This week in Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Trek to Yomi and Ravenous Devils.
I should probably learn Japanese; seems to come up a lot in my job, especially in droughty seasons, when the disgusting AAA pie-eating contest has to take a break to clean up all the puke, and I have a chance to try all the little manageable Mr Kiplings the Japanese industry churns out. Thanks to that, I officially know more about the procedures and traditions of Japanese high school life than I do about those of the actual high school I dropped out of. But what a refreshing break it is to now cover a game that's merely set in Japan, and inspired by Japanese movies, and voiced by Japanese actors, but importantly, not developed in Japan, but in Poland. Poland and Japan have a lot in common, I think; they're joint presidents of the "Not Particularly Nostalgic for the 1940's" Club.
Anyway, Trek to Yomi - which translates loosely as "Highway to Hell" - is inspired by Akira Kurosawa films, just like Ghost of Tsushima, but is determined to out-Kurosawa Ghost of Tsushima at every turn. It's all in slightly overexposed black-and-white, it's got a room-by-room fixed camera setup where every moment could be a frame from a Kurosawa film, and combat's modeled on that samurai movie thing where two dudes make, like, three lightning-fast sword movements, and then one of them keels over, gushing red water like a leaky dishwasher in an Italian restaurant. The plot is pretty standard fare: you're a lone samurai with a face like a brick wall on a windy hillside, your duty is to protect your village from bandits, and inevitably, bandits show up. But it's hard to hold it against them, because there are very few who have the sheer infectious lust for life as the evil bandits in a samurai movie. Just listen to them guffawing as you hose down the scenery with the arterial spray of all their friends; they're so determined not to let you ruin their lovely day.
Trek to Yomi's plot suffers from a bad case of, "So this is what we're doing now?", where there's about nine different inciting incidents, and it takes way too bloody long to get through all of them; in which case, I need to drop a spoiler warning, 'cos in explaining the setup of the plot, I'll give away, like, two-thirds of it. At first, we're a novice samurai whose master gets killed by the big baddie - which is such a trite scenario, I'm pretty sure they sell pre-written sympathy cards for it - but then we forget about that and go off to save a village from bandits, promptly fuck that up, try to save our own village from bandits, fuck that up too, die, and wake up in Japanese Hell, where we must journey to confront our sins and those we wronged in life. Okay, this is what we're doing; gotcha. Took your fucking time getting to the point, considering the sameyness of the environments up to now, the different nuances between nineteen monochrome bandit-besieged Japanese farming villages being kind of lost on me.
As for gameplay, it's a strictly linear path that would almost make it akin to a Limbo-style "keep moving to the right" narrative indie game if it didn't keep branching off into partially hidden side-paths, where there will inevitably be one collectible and some shuriken ammo, even though I barely use those useless fucking Christmas ornaments. Combat consists of sword dueling along a 2D plane in a sort of original Prince of Persia style, where the game trains you in a range of light attack, heavy attack combos, parries, up-strikes, down-strikes, back-strikes, 'round-the-garden-path-strikes; and for a while, you wonder why it bothers, when virtually every enemy you fight drops almost instantly if you just run up to them, wobbling your sword back and forth like a windscreen wiper.
But things click better once you do descend to Yomi and start hacking your way through zombies and spirits that actually pose a challenge, and the odd huge gribbly boss monster that shows up to complain about the noise. Even then, though, the combat lacks a certain punch. There's something off about the parrying animation; every time I do it, it feels more like the other dude deliberately stopped his swing to give me a chance to react. Trek to Yomi, I'm a professional YouTuber; I get condescended to quite enough in daily life.
On the whole, I'd describe Trek to Yomi as "slow to start, but worth finishing". It's short by design, so even if it doesn't click for you after a while, you might as well finish it, 'cos there'll only be, like, two hours left, and then you'll be able to get into some very stimulating online arguments.
But it does leave us with some time to fill, so let's talk about another short game I played this week: Ravenous Devils, which is... okay, you know those light shop/restaurant management games, usually based around activating timers at different work stations and trying to meet customers' needs before they get annoyed and walk out? Exactly, that thing that there's ten billion of on browser and mobile, 'cos it's one of those genres that are weirdly popular with housebound mums who can't afford to pass the time hiring pool-cleaners to fuck. Well, this is that, but with Sweeney Todd... sort of.
So as well as preparing recipes in the kitchen and delivering them to waiting customers, you also have to make time for murdering the absolute bollocks off of Victorian gentlefolk, stripping the bodies and dunking them in the meat grinder. I was about to drop it like freshly oven-roasted bellend when I saw what kind of game it was, but I was actually rather impressed by the theming; when you think about it, murder is a good match for casual restaurant sims, because as a genre, they've probably contributed to a small, but not insignificant percentage of childhood deaths by neglect. And I appreciated the rather effective little touches that went into the art and animation: the legs sticking out of the meat grinder, the way the murderous wife walks around the kitchen like she's just got so much on today, but she's determined not to let it take the spring out of her step.
Ravenous Devils is a rather insubstantial snack of a game, but I could go for seconds. I rather liked what story there was; I mentioned when I was talking about Haven a while back, we don't see enough games that center around a loving couple with equal billing, and honestly, it was just nice to see. Mr. and Mrs. Mutton-chop Murder are completely devoted to each other and completely round-the-houses batshit banana-sandwich kill-crazy on all fours, and I'm fucking well here for it.
But at the end of the day, it's just a timer-based light restaurant management sim, like so many others, and a fairly flimsy one, at that. Ten or so missions, and that's about it; buying all the different ingredients to cook with didn't seem to do anything except add needless complications, and the upgrade path stopped dead at four restaurant tables and three ovens. Where's the ambition, guys? I want to keep expanding, get the wealthy connoisseurs of old Landon Tahhhn to flock to this up-and-coming new bistro in the rapidly gentrifying area with the mysteriously decreasing population density. Fuck it; why not ring in the new century by opening an entire chain of inexpensive burger outlets? "Did you find a wedding ring in your Quarter Pounder? Lucky you! You found the Happy Meal toy! Thank you for visiting McDonner Party."
- Served in a red wine sauce: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Honestly in Victorian London the really sustainable business model would've been making the pies out of human shit
- 心配しないでください、 退屈な人はおそらくあなたのためにこれを翻訳します
- The last message in the Addenda ("Shinpai shinai deku dasai, taikusu nahito ha osoraku anata no tame niko rewo hon'yaku shimasu") roughly translates to, "Don't worry, boring people will probably translate this for you."