Hide-and-seek horror is commonplace in the world of video games, with high-profile titles such as Outlast, Amnesia, and Alien Isolation mixed in with the smaller indie titles that are a dime a dozen across all platforms. Yuoni falls into the latter category, with its perilous adventure sure to fly under the radar of a lot of horror-loving gamers. In many ways it’s a shame, because there’s a cool concept here that does add a neat twist to the formula. However, the execution of said concept doesn’t always make for an entertaining gameplay experience, with Yuoni’s adventure one that can feel a bit repetitive, bland, and boring.
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The narrative is one of Yuoni’s strong points, with it telling the tale of a young girl named Ai who plays a dangerous game thanks to the encouragement of her friends. An urban legend in the area says that if you can find a special doll and place in into a bucket of water, the titular ghost Yuoni will ask to play a game with you. The prize for winning? He will grant a wish for Ai, like some spooky genie. If she loses? She’ll die.
In many ways, it’s a simple concept, but it’s one that’s explored in-depth through Yuoni’s text-based storytelling. The tale isn’t told through cinematic sequences, but instead gives players walls of text to read through as well as static images to admire. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily translate to an exciting experience, it does ensure that the lore of the game is fleshed out and that you’ll learn more about the ghosts and Ai’s experience. It won’t be for everyone, but I found it effective and it added depth to what is otherwise a fairly simple gameplay experience. I was certainly invested in the urban legend but was also glad to learn more about Ai’s struggles with it.
“An urban legend in the area says that if you can find a special doll and place in into a bucket of water, the titular ghost Yuoni will ask to play a game with you.”
Gameplay-wise, Yuoni revolves around the concept of exploring maze-like locales, uncovering the doll that’s hidden within them, and then returning to the starting point to place it in a bucket of water, all whilst avoiding the nasty ghosts that are lurking around by hiding in the environment. It’s a formula that’s been done time and time again over the last ten-years or so, so if you’re familiar with the horror genre, you’ll feel right at home here.
That’s actually part of the problem with the game. There’s nothing about Yuoni that really makes it feel unique in any way, with the formula of sneaking around and then hiding in a cupboard or under a bed feeling VERY familiar after the first twenty minutes or so of playing. It does try to spice things up by introducing a small QTE to hold your breath when trying to hide your presence from the wandering ghosts, but it felt more like an unnecessary distraction the more I played.
It’d be something if the environments you explore were interesting, but it just feels like a series of corridors with a few different items blocking Ai’s path. There are keys to find across these locales that will open up different doorways, but with nothing else of real interest to find, this sense of exploration just grew a little tiresome. I never felt any real incentive to take in the environment, but instead found myself just seeking out the doll and then trying to rush back to the start point – something that can be made difficult thanks to the fact that there’s nothing overly distinguishable about most aspects of each level.
“There’s nothing about Yuoni that really makes it feel unique in any way, with the formula of sneaking around and then hiding in a cupboard or under a bed feeling VERY familiar after the first twenty minutes or so of playing.”
At least the ghosts are spooky in their own little ways, with some best to simply hide from and others easier to run from as soon as they spot you. Whilst they weren’t the most frightening apparitions that I’ve seen in a video game, their presence did regularly catch me off-guard and made for some nail-biting experiences as I tried to escape their grasp.
Overall though, I just found Yuoni to be a little bit too repetitive to really grab my attention. It took me around three hours or so to beat the game, but even with that short length I found myself feeling a bit bored by the end. There is a more challenging version of the game to play once you’ve beaten it that comes with an alternative ending, but one run was enough for me. It’s not that anything is particularly bad, but nothing is especially good either… it’s just a bit dull.
At least the visuals felt unique though, with the vibrant orange and red shades of dusk making for a unique colour palette for a horror game. They brightly light up the hallways of each of Yuoni’s locales, giving them a deceiving sense of safety thanks to the fact that you’re not always wandering in the dark. I actually found the bright colour tones a bit more haunting at times, with them fitting the vibe of Ai’s journey perfectly.
I was invested in Yuoni’s narrative and world, but some dull hide-and-seek gameplay mechanics make it a tough horror title to recommend. There was just nothing about the game that felt especially exciting, with the locales repetitive, the ghosts easy to evade, and the level design giving no reason for players to feel eager to explore. It just felt a bit dull.
There were some things I especially liked such as the dusk setting and story, whilst there’s nothing about Yuoni that felt inherently bad… I just didn’t really have much fun playing it. Hardcore horror fans will probably enjoy its adventure, but there are much better titles to play in the genre for everyone else.
Developer: Tricore Inc.
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC