As games have evolved, they've naturally become more complex. New releases tend to stack on new moves, graphics, and challenges as time goes on. When going back and trying out some of the games that you enjoyed when you were younger you'll probably find that they aren't as engaging as you remember. Does it really make sense though that a more complex game is an evolved form of what we used to enjoy, or can a game with less complexity still be just as enjoyable?
In Yono And the Celestial Elephants, you play as Yono the first Elephant to appear in a millennium. For the people that inhabit this world, Elephants are strange and powerful beings that have been known to sort out crises, perform miracles, and bring on new golden ages. Yono isn't even initially aware of her heritage and finds this destiny is a scary one. After meeting a girl named Sundara from the neighboring kingdom, Yono sets out to on a journey to live up to her destiny and find her place in an interesting world filled with humans, the undead Bonewights, and the robot race called the Mekani.
From the moment players touch down in the forest outside the human kingdom, they are greeted with a charming world brimming with history. The story unfolds rapidly with a continuous stream of new locations to visit and major characters to meet. This quick pace serves to keep the player captivated as you're constantly wanting to learn more and more about the Elephants. It isn't just the tale of the Elephants that you're learning about, as you move from kingdom to kingdom you get to learn about the social and political strife that is just about to bubble over. As you progress you also locate missing letters from the history books, putting them back allows you to read about some of the triumphs of previous elephants. Boiling it down this is a simple story of your protagonist wanting to find their place in the world and getting called into a larger conflict than they expected, where the story really succeeds is not only in populating this world with interesting characters and locations but by also clearly explaining what is happening to the player.
Yono and the Celestial Elephants contains all kinds of entertaining puzzles, short quests, and even some light combat. In the forests and caves between major towns each screen acts as its own puzzle. You need to navigate Yono to find a key, defeat enemies, or solve some kind of logic puzzle to progress. As you progress, new concepts are continually added such as spraying water from your trunk or pushing sliding blocks. Each of these elements are introduced in a basic form, once you're familiar with them in this capacity you then start seeing them used in more creative ways. This might mean when you first encounter a block you only need to push it one space to unlock your path, but by the fifth time you see this kind of block you need to move it around a maze without getting it trapped. This works well to introduce those not familiar with these kinds of adventure puzzle scenarios to what is expected of them. In terms of create an puzzling environment that any player will be able to complete developers Neckbolt have been able to deliver, the trade-off for this is removing almost all sense of real difficulty. For those expecting puzzles on the same scale as The Legend of Zelda or Oceanhorn you might be a bit disappointed in this title, but newcomers or younger players will find a fun challenge for them.
The combat in Yono is the weakest aspect of the game giving players only two options when faced with an opponent. You can charge them and do damage, or use your trunk to push them back giving yourself a bit of breathing room. Combat doesn't come up all too often though with the "defeat all enemies" puzzles few and far between.The most memorable combat segments come from the few boss fights included in the game, even then the fight is more about solving a puzzle than doing a lot of damage.
Forests are a linear experience, with one entrance and one exit, but Towns are where you're able to do some more serious exploring. Each town has a few similar establishments such as the train station allowing you to travel between points, a place to increase your health, and a stylist where you can check out some of the local paint jobs. While many of these different skins you can get for Yono are fairly boring like simply changing from a blue elephant to a red one once you've collected more coins you can purchase a head tattoo to make yourself look like Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace, or Link from the aforementioned Legend of Zelda series. Cosmetics are the only thing in the game that you're able to purchase with coins giving players the freedom to work towards the one that they like the most, or just ignore them completely.
There are also a variety of quests available in each town, just like the puzzles in-between towns these will always begin and end within the area, this ensures you never wander too far. Most of these quests are also single step such as bringing flowers across town to a little boy, but every now and then there is a more complicated chain. These quests will usually reward the player with more health tokens, collecting four of these lets you gain an extra heart making your journey just that much easier. While none of these quests explicitly hold your hand along the way talking to any of the characters of the world will normally give you some kind of hint to what they're after, from there it's just a matter of finding the start of the quest.
Each of the towns you travel to on your journey fit their own theme distinctly, this gives context to those that live there but also the architecture of the area. Upon setting foot in the feudal kingdom of Knightingale City you're able to immediately get a feel for the city. This kingdeom feel is entirely unique to Knightingale with the Sundergarden, home of the Bonewights, a literal graveyard where all the inhabitants rose from their slumber thousands of years ago. The only repeated scenery comes from the forest locations encountered when traveling between these towns which look the same aside from the summer greens, fall browns, or snow-covered bristles as you head north. While some difference in scenery traveling between the towns would have been appreciated the change of colors does working to point out that you're in a different location but where you are relative to other towns and your destination.
No matter if you're happily relaxing on the beach at Freehaven or trudging through fallen leaves the soundtrack to Yono always does a fantastic job of filling the atmosphere. Each piece was created with the location primarily in mind working to really bring life to these locations. Tracks like "The Temple" mix together choral chants and bell chimes giving players a sense of the importance and majesty. It's clear how much importance was put into ensuring each piece matched its location and works fantastically to draw the player in.
The package that finally comes together when you play Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a fun story-driven adventure game where players will need to complete a series of puzzles to attain their goal. The game's quests and puzzles don't serve too much of a challenge for those familiar with the genre but for newer or younger players Yono could serve as a fantastic entry point into the genre. With colorful and friendly graphics the game is a delight to watch and play.
Yono and the Celestial Elephants combines interesting story and fun gameplay into a title that is fun for everyone. While many won't find anything in the game particularly challenging it still remains an entertaining experience.
- Fun Puzzles...
- Interesting Story
- Fun Costumes
- .. That Never Become Difficult
- Weak Combat