Akira Kurosawa is revered for his samurai movies, with titles such as Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo sure to stand out in the memories of anyone who watched them. Ever wondered how his black-and-white cinematic style might translate to the video game world? Well, it might not have Kurosawa’s name attached to it, but Trek to Yomi from developer Flying Wild Hog certainly acts as a tribute to him with its stylish, narrative-driven journey for revenge.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Trek to Yomi puts players in the role of Hiroki, a young swordsman who finds his village under siege and his master slain during the attack. Vowing for revenge and driven by the urge to protect his people from further onslaught, he looks to take the fight to those that destroyed the peaceful life that he led. What follows is a somewhat predictable tale of vengeance, but one that’ll still entertain thanks to the game’s striking cinematic presence as well as the daring scenarios it puts Hiroki in.
It also gives players a sense of choice, with key decisions made throughout the story that will affect the outcome. Of course, I won’t spoil anything here, but it does give the game some replay value if you want to see the many turns that Hiroki’s tale can take. The game is easily beaten in around four-hours (and it’ll take less time on subsequent playthroughs), so it’s not too much of a slog to see everything that it has to offer.
One thing I have to point out early in this review is Trek to Yomi’s excellent visual design. I was a huge fan of the black-and-white visuals. Whilst it’d be easy to imagine the absence of colour would detract from the atmosphere, it actually made the world feel more ethereal and harrowing in design. Even things like flames burning in the background or the striking of swords felt startling in monochrome (and especially impactful thanks to some brilliant sound design), whilst the wonderful selection of sights you see across your journey will never fail to impress. It isn’t something that’s done to simply echo the old-school stylings of Kurosawa’s movies, but instead goes a long way in helping set up a staggering sense of presence for the entire experience.
“Whilst it’d be easy to imagine the absence of colour would detract from the atmosphere, it actually made the world feel more ethereal and harrowing in design.”
The gameplay of Trek to Yomi is broken down into two different types: the 2D action sequences and the 3D exploration.
Combat takes place on a 2D plane, with players able to unleash light attacks, heavy attacks, and block incoming attacks to begin with. I’ve always been a fan of sword fighting in video games and Trek to Yomi gets all of the basics right, with even the simplest of encounters proving satisfying early on as you slice down foes with ease. It won’t take long before more intricate attacks are introduced though, with a range of combos giving Hiroki a more stylish repertoire of moves to unleash upon foes. You’ll even be able to use ranged weapons as you progress – they’re especially handy in certain situations, though I ALWAYS preferred to use my sword.
I really liked the combat of the game, with each death I inflicted upon enemies always feeling satisfying (especially when using some of the more vicious attacks that allow you to weave between attacks with style). The game introduces enough different types of enemies and varied boss encounters so that it never gets dull, with it rarely feeling like I was simply button-mashing my way to victory but instead having to plot out my actions. That being said, it isn’t particularly difficult and I did find myself getting into a rhythm of doing a lot of the same attacks over and over in a few situations, so there were SOME repetitive moments. They didn’t stop me from enjoying killing my enemies though, which is the most important thing to consider.
Outside of combat, you’ll spend time exploring 3D environments that really give players a chance to scour their surroundings – there are even some light elements of puzzling introduced, though nothing that’ll leave players perplexed for too long. These still take place over what looks like a 2D plane, but players are able to move freely across the environment to dig out the many collectibles that flesh out the lore or find the route they need to take to progress through the story. Admittedly, Trek to Yomi is a very linear game so you’re unlikely to spend too much time exploring in these 3D sections, but they do manage to provide an intriguing change of pace to all of the killing that’ll allow players to appreciate their surroundings a bit more.
Check out some screenshots down below:
There really is a lot to like about Trek to Yomi and I had a great time embarking on my brutal journey for vengeance, whilst the visual style and narrative go a long way in ensuring the game will stick in my mind for some time. That being said, there were a few little stumbling blocks that stood out along the way. The somewhat repetitive combat mechanics may frustrate some, for example, whilst there’s never anything in-between combat that differentiates the experience enough to feel wholly remarkable or add variety to the adventure. Sure, there are plenty of neat areas to explore and there’s even room for some environmental interactions here and there, but there’s not enough to help bring you out of the pattern of ‘fighting, exploring, and repeat’. It wasn’t enough of a problem to make me tire of the game, but I can imagine the lack of variety may sour the experience for others.
Trek to Yomi Review
Trek to Yomi is a gripping escapade that blends together satisfying combat and stellar monochrome visuals into a thrilling samurai experience. It can be a little bit guilty of lacking variety across its adventure, but the stylish showdowns, intriguing narrative, and beautiful world design do more than enough to ensure that your time seeking vengeance is well spent.
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC