Available this May 5, Trek to Yomi, developed by the Polish studio Flying Wild Hog and published by the indie label Devolver Digital, is a very beautiful tribute to the films of Chanbara by Akira Kurosawa, haloed by an absolutely splendid artistic direction.
It has been many years since Poland became a land of choice, if not of predilection, for the creation of video games. The CD Projekt Red studio obviously, the originator of the video game saga The Witcher, is its spearhead and the most obvious symbol. But many other studios have managed to secure some visibility, such as Flying Wild Hog.
Founded in 2009 and based in Warsaw, it is best known for its tasty reboot of a cult license, the FPS shadow warrior, released in 2013, which will have two sequels; the last one having just come out from elsewhere. If the studio has still blown hot and cold in its past productions, it is making a surprising turn by delivering a game available since May 5 and published by the indie label Devolver Digital: Trek to Yomi.
The very first images of the game, presented a few months ago, had rightly caused a lot of talk. Visually splendid, in black and white with a cinema grain giving it the patina of old films, the game is intended to be a tribute to the films of Chanbara (sword films), in particular those ofAkira Kurosawain his period Sanjuro, Yojimbo and The 7 samurai.
Below is the trailer for the game…
Created by Leonard Menchiari, the latter had sketched out the idea of this game at the very beginning of the 2000s, already. Its credo: a tribute to the samurai films of the 50s and 60s, with a concern for absolute authenticity. “Authenticity is fundamental to us, and everything we’ve done has been carefully crafted with ancient Japanese culture, religious beliefs, the way a sword is supposed to hang on the wall, the way a kimono is supposed to be tied….” explains the Game Director.
“Trek to Yomi is a cinematic experience of life and death set in the Edo period through the eyes of Hiroki, a young swordsman who has sworn to protect his town and the people he loves against all threats. Faced with tragedy and bound to duty, the lone samurai must travel beyond life and death to confront himself and decide his way forward.” says Menchiari, who had started working on the game in his corner, before coming to Devolver to present a first draft in 2013.
The game is a bloody, initiatory journey to the depths of Yomi. In Shinto mythology, the universe is divided into three main kingdoms: that of heaven, that of Earth, and the underworld, which is actually the kingdom of the dead. the yomi no kuni Where Yomithe world of the impure.
A sumptuous artistic direction
The great strength of Trek to Yomi, which unfolds its story throughout 7 chapters covering about 5/6 hours of play, it is undoubtedly its artistic direction, absolutely sublime. Far from being a simple gimmick or stylistic effect, the choice of black and white gives an often staggering depth of field to this game which is in 2D, offering an impressive attention to detail, and contrasts magnified by splendid effects of lighting and Chinese shadows.
To tell the truth, from a purely aesthetic point of view, the black and white of Trek to Yomi and its rendering has nothing to envy to the Kurosawa fashion offered in the game Ghost of Tsushima, released in 2020. A game whose development budget was far, far beyond Flying Wild Hog’s means; even if he was, it is true, a Open World.
In purified tables which follow one another, with quite relative zenitude, Hiroki advances sword in hand to clear a passage between the living and the dead, facing enemies not necessarily very varied, but slain with a fluidity and a gesture of the fights to which the studio has taken great care.
If the game is wrapped in a superb case, it is not free from defects either. Choices of framing not always happy for example, where it is difficult to see and detach the character from his environment, sometimes overwhelming, to find the continuation of the path. And, perhaps most importantly, ultimately, repetitive gameplay; the goal being ultimately only to move forward by making his enemies pass from life to death, ghosts or not.
As such, we strongly advise you not to play the game on the lowest level of difficulty, i.e. “Kabuki”, but to start at least in “Bushido”, which corresponds to a normal difficulty and will give you a minimum of challenge in the fights without giving the impression of rolling on the game. The ultimate difficulty level, called “Kensei”, will only be unlocked once the game has been completed for the first time. As much to tell you that it is ruthless and punitive as possible: if you are hit, you are dead.
Despite the few reservations expressed above, Trek to Yomi really worth the detour. For the modesty of its price, already, between 18-20 €. For its history which is followed with interest and is not content to be a simple pretext, even if we stay on a very marked path. For its sumptuous artistic direction. And because, ultimately, allowing this game to be a real success is also a way of telling publishers that, no, it’s not just the sequels, remakes and other franchises that have been rinsed out for years that work. The premium for originality and risk-taking is just as, if not much more, rewarding.