TREK To Yomi, developed by Leonard Menchiari and Flying Wild Hog, and published by Devolver Digital on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, is a loving homage to black-and-white Samurai films of the type made famous in the west by Akira Kurosawa.
The game absolutely nails this aesthetic and zeitgeist with the pinpoint precision of an expertly launched shuriken.
The plot is classic Samurai cinema too: Your character, Hiroki is a young Samurai sworn to defend his village. When it is attacked by bandits, he draws his sword to slay the invaders, before deciding to take the fight to them and prevent them from attacking anyone else. The decision has dire consequences and takes Hiroki on a journey through Yomi (the land of the dead in the Shinto religion) before climaxing with a showdown against the bandit king.
While nominally a side-scrolling combat game, it really is incredibly stylish and the action is frequently viewed from different angles, all with a dramatic cinematic flavour which perfectly complement the game’s atmosphere. The game is, incidentally, entirely in black & white.
There are a few enemy types to fight, and depending on the difficulty level they can pose either a mild inconvenience or a serious challenge. After completing the game, there’s even a difficulty option where taking one hit from any enemy will kill you, and is something probably best left to people who think Souls-like games are only somewhat challenging.
As you complete levels, you will unlock new sword combos. It sounds nice in practice, but in reality you’re just going to be randomly clicking buttons to slash away at enemies, so trying for fancy combos seems superfluous most of the time.
In addition to your trusty katana, you have access to three ranged weapons – throwing knives, a bow and arrow, and an arquebus – the latter of which can shoot through multiple enemies.
While the combat is functional, I did have some issues with trying to switch between ranged weapons in mid-combat; like I’d throw a knife, attack with the sword, then try and switch to the bow and the command wouldn’t register, meaning I’d end up throwing another knife instead of firing an arrow that would finish the enemy off.
In addition to the superb visuals, the sound in Trek To Yomi is outstanding, with traditional Japanese instruments performing music that fits on-screen events perfectly.
One other element the devs deserve credit for is knowing how long the premise can sustain itself and wrapping things up before the enthusiasm wears off. The game will take about 5-7 hours on the lower difficulty levels, which is pretty much the perfect length for a game like this – long enough to provide a variety of levels and experiences, not so long that you find yourself getting bored with the repetition.
This isn’t Ghost of Tsushima but it isn’t supposed to be – it’s a different, but enjoyable experience and one well worth experiencing if you’re a Samurai Cinema fan or looking for a new Samurai-themed sword-wielding adventure.