In the world of Yono and the Celestial Elephants, people believe that elephants are sent to prevent chaos and are a sign of good things to come. Basically, elephants are viewed as gods and act as such in this universe, with people going as far as building a monastery dedicated to transcribing their deeds throughout history.
Yono, the player character and protagonist, is a young elephant that is seemingly sent from cosmos to help people in need. The characters that populate the world greet Yono with excitement, as most of them have never seen an elephant—the last time one showed up was hundreds of years ago. While Yono isn’t aware of his purpose at the start of the game, he was born kind hearted and wants to help any and everybody he meets. Yono is one charming chap, for sure.
The game is split up nearly evenly into two different but similar types of gameplay.
In cities, Yono will be asked by the townspeople to help them locate or deliver items, which is rarely more than simply exploring the town till the items are found, picking them up with Yono’s trunk, and carrying them on his back to their destination. Characters will reward Yono with money which can be used to buy a plethora of adorable in-game skins, such as a green tunic and hat just like Link’s from The Legend of Zelda, or more simple designs like polka dots, clouds, or stars. Heart pieces can also be collected and combining four of them will earn an extra hit point.
Otherwise, the rest of the game involves completing puzzles that almost all consist of sliding boxes to the correct areas to advance, while also fighting a few enemies and bosses. The puzzles never get very difficult, with only one or two rooms in the last dungeon requiring much thought. The same could be said about the bare bones combat that only consists of pressing an attack button that makes Yono rush forward and head butt enemies. If you’re looking for engaging puzzles or challenging combat, look elsewhere, as those found in Yono couldn’t possibly be more simple and basic.
Perhaps the simplicity is because the game is intended for kids or more casual players. At least that is what I thought when I first started the game and noticed all the characters were extremely polite to each other saying things like “sir” when addressing Yono, whom they had just met. However, the story eventually deals with a race of living corpses (think cute skeleton-like people) and stopping election fraud in a vote by a race of sentient robots deciding whether or not to go to war with the human city. Also, one character says “damn” at one point which felt very out of place compared to the rest of the game.
That said, I wouldn’t say anything here is offensive, just that Yono deals with themes you don’t typically see in games geared towards kids. Honestly, this gives me hope for the future if games aren’t afraid to teach younger players about treating each other with respect, the importance of democracy, and how life isn’t always black and white. Without spoiling anything, at one point Yono does something that he believes is the right thing to do at the time, but then questions whether or not it was the correct choice, as it may have benefited oppressors. I believe that is what my fellow millennials call “being woke” and was easily my favourite moment in this game.
My biggest complaints with Yono are the lack of Nintendo Switch pro controller support and the sound effects. You know those loud and low-quality sound effects you’ll sometimes hear in intrusive ads for mobile games? That is the quality you can expect here. I’m not sure if the sound effects are just low quality or if the developers failed to equalize the volume levels causing them to sound blown out, but I cringed nearly every time I had to attack an enemy due to the sound effect that plays when a successful blow is landed.
Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a simple and cute Zelda-like title lasting around four to five hours. The puzzles are basic and the combat that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the game is still enjoyable if you can look past said simplicity and some truly terrible sound effects.