The developers of Trek to Yomi have managed to truly capture the feeling of the old-but-gold samurai movies from the past and implement it into a satisfying spectacle of blood, honour and redemption. It’s a tale of classic revenge mixed with a dash of supernatural horror, the latter revealing itself in later areas of this great indie title by Flying Wild Hog.
Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru
You can’t be a samurai without a sword, and our protagonist, Hiroki, makes sure to sharpen his blade for the countless foes encountered throughout the game. After the death of his sensei, Hiroki intends to lead his master’s killer into the pointy end of his katana. A young Hiroki is introduced through combat training in the village dojo as his master teaches him and the player the basics of swordplay. Practice makes perfect in Trek to Yomi as enemies hit hard and can brutalise the player in just a few swings. Make sure you time your slashes right unless you want to walk the lands of the dead.
And the Oscar Goes to…
The obvious difference between Trek to Yomi and other games is its camerawork. Using black-and-white filters and several cinematic camera shots in each chapter, I truly felt like I was part of my own classic Japanese samurai flick. Watching the silhouette of my character eviscerate enemies from behind a dojo wall makes for stunning cinema. The game describes itself as a side-scroller, which is true to an extent. Combat sequences have the player face enemies from left to right, but during moments of downtime, Hiroki can be controlled in multiple directions to explore the gorgeous world and discover hidden secrets and upgrades. Once collected, special items hidden in the world are richly detailed in lore and can be inspected closely by the player, educating its audience on Japanese culture, particularly related to the samurai. Knowing that the developers put so much passion into this piece of art by researching deeply for the game helped to keep my interest flowing through my playthrough.
Slice ‘n’ Dice
Throughout its seven chapters, the player will be making mincemeat out of various different enemies. Bandits wielding swords, bows and even small cannons are just a few foes to be given the chop by Hiroki’s fighting techniques. Players can deliver blows with quick attacks and slow but hard-hitting ones too. Certain attack combinations enable Hiroki to stun enemies, allowing for one of several gruesome finishers. Much like the heads of your enemies, these moves become easy enough to pull off once you master the button prompts required for such attacks. Later in the game, enemies feel quite trivial to dispatch since the player will probably have a large number of upgrades and skills, unlike in the early game. Nevertheless, the combat system is incredibly satisfying and feels well implemented for a side-scroller.
Fall Before the Blade
Trek to Yomi’s enemies challenge the player in various ways. Early chapters of the game make the player fend off human enemies before introducing a selection of supernatural entities to send back to the grave. Later chapters conjure up a variety of foul beasts, ghostly apparitions and even a small selection of demonic creatures. Yomi, detailed as the land of the dead in Japanese culture, houses these enemies for Hiroki to fend off during his quest. For instance, phantoms who summon spirits to fight Hiroki fly high above the player, enough to evade the swings of Hiroki’s katana. As ranged combat is introduced, Hiroki can use a bow and arrow to shoot down these apparitions. Having to switch up the way enemies are fought adds more variety to combat and leads to more exciting encounters.
Even Samurai Have Their Flaws
On rare occasions, the game does contain some extremely minor issues. For instance, the beginning cutscene had delayed audio that didn’t seem to sync properly with what was occurring on-screen. Dodge rolling is also in the game, but it seems like some of the invincibility frames are minute, and it would be better to either block attacks or keep a large distance when anticipating a strike that cannot be blocked. Such shortcomings, however, could do little to sway my interest away from the game and are simply overshadowed by everything else that the game has to offer.
2022 seems like a great year for indie titles, and Trek to Yomi is no exception. Its spectacular setting and brilliant combat are just a few features that help to capitalise on the game’s outstanding portrayal of a Japanese samurai story. Flying Wild Hog has told a captivating story by combining beautiful, classic Japanese cinema with modern gaming technology.
Developer: Leonard Menchiari, Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Windows PC
Release Date: 5th May 2022