The plight of the sole samurai looms large in Trek to Yomi, as you're tasked with choosing your warrior's path and ultimately, fighting to survive a pretty hellish situation by the end. This stylish 2D action game from developer Flying Wild Hog is a delight throughout its runtime though, even if its combat sometimes stumbles in its simplicity.
Trek to Yomi oozes polish in every facet, despite a shade of repetitiveness creeping in as the game goes on. It's a product that feels triple A from top to bottom, and is an experience every Xbox Game Pass member should take for a spin.
You start out from humble beginnings as just a kid, mastering the samurai art in the village dojo (which you can revisit later to sharpen up your skills). However, your teacher is quickly summoned to help defend said village from attack, and your curiosity leads you to follow and see what goes down in a real combat scenario.
This is where Trek to Yomi teaches you the basics of combat, as you'll have to take on the odd enemy as you leave the village's confines. The system is made up of a simple light attack, heavy attack, and block system early on, although that expands as you learn combos throughout the game. At this point it's a satisfying enough setup, and slashing through warriors feels great thanks to solid swordplay feedback and great visual effects.
As you move through the quasi-tutorial section of the game, things get violent quick and your innocent childhood adventure soon turns into a gruesome adult quest, as you set out to seek revenge for the village attack. From here, the game's story setup is pretty predictable — you're going after the very folk who stormed your village — but it's still a satisfying adventure and we became pretty invested in the game's characters and the overall journey as time went by.
That's partly because there are choices involved in Trek to Yomi's story. As the title suggests, you ultimately end up in Yomi (the land of the dead), but whether you choose to go after your love interest, defend your people or plough on for pure revenge is up to you. We're not entirely sure how much of an effect each choice has on gameplay, but it makes the storyline that bit more impactful and we dug having the option to lean in favour of certain narrative elements.
The gameplay structure is split up into two main elements. Combat — which evolves as you become an adult and master new moves — takes place on a 2D plane, and typically involves taking out enemies one-by-one using whatever sword move you see fit. Combos spice things up somewhat (we loved the move where you have your back turned, then flip around to unleash a flurry of sword slashes) and latter sections of the game introduce new enemy types, but ultimately, combat does become a bit stale by journey's end. The game tries to mix things up by adding ranged weapons into the mix, but ammo scarcity means you'll be sticking to your sword most of the time, and that does create a mostly one-dimensional combat situation. Those ranged weapons do come in handy for boss fights though, so save your ammo!
Speaking of which, the other main gameplay element is exploration, where sections of the game open up to a 3D playing field and allow you to head off and scour every nook and cranny for new items. This is where you'll grab ranged weapon ammo and the majority of the game's collectibles - both of which are worth finding. As previously mentioned, ammo is scarce, and the collectibles do a wonderful job at fleshing out Trek to Yomi's world and some of the Japanese mythology behind it. In the game's closing stages these 3D sections also add in a few light puzzles (the 'match three symbols' type) but they're so incredibly easy that they won't provide any real challenge at all, which is fine by us! (Yeah, puzzles, not this reviewer's forte.)
After playing through some of these 3D sections we were left wondering if the game would have benefitted from 3D combat scenarios too. Honestly, we're not even sure how this would work, but opening up swordplay to 3D battlegrounds could have helped keep things fresh on the combat front and provided extra space for combo use. Again, combat works as it is and only really becomes a tad stale towards the end, but that repetitiveness is the only real stain on Trek to Yomi's engaging adventure.
Thankfully, the game's world is anything but stale. In fact, it's downright gorgeous. From towering temples to wonderfully relaxing waterfalls and everything in-between, Trek to Yomi's environments are a real delight throughout. The black and white colour scheme adds a bold sense of style to proceedings, and we never grew tired of gawking at the game's gorgeous backdrops. It helps that Trek to Yomi almost feels AAA in quality too, from the visuals to the audio, to the cutscenes and the voice acting, it all just feels right. Then there's the section where you visit Yomi itself, which we won't spoil too much but it almost feels Limbo-esque in its atmosphere, with an element of horror creeping in as you wander through the land of the dead.
Trek to Yomi is a game of two halves, where slightly repetitive combat does bring things down a notch. However, that other half — made up of the game's visuals, characters, storyline, atmosphere and overall polish — is so good that you'll want to carry on trekking right until the end. More involved combat could have elevated this one to being potentially one of our very favourite Game Pass games, but make no mistake, this is an adventure you'll want to head out on.