Yomi, or the Land of the Dead, according to Japanese Shinto mythology, is the final destination for the damned and is rife with imagery and storytelling potential, paralleling Western concepts of Hell and other similar portrayals of the afterlife.
Trek to Yomi, produced in Poland by the talented people over at Flying Wild Hog Games, then is a love letter to Japanese mythology and Japanese cinema, specifically the famous works of Akira Kurosawa.
As the name may imply, Trek to Yomi is a gradual descent into madness. Following the life of the game’s protagonist, Hiroki, an orphan taken in by a well-regarded samurai, whom inevitably rises to the occasion after his village is left in ruin by opposing forces. The game uses this tried and true setup and splits itself into several parts that feel heavily inspired by classic Japanese cinema, denoting both the passage of time and significant events within the narrative as it unfolds.
Trek to Yomi isn’t a particularly long game but saying that is not a criticism, as the shorter length of the game seems deliberate in that the title wants to frame itself as an interactive and playable movie. From the black and white film look, complete with noise and imperfections, to the main character, Hiroki resembling the lone protagonist from Yojimbo featured in Kurosawa‘s 1961 film of the same name.
Trek to Yomi is steeped equally in both popular and classical japanese culture, making it an essential experience for fan’s of Eastern media and ideas.
In terms of gameplay, Trek to Yomi is deceptively simple, giving players access to light and heavy attack and a means to turn around in order to fight enemies in the opposite direction of wherever Hiroki is facing. Throwable kunai’s and a bow are made available to the player soon after, and by the later half of the 5-6 hour experience, player’s will have access to Hiroki’s Ozutsu, a crude and slow firearm but one that can make short work of most enemies.
“Despite its short length, Trek to Yomi offers good replayability, particularly for those who like a good challenge”
Going off the beaten path often rewards the player with additional collectibles and other consumables, including scrolls and encounters that give Hiroki additional moves via fighting game styled inputs. The addition of unlockable techniques helps the game feel fresh and engaging throughout. Trek to Yomi primarily plays on a horizontal plane, with certain sequences that break the convention with fixed camera angles reminiscent of older, survival horror and RPG titles.
Speaking of horror, Trek to Yomi by its ending, deviates slightly from its adherence to Kurosawa’s aesthetic, opting for more of a supernatural vibe while still maintaining its razor sharp structure and pacing.
Despite its short length, Trek to Yomi offers good replayability, particularly for those who like a good challenge, thanks to the inclusion of the Ronin dificulty, the hardest mode of the game, one in which a single blow results in a game over. In general, however, Trek to Yomi is a well-balanced game in terms of difficulty, partially due to well-placed shrines that heal Hiroki and act as checkpoints.
Well choreographed enemies that generally don’t feel cheap or unfair further balance Trek to Yomi’s difficulty, ultimately making the title appealing to both those looking for a real challenge, and those wanting more of that cinematic experience the game strives toward.