I have watched way too many black and white samurai movies for my own good, so yeah, you could say I was excited for this one.
Okay so let’s start with what exactly this game is. Put simply, it’s a side-scrolling action-adventure hack and slash with some surprisingly in-depth combat and a massive emphasis on cinematic appeal. That last thing is practically what makes the game, because if you have ever seen a classic samurai movie from the 50s or so – especially those directed by Kurosawa – then you will feel right at home with this aesthetic.
Trek to Yomi absolutely bleeds style, with authentic, detailed environments, perfectly placed camera angles, and the studio went so far as to even have the voice actors deliver their lines in the same manner as an older Japanese samurai movie. If you thought the black and white filter in Ghosts of Tsushima was something – this is like an entirely different level and I am absolutely here for it as a Japanese movie fan.
Even disregarding that authenticity, the game itself still looks great. Sure, it’s not on the cutting edge, but the models look good, the use of lighting is expertly done, and I really liked all the weather effects in particular. It’s just good-looking all around and the atmospheric sound design only adds to this. And yeah, the music is good too.
But what about the gameplay? Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely not bad either. The combat, at least on the surface, looks simple, but once you start playing, you quickly find that the handful of base moves you start with combo into a variety of different strings. Upward slashes, downward, thrusting attacks, heavy attacks – the full slate can then be made into something like down, down, heavy for a stun or back light, light, light for a spin attack string that does massive damage to enemies behind you.
You are constantly unlocking new combos as you play and the game does a good job presenting them at a consistent pace to give you something to look forward to. Granted, if I am being honest, the basic strings worked well enough for me way into the experience that I oftentimes had to actively force myself to use some of the fancier stuff I was unlocking later on. I guess in a way it’s kinda wasted, but the options are at least there – maybe playing at a higher difficulty would have warranted their use (I played on normal).
There are also ranged attacks courtesy of a few ranged weapons unlocked as you progress, such as the bow and arrow. The ammo for these are limited and must be found hidden away in the environment, but they are great options when you have an annoying ranged enemy farther away or if you want to cheese a boss by rolling away, shooting, rolling away, and repeating. Just another nice addition to some already solid combat.
Overall though, the combat works. It feels great to play, looks great in action, and has intuitive enough controls that you get this nice sense of fluidity from it. It took me maybe twenty minutes and I was completely into it, slashing down enemies, parrying, and rolling around with ease. The parry is very forgiving, so that’s definitely something I would recommend using.
Now as for the content – because this is likely going to be the major question most of you will have. To be upfront, Trek to Yomi is not a long game. It took me just under four hours to clear and if you shave away all of my deaths that settles to just under three hours. That doesn’t make it a bad game though – the studio intentionally crafted an experience to be authentic to the samurai movies of old and pacing was a part of that, so the shorter length helps in that regard.
However, this is also one of my main complaints. Not that it is too short, but that the pacing itself becomes a bit rocky towards the end. You get some really solid first few levels and then the last couple it felt like they kinda lost their way. You get environments that aren’t as cool and repetitive enemy encounters that have you fighting like five or six at a time just to get to the next little segment which will have you repeat this. I mean yeah, that’s basically the entire game, but the balance was WAY better early on with the exploration, the enemy encounters, the story bits.
By the end, I was like, “really, there are another five enemies there?”. Maybe it’s because the enemies later on are spirits, but I did not find it to be quite as satisfying as those first few levels – the game went a bit too hard on lengthy enemy encounters. Granted, there are boss fights in there and those are solid and do shake up the experience, I just wish there were more of them – maybe mid-bosses or maybe just more enemy variety in general instead of the same three or four at the end.
Otherwise, the length is fine – I’m not really one to complain about a game being too short. If anything, the story lacks the depth for anything longer than it already is. Not to bash the story by the way, it’s fine for what it is, but it can be boiled down to a simple revenge story at its core that also happens to touch on more personal elements like morality and honor. So nothing too crazy there, but also not boring – I think the studio did a decent job maintaining a good story-gameplay balance even if I can’t say that this is a story I’ll remember after maybe a week.
As for replayability – I can’t say there’s much there. There is not a whole lot of exploration and the game itself is mostly linear outside of different story endings you get based on certain key dialogue decisions (there are only a few of these). However, to make a different decision, you have to literally play through the entire game again – there’s no chapter select despite the experience being divided into distinct chapters.
I will say though that the difficulty unlocked after clearing the game once is cool. It’s called Kensei and it basically makes everything one-hit kill, including yourself. Doesn’t apply to bosses unfortunately, but a cool hardcore take that honestly would have been fun to have from the start. If anything, it gives an incentive to play through again on top of the different story ending. I personally don’t care so much if a game isn’t all that replayable, but I know a lot do so all of this is worth mentioning.
On the technical front, the game is practically flawless. I ran it at 1440p, 144fps with no issues on my RTX 3080 Ti and didn’t have any technical issues outside of one instance where I fell off the map and had to reload to a checkpoint not even ten seconds prior. Controls are great on a controller (although not rebindable) and are also fine on keyboard and mouse (which are rebindable). Granted, I still recommend controller for this one.
Trek to Yomi is about as authentic as they come. The lighting, the camera angles, the graininess – the aesthetic is all there and is matched with some equally nice combat that has a surprising amount of depth to it. It may falter later on with its pacing and lackluster enemy variety, but it’s an experience well had and I am definitely satisfied as someone that watches a ton of the movies for which this is based on. Even if you’re not into the movies though – it’s good enough on its own to warrant a look.
Quote: Trek to Yomi is about as authentic as they come. The lighting, the camera angles – the aesthetic is all there and is matched with some equally nice combat that has a surprising amount of depth to it.
Trek to Yomi retails for $20 USD on Steam. You can get an official Steam key at a discount and support the channel using my Gamesplanet partner link. It is also available through GOG and Game Pass and on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.