make it feel a bit more special.
The action of YUKI is free-flowing and fun, whilst the fixed movement across a straight navigation path feels perfect for virtual reality. It’s certainly not as overbearing as a lot of virtual reality titles out there, so even those who are new to the hardware should feel comfortable over extended play sessions. However, it isn’t an easy game by any means, with enemies quick to take Yuki down with their onslaught of attacks. YUKI is a roguelite too, meaning that when you die, you die – it’s ‘game over’ and you have to start at the beginning. The game features permadeath, so players will need a fair bit of patience and practice if they’re hoping to reach the finale. Each level is procedurally generated too, so players will never have the same experience twice on repeated playthroughs.
“The action of YUKI is free-flowing and fun, whilst the fixed movement across a straight navigation path feels perfect for virtual reality.”
Fortunately, players are able to collect Creative Drive orbs from fallen enemies to unlock additional upgrades for subsequent runs, ensuring it’s that bit easier to progress further and further through the game. Some of these upgrades are basic things, such as increasing your fire-rate or having orbs automatically absorb when enemies are defeated (this is VERY useful), but there are also new weapons that can be complete game-changers and allow players to change up their style of play. Believe me, I found most of my success using the homing bullets, which were less powerful than their traditional counterparts but that allowed me to focus a bit more on actually moving out of the way of incoming fire. These weapons change up Yuki’s appearance too, bringing with them a cool alteration outside of the change of weapon.
With all of Yuki’s abilities, the power-ups she finds, and the constant flow of enemies, there’s a lot of action taking place on-screen at any given time. It can get even busier when you unlock the drone power-ups, which give players even more defences working for them (and in turn more bullets flying across the screen). It all looks absolutely gorgeous in-game though, with the super-stylish locales and creative enemies all making for a wonderful looking experience. There is enough variation found across the six levels to make them feel unique from one-another, whilst the epic boss battles make for some spectacular (and tough) showdowns. It’s just a great looking game that’s packed to the brim with vibrant colours and imagination.
“Blasting away at enemies, moving to avoid incoming fire, improving Yuki with various upgrades, and the satisfaction of getting that *little* bit further – it all comes together to make for a roguelite experience that’s genuinely enthralling.”
The gameplay cycle is a whole lot of fun too. Blasting away at enemies, moving to avoid incoming fire, improving Yuki with various upgrades, and the satisfaction of getting that *little* bit further – it all comes together to make for a roguelite experience that’s genuinely enthralling. I’ve always been a fan of vertical shooters so the game already ticked plenty of boxes for me, but the gameplay loop itself brings with it a satisfying flow of progress that rewards players who stick with it until the end. YUKI is pretty short in itself with its six stages, but actually getting good enough to beat them all? Yeah, it’s going to take a few hours.
The only real argument that could be put against the game is that it doesn’t offer enough to keep players coming back for more when they’re done. An ‘Endless Mode’ is coming which will keep some players striving to beat high scores, but outside of that there is not much incentive for players to re-visit YUKI’s campaign once beaten. A lot of this is owed to the fact that the procedurally generated levels don’t bring with them too much variety outside of a different enemy and power-up layout, but it also doesn’t offer too much for players to work for outside of the upgrades either. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because there are plenty of hours of fun to be had blasting through the campaign in the first place, but it would have been nice if it offered a little something to keep players coming back once they have beat it.
YUKI is an enthralling roguelite shooter that feels great to play, looks sublime in virtual reality, and that brings with it a very imaginative concept. It’s satisfying blasting enemies across its six levels, whilst the gameplay loop of upgrading Yuki to make her more powerful for subsequent playthroughs always felt rewarding. It’s just a whole lot of fun.
The only real downsides are that there’s not enough there to keep players coming back for more once they’ve beaten the campaign, whilst the procedurally generated levels don’t offer too many variations from one-another. It’s not enough of a problem to make YUKI feel like a bad game by any means, but it can hurt the replayability.
Still, with its fantastic campaign and satisfying gameplay loop, there are still hours of fun to be had with YUKI. With both this and the Pixel Ripped series under their belt, it’s clear that ARVORE have established themselves as masters of their craft.
Platform(s): Oculus Quest (Reviewed), Oculus Rift, HTC Vive