Starting off our Trek to Yomi review, it’s worth mentioning I previewed an earlier build of the game and the cliffhanger it left me on had me begging to see more. That was a month ago, and while that may not seem long, developer Flying Wild Hog has been polishing Trek to Yomi like a feudal katana blacksmith.
Trek to Yomi is a blistering cinematic action take on legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, presenting a monochromatic world of strife and blood. How does this Kurosawa homage stand up in its final form? Does it live up to the totally absurd expectations I had from its demo and all the pre-launch footage? Find out in our Trek to Yomi review!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the game below.
Trek to Yomi
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publishers: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
Release Date: May 5th, 2022
Price: $19.99 USD
The majority of gameplay in Trek to Yomi consists of traversing through a 2.5D environment while fighting groups of bandits or other baddies. Generally the combat is fast, kinetic, and oftentimes over in the blink of an eye. Both level design and enemy placement feel just right and keep both the challenge and adrenaline pumping.
The bread and butter with combat in Trek to Yomi is using your very large and sharp cutting utensil to dice up your enemies. As you progress you unlock more combos and abilities like turning-strikes, turning-parrying, longer combos, and more. There’s also health and stamina upgrades that you’ll find hidden throughout – a fun bit that had me constantly searching.
Outside of collecting upgrades you can also find collectibles seemingly hidden everywhere in the game world. The collectibles are not only tied to each area, they all come with a bit of real Japanese history and culture, so they’re fun to find and inspect. There isn’t much else in replayability but this is meant to be essentially a playable Kurosawa movie, not a collectathon.
You quickly get your first ranged weapon – throwing knives, but eventually you get a bow to fire arrows – and lastly you get a badass flintlock rifle. While these can be expanded for more ammo to carry, I rarely used them except for the occasional mounted enemies or baddies I had a particular struggle defeating.
Difficulty in Trek to Yomi felt just right, as before I tried both the standard and above-standard difficulties and found the game wasn’t a pushover – nor was it unfair. There were some gauntlets that had me genuinely frustrated, only to get that satisfaction when all foes are felled, and you hit that checkpoint.
Another word on difficulty – when doing our Trek to Yomi review, the only times I actually died repeatedly was when I got too cocky and I didn’t analyze each fight. In some battles, you have to legitimately plan who you’re going to cut down first and who you have to keep an eye out, and vice versa.
Larger groups of baddies in Trek to Yomi are constantly trying to overwhelm you, encircle you, and exhaust you. The enemy AI and their overall movement feels very natural, as does protagonist Hiroki, because you get abilities to flank your foes too. Once I got the hang of not just movement but controlling the fight, Trek to Yomi really feels like something special.
The rig I did our Trek to Yomi review on is the same as before – not a bleeding edge machine but settings were auto set to “Epic” after a quick scan.
Usually I roll my eyes to the back of my head when a game lists max settings like this but – Trek to Yomi is one of those rare games that even with visuals alone will stop people in their tracks.
The tiny bits of slowdown in the beginning town I saw in a previous build are totally gone – however I did see very small bits of slowdown later when lots of things were going on.
The game is typically solid but when there’s a ton of stuff and possibly camera movement I saw brief dips. Again, this was brief and didn’t detract from an otherwise wonderful experience and presentation.
Flying Wild Hog really, truly have thought of everything in presentating an authentic look into feudal Japan with Trek to Yomi.
This isn’t simply throwing a black/white filter with some film grain on and calling it a day. Trek to Yomi has it all: authentic areas and characters, the high 16mm contrast, god rays, the darkened out of focus foreground, and authentic looking film grain.
It’s hard to describe how spectacular Trek to Yomi looks in motion – you have to see it for yourself and preferably in 4K.
This is the kind of game that isn’t afraid to go all out with its presentation so the higher your settings and bigger your display the better. Trek to Yomi has fantastic vision and it fully realizes that from start to when the end credits roll.
A word on vision – Trek to Yomi brings back fixed camera angles, but Flying Wild Hog are clearly Kurosawa fans and know how to properly direct.
Too many game creators say they want a cinematic experience but fall far from that. Trek to Yomi is a true cinematic experience that will not let you go until you see it through to the end.
Designs, visuals, and presentation in Trek to Yomi are all completely focused on capturing this experience – what about the music and sound? Composers Cody Matthew Johnson and Yoko Honda are also a big fan of Kurosawa.. and Kurosawa’s composer, Fumio Hayasaka, so naturally Trek to Yomi’s soundtrack is absolutely breathtaking.
There’s reportedly a few hours of music composed for Trek to Yomi, a staggering accomplishment considering the game will only run you five to seven hours for a single playthrough. Nonetheless, every bit of music in Trek to Yomi was meticuliously crafted and selected for each shot, each scene, each moment.
One of my favorite bits of music in Trek to Yomi is “Uchū“, which played during a masterfully done battle where faraway enemies are endlessly firing arrows at you. I genuinely felt on the edge of my couch while the period instruments were pounding, arrows were flying, and I had to keep fighting on to survive.
Voice actors in Trek to Yomi also deserve commending as there is a ton of voicework for both the main characters and the literal cities full of people. It seems like everyone is voiced, everyone is chattering about something, and naturally every enemy you confront will yell or taunt you.
Trek to Yomi is set in feudal Japan and focuses entirely on protagonist Hiroki, a young swordsman that takes up post as a local samurai. Duty-bound to protect his village, Hiroki also loves his former master’s daughter, Aiko, and when a nearby group of bandits come, he sets out to stop their advances.
While avoiding spoilers, Trek to Yomi generally stays true to what I would consider a video game adaptation of a Kurosawa film. It’s an action-adventure tale, unafraid of fully embracing not only its cultural heritage but also its film inspiration.
By that I mean the game only covers Hiroki’s tale as he journeys through the land and eventually into the Shinto underworld itself, Yomi. There’s actually a slightly branching story with three different endings, all of which are enjoyable.
Fueled by vengeance and the crushing feeling of letting down those he loves and holds dear, Hiroki eventually wanders through the land of the dead.
It is here that everyone – Hiroki included – must face the aftermath of their life, their actions, and ultimately seek forgiveness and/or redemption.
Rounding out our Trek to Yomi review, both director Leonard Menchiari and developer Flying Wild Hog made Trek to Yomi an experience that I haven’t really seen before in a video game. The unrelenting pursuit of capturing Akira Kurosawa’s spirit, bottling that up into an actual playable journey that challenges yet rewards – all of this is Trek to Yomi. An unforgettable and unrelenting story of vengeance and redemption, Trek to Yomi is an indie gem that creates a cinematic experience AAA studios only dream of.
So many games have tried to present a cinematic experience but the vast majority have no idea what they’re talking about. Trek to Yomi is one of those rare games that not only mesmerizes with its finesse and all-encompassing presentation, it manages to leave an impression on you just like Kurosawa’s films did. Trek to Yomi receives my highest recommendation.
We did our Trek to Yomi review with a digital code from Devolver Digital. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Trek to Yomi is available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Game Pass.