Trek to Yomi is what you get if you combine the cinematic aspirations of a samurai epic with progressive hack-n-slash gameplay. And then throw in a shot of surreal to fuck shit up.
Trek to Yomi has such visual style and flair that it’s bound to find an adoring audience. Taking inspiration from the Japanese samurai films of the 1950s and 1960s (with just a little Spaghetti Western spice for good measure), it’s a marvel to behold.
The adventure starts rather typically, placing you in the shoes of Hiroki, a young samurai in training. Wasting no time at all, the game introduces you to one of its favourite visual motifs: burning Japanese villages.
Without going too far into spoiler territory, Trek to Yomi is a tale of duty, love and retribution. It’s a revenge epic that sees you chase your sworn enemy from ancient Japanese villages and forests to a place where madness and the afterlife collide – the titular Yomi.
Game director Leonard Menchiari takes full advantage of the opportunity this journey into the supernatural provides, so much so that the latter half of the game outshines what came before it.
The Trek to Yomi starts slow
As I suggested before, the game takes some time to find its feet. Despite being quite pretty to look at, the starting section feels a bit slow and uninspired.
Now I know that introducing gameplay mechanics can be a tricky balancing act (it should be noted that the combat mechanics here are deceptively deep). Still, it’s a risky proposition to lead with your weakest hand.
The story setup doesn’t help either; stereotypes and narrative tropes pile up at an alarming rate. However, if you stick with it, Trek to Yomi finds a captivating and addictive rhythm.
This might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy the game, but that isn’t the case. It’s just that if I’d had the chance to demo the first hour of Trek to Yomi then I probably wouldn’t have purchased it. And that would have been a shame because I would have missed out on a solid game.
Essentially, the second half of the game is so good that it makes you wonder why it didn’t just start there; and it’s no coincidence this is precisely when the story jumps down a Lynchian rabbit hole.
A surreal spectacle
Once Trek to Yomi gets going it is sure to win most gamers over. The gorgeous, and at times disturbing, visuals are a feast that are worth the price of admission alone.
Not since The Medium have I been as impressed with a game’s attempt to portray a twisted version of a specific reality. It takes the blueprint of historical fiction and stretches it until it resembles an M.C. Escher painting.
All the while, the gameplay builds into a rewarding experience of complex swordplay and battle management. There are some environmental puzzles too, but they aren’t really the focus here. All gameplay roads lead back to the visuals, and that’s alright by me.
Over too soon?
One thing that will divide gamers is the length of Trek to Yomi. Essentially, it’s around for a good time but not a long one. How you feel about that will depend on your feelings regarding replayability (there are multiple endings to unlock) and value.
Currently, the game is available on Steam for $26, which seems about right to me considering the game’s brief runtime.
I would recommend playing the game at medium difficulty for most players to start with, as the easy mode will mean you’ll rush through the story in only 3-4 hours.
Trek to Yomi is a richer, longer and more rewarding experience if you accept the steeper learning curve. And it’s an adventure that’s well worth your time.