If you haven’t picked up on it by now, the interactive elements of a game are the most important part for me. Often to the point where if a face doesn’t play well
enough, I’ll not touch it. Trek to Yomi is without a doubt, the second time I’ve covered a game in this series since The Falconer that can be described as “Mediocre gameplay, great everything else ‘’. Because the gameplay in Trek to Yomi is…not…very…good. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that its gameplay kind of sucks. But I think that you should still play this when you get the chance.
The main reason I think this is because of the fact that I’m personally of the opinion that playing games that are less than great or even downright bad is good, and I daresay even necessary. It gives you a chance to try things you might not try otherwise, and you may even find something you like. It may not be good, but it’ll at least be a new experience. It’s part of why I started doing What’s Good About, to begin with: to highlight the good in things and remind myself why I liked games, to begin with. And there’s a lot to like here. Trek to Yomi is from an aesthetic standpoint, pretty fucking great. From the all Japanese voice cast (which includes heavy-hitters like Akio Otsuka, yes, they got the Japanese Solid Snake/Big Boss for one of the main antagonists), getting consultation from Japanese historians to ensure that the writing was translated properly for the Edo period setting, to having the game be in actual complete black and white (and looks great), to even getting a traditional Japanese orchestra for the music. The dedication to authenticity and the craft on display is nothing short of remarkable. There’s also the game’s story, which is a simple but well-told story of revenge where you play as Hiroki, a warrior who must go on a journey to confront the bandits that destroyed his village.
And all of these are fantastic and valid reasons to like Trek to Yomi. Its dedication to its craft and authenticity is to be commended. But then you start to play it and that’s when things kind of start to fall apart. Trek to Yomi’s gameplay-wise, is a side-scrolling action game. You got your light and heavy attacks, blocking, countering and dodge rolling. These along with your ranged weapons of Bo-Shuriken, a bow and arrows and a goddamn artillery cannon, make up your kit. It’s a great set of tools that end up being somehow lesser than the sum of its parts. The main reason for this is because everything except you and the bosses dies in two hits. And while that lethality is appreciated at times, it goes a long long way to making the game easy to the point of almost being a repetitive slog at times.
And while there are armoured and specialised enemies, they didn’t show up nearly enough to shake things up for me. This is also bolstered by the fact that the controls can feel a tad unresponsive at times, but that feels more like a preference thing in my case, Your Mileage May Vary. All of the compounding issues would normally be enough to make me stop a game, but Trek to Yomi is actually pretty short, with six chapters clocking in at about five hours total, which in an era of games all wanting them to be a part of your life, is a nice change of pace.
Overall, Trek to Yomi is a game that I can recommend…with some caveats. It’s the perfect example of what I meant when I said that you can and should play games that aren’t necessarily good. I ended up finding a neat little experiment that was interesting, despite it not fully working out all of the ways. It’s not a good game, but I genuinely like it. Also, it’s on Game Pass, so give it a download if you got that service.