From Ghost of Tsushima to Sekiro, samurai is on the rise right now. And it is not the developers at Flying Wild Hog who will say the opposite. After a series of games more in the ninja vein (Shadow Warrior), the Polish studio, under the leadership of Leonard Menchiari, decided to take a step back to take us to Japan during the Edo period. And the least we can say is that the Flying Wild Hog proposal, validated by Devolver, is more than atypical.
- Ghost of Tsushima in the mood
- A work of art à la Kurosawa
- Sifu among the samurai?
Rich in the teachings of his sensei, the young Hiroki has the necessary strength to protect his village. A clear path, dictated by the codes of bushidō and hagakure, which the misfortunes of life will nevertheless come to shake. The way of the samurai is not always easy to follow. Beyond life and death, Hiroki will have to choose if he really wants to borrow it or get rid of it. It is therefore an introspective story that Flying Wild Hog and Devolver offer us, all punctuated by katana duels and shots worthy of Kurosawa’s greatest films.
Ghost of Tsushima in the mood
Trek to Yomi largely falls into the box of “atmosphere games”. Whether through its haunting soundtrack or its story, Devolver’s game takes you by the hand and takes you on a real trek (or rather a short hike given the length). Exotic as possible, the title has its own atmosphere and succeeds particularly well in transmitting it, in particular thanks to its small phases of exploration. Between gravity and mysticism, we are quickly caught in the Trek to Yomi spiral, which pushes us to question ourselves and make decisive choices.
Hiroki’s path is also yours, so it’s naturally up to you to decide which one he should take. Depending on the choice you make, the end of your adventure will not be the same. However, the differences are confined to the end cutscene and some dialogues, changing the conclusion of Trek to Yomi but not the experience itself. We would have liked to see more and be able to experience the consequences of the path taken. Note, however, that it will not cost you much to see the different possible endings. The title being short (allow four hours for a first part by exploring a little), it only takes two short hours to browse it in a straight line. In less than ten hours, you can therefore easily satisfy your curiosity and discover all that Trek to Yomi has to offer.
But one game might be enough for most players.Between revenge, love and honor, Hiroki’s epic recalls that of Jin Sakai and many others. Basically, nothing new in the samurai. The main lines are quite predictable and have this bitter taste of deja vu. But Trek to Yomi still manages to stand out by finally offering us a dive into the heart of Shinto mythology.
The journey to Yomi (the world of the dead) is not just about the thugs who succumbed to Hiroki’s blade. To find his way, he will have to face these putrid lands and the shikome tormented people who populate it. By making this choice, Leonard Menchiari and Flying Wild Hog invite us to discover a little-known part of Japanese folklore and it is to their credit. The latter is also particularly well detailed thanks to the various artifacts that you can pick up throughout your journey. This approach makes Trek to Yomi a curious little game, which is all the more so when you look at its primary goal.
A work of art à la Kurosawa
Some will no doubt have noticed, Trek to Yomi is above all an almost cinematic experience, tribute in particular to the films of the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. By opting for black and white and different camera shots, the title stands out wonderfully well and manages to surprise us until the end with its realization. The paintings follow one another and are not alike. Despite dated graphics during cutscenes, the title manages to impose an atypical artistic touch that hits the mark in the game.
In addition, this particular attention paid to the visuals in no way taints the gameplay. The angle changes, although regular, are fluid and intelligently play on the latter. Trek to Yomi thus go from horizontal scrolling for the fights to a slightly more open 3D for the exploration phases. This in-between works especially in game, offering us a coherent and pleasant rendering throughout.
Playing on the decorations and the effects of light in particular, certain paintings are particularly striking. Best of all, they give several fight scenes an epic feel that makes you want to get into them all the way. With this mastered artistic direction, Trek to Yomi has found its greatest strength. However, it still risks leaving some players out, especially those put off by the use of black and white and old-fashioned graphics. From this point of view, Trek to Yomi has a certain artistic side, but what about its game function in itself?
Sifu among the samurai?
If you have already been told about the exploration phases (optional but interesting), the bulk of Trek to Yomi is all the same to slash your opponents with katana blows. After having taken your first steps in the art of combat thanks to your sensei, you are thrown into the lion’s den where various enemies seek only one thing: to make you join the world of Yomi. But there is nothing to tremble in front of them.
Despite what some people thought, Trek to Yomi is not a samurai version of SIFU. Its combat mechanics and enemy patterns are quite simple and never push you to your limits. Once you know them, it is unlikely to find yourself in real trouble. Moreover, artificial intelligence does not help matters. Some enemies will, for example, simply wait in a corner before attacking you in a loop without an ounce of strategy. You can sometimes even dodge the fight and put some enemies out of harm’s way by using the scenery (quite an interesting point, by the way).
Unlike most games of the genre, the difficulty is therefore not really gradual. A fact wanted by Leonard Menchiari, supposed to emphasize the moments of great tension. But now, these are only too little present, being limited to one or two full-bodied boss fights. If the satisfaction of slaying an enemy never really fades, it’s more thanks to the theatricalization of the act and the beautifully executed choreography of the fights than its difficulty of execution. Without these, we would almost get tired of duels or waves of enemies surrounding us.
And yet, Flying Wild Hog made the effort to offer us evolving gameplay. Throughout your journey, you pick up new weapons and learn new combat techniques. If some have style, others are unfortunately too risky or superfluous, sometimes almost impossible to place between the enemy’s blows. In the end, to move forward without too many pitfalls, it is better to confine yourself to hammering the same two keys in the same order. In addition to a moment of bewilderment, the only chance your opponents will have to survive will be to rely on the few bugs (on the controller) leaving you motionless despite your instructions.
Whether you are in easy, normal or difficult mode, nothing changes, you just have to repeat the operation for a longer or shorter time. The three game modes only influence the life of the enemies and the power of their blows. Thus, overcoming your attackers with the right technique is more time-consuming than difficult. Only real challenge: The mode In one try which, as its name suggests, will make you start over at the last checkpoint at the slightest hit.
- Artistically accomplished…
- A dive into Shinto mythology
- Beautifully choreographed fights…
- Paintings worthy of Kurosawa
- …despite dated graphics
- Superfluous choices
- little difficulty
- …but far too repetitive
Trek to Yomi is a very beautiful cinematographic work. He doesn’t have to pale before the giants who inspired him. His use of the camera and black and white grain allow him to present us with particularly sumptuous paintings. Add to that some eye-popping fight choreography and you’ve got a little nugget of artistic mastery. If a game was judged by this, Trek to Yomi would undoubtedly top the charts. But unfortunately, the game is, in comparison, too little pushed in terms of gameplay. His superfluous choices and his repetitive fights prevent him from expressing his full potential. That said, it is still worth the detour and even more so if you are sensitive to this kind of video game work.
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