Trek to Yomi | game review
Pretty, but not much to add to the looks.
Game summary: As a vow to his dying Master, the young swordsman Hiroki is sworn to protect his town and the people he loves against all threats. Faced with tragedy and bound to duty, the lone samurai must voyage beyond life and death to confront himself and decide his path forward. (Xbox.com)
Have you ever had a game you've been playing, where you're constantly making progress so you feel like you should keep going to see it through to the end, even though you're not enjoying it? That's Trek to Yomi for me. I kept wanting it to get better because there's the core of a great game hidden away somewhere inside it, but it just never lived up to that potential.
The biggest issue is that a large part of the game involves fighting in 2D areas which requires you to block, dodge, parry and counter-attack as you would expect from any half-decent set of fighting mechanics in a game, but the controls are super laggy, meaning that the timing needed - especially for parries and counter-attacks - can often go out of the window with your character either responding too late or even not at all to your button presses.
It's especially galling when you take into account that the combat in Trek to Yomi is barely above One Finger Death Punch in complexity, yet the latter game is lighting fast and the controls are ultra responsive in comparison. Though maybe you can find some humour in killing bosses or a group of tough enemies without being hit once, then losing huge chunks of your health against rank and file minions when the lag kicks in.
That inconsistency is the most annoying thing about the lag. If you knew what caused it, such as maybe certain lighting effects or too many opponents on the screen causing the issue, then you might've been able to work around it, but the problem seems to be with the game as a whole. It can feel brilliant when everything works, but those moments are very rare indeed.
Despite how great I think Trek to Yomi looks (which I really do - it's a gorgeous game), there's an issue that can crop up when trying to find items as the interaction icon only shows up when close to an object you can pick up - including ranged weapons and collectibles - and only showing as a glow from a distance - a design choice not helped when so many scenes have fires raging just as brightly than that glow, if not more so.
Then there's the story, which is just really unengaging, with you playing as a young samurai named Hiroki (Masayuki Katô) who has sworn to defend his village against all attackers after his master is killed and that's basically it, with him proving especially protective of Aiko (Sarah Emi Bridcutt), his master's daughter and Hiroki's wife. There really is little more substance to it than that, tinged only with a desire for revenge on his master's behalf.
If you do value style over substance in games, then you'll love Trek to Yomi, as it really is amazing how good the developers, Flying Wild Hog, have made a black-and-white game look, with some beautiful vistas and incredible lighting making practically every scene worthy of a screenshot. As far as looks go, this is one game that you can't fault unless you're deliberately trying to find fault and being picky,
The real problem is that I don't know how many people will be able to fight past the apathy that slowly built up in me as I made my way through the game. It's not a long game either, but I simply couldn't muster up the motivation to keep going because I just didn't care about what was happening and the gameplay gave me no reason to continue either - despite apparently being two-thirds of the way through if my quick googling is to be believed.
Trek to Yomi is a great-looking game, absolutely dripping with style and atmosphere, with some fantastic lighting for a black-and-white game. Unfortunately, that's where the good stops, as the uninteresting story and characters won't keep you playing, and the often-terrible response times in combat, where timing is key, could put you off even sooner.