As an audiovisual experience, Trek To Yomi is a delight to the senses. It blends together the cinematography of classic Kurosawa films and surreal dreamlike imagery into some truly impressive set pieces. Everything from the audio quality to the film grain filter blends together into a singular sensory experience that must be applauded. It is this strong visual style that helps carry an otherwise conventional story experience.
Trek To Yomi follows the story of Hiroki, a young samurai who vows to protect his local village from an invading force of bandits. However, he is mortally wounded by the bandit leader and finds himself trapped in the underworld. Desperate to find a way back to the land of the living, Hiroki fights through the legions of the dead, descending deeper into the darkness.
Every single fight in Trek to Yomi is in 2D, resembling an arcade brawler. There's a healthy mix of light and heavy attacks with different attack chains based on you holding the control stick up or down. You slowly unlock new combos as you progress throughout the story. You are encouraged to be precise with your attacks since you can only take a handful of hits and each attack steadily decreases your stamina bar. Get too greedy with a chain and you will go down.
As the levels grow in length, Trek To Yomi's parry mechanic becomes more crucial. If you hit the block button right before an attack connects, time will slow down as you go to deflect the strike. If you hit the attack button right after your sword connects, you'll do a counterattack. It's an extra step that takes some getting used to, but pulling it off restores a bit of health. Alternatively, if you're a more aggressive player, striking an enemy enough times in quick succession can set them up for a finisher attack which restores even more health.
On paper, the game's combat is fine. The unique parry system gives each battle a distinct rhythm and the limited 2D movement helps showcase the art direction without overwhelming the player. Enemy variety remains interesting as well. Armored bandits with spears show up with their own extended reach, which challenges your ability to parry and defend. Bowmen begin to pepper the battlefield with arrows, which emphasizes spatial reasoning. Eventually, you'll be dealing with berserk undead with super armor and teleporting ghosts that can instantly kill you in a single backstab. The game even hands out limited-use ranged weapons which start with some bo-shurikens and eventually lead to your own portable cannon. There's a lot of variety on display and it helps keep these fights fresh.
However, there are a few configurations and balance issues that drag it down. Eventually, enemies with cannons show up. These take huge chunks out of your health and they're usually at the end of a gauntlet of enemies. Worse still, dodging their attacks is tricky at best. Alternatively, there are a few unlockable attacks that can tear through enemies far too quickly. There is a specific three-hit combo that barely uses any stamina, instantly stuns enemies, and can take huge chunks out of bosses. Once I could close the distance and pull off this attack, a lot of the game's second half became a cakewalk.
As mentioned before in my preview of the game, Trek To Yomi starts out restrained. The entire first act depicts Hiroki's village, complete with long wide-angle shots of farmland, hills, and busy streets. All of this is done to contrast with the destruction caused by the bandits.
It isn't until Hiroki's descent into the afterlife that the visual design really comes into its own. There is some stellar lighting, contrast, and surreal architecture on display, portraying a haunting vision of hell. It manages to stay visually interesting as well, mixing together natural disasters and negative space into striking vignettes, all while still maintaining the look and feel of a black-and-white movie. If you pick up Trek To Yomi for any reason, it is for these sights. There are a few building interiors that are repeated once or twice, but for a game with a six to seven-hour runtime, that is a testament to the talent and variety on display.
The level design does an admirable job of breaking up the sword battles as well. In addition to secret paths and hidden collectibles, there are few areas where you can skip fights altogether or take out enemies with environmental hazards. They're limited and basic, but it helps break things up.
Sadly, Trek To Yomi's main story and theme doesn't exactly tread new ground. The story's central themes about the cyclical nature of violence, the obligations of duty, and the seeking of personal glory are all explored. The main story even has three distinct endings based on dialogue options you are given throughout the story. This narrative is presented really well from a cinematic perspective, it leaves the violence implied through camera angles and keeps character interludes to a minimum. However, the tone can feel at odds with gameplay that involves you getting into boss battles with demons. The overall presentation keeps everything together, but if any of this sounds familiar to you, you're not going to be surprised.
Trek To Yomi Review | Final Thoughts
While the main narrative treads familiar ground and the swordplay can feel uneven, Trek To Yomi is worth a look thanks to some strong visual direction and stylish presentation. If you have a love of Samurai cinema and want to experience some powerful sights, check this out.
TechRaptor's review of Trek To Yomi was conducted on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
- Striking Art Direction
- Stellar Retro Samurai Cinema Presentation
- Uneven Combat
- Predictable Story