Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a Switch console exclusive isometric action-RPG. Think of it as a simplified and lighthearted take on the Zelda game franchise starring the most adorable elephant you’ve ever seen in a video game.
Yono‘s gameplay is pretty simple. The best comparison you can make is calling the game an indie Zelda with much less emphasis on combat and a lot more emphasis on puzzle solving. Lots of well-known elements are present, such as pieces of heart and dungeons. Thankfully, most of the puzzles aren’t overly complicated, usually relying on block pushing and using your trunk in some way, like, for example, a hose. But despite being simple, the developers have managed to vary them enough in order to never make them look like a chore to the player. Besides boss battles, which actually rely on some smart puzzle solving as well, the occasional instances of combat are pretty lackluster, as Yono, your main elephant character, has one attack: a slow and clunky tackle. The main difference between Yono and Zelda, however, is how linear the former is in comparison to the latter. There isn’t that much of an emphasis on exploration. Sure, you can backtrack to older areas with new abilities, as there is a nice railway system to connect most of the main locales together, but there’s not much to find throughout the world besides heart pieces and money.
The most notable aspect of Yono is easily its art style. While the NPCs don’t sport good visuals (you can see by some of the screenshots in this article), Yono is just too cute, with nice animations and big facial expressions everytime it moves. Bosses do look good as well for the most part. Environments, on the other hand, are pretty hit-or-miss. They are very colorful and varied, but they look, well, kind of “cheap.” There’s no other way to explain it. Yono sports that typical made-for-mobile polygonal aesthetic. The game also features some framerate drops, especially in areas with more textures and detail.
Another small gripe I had in this game is related to its sound department. While Yono features a somewhat decent soundtrack, it sadly also features badly implemented sound effects. All of them, be it character voices (which are limited to the classic Zelda style of short grunts) or doors being opened are severely compressed, which results in muffled, borderline mono sounds, something you would expect from a Playstation 1 title, not a Switch game from freaking 2017.
Yono has its fair share of flaws, such as its framerate, poor NPC visuals and severely lackluster combat, but it’s still a small package containing an elephant-sized amount of cuteness and charm. If, somehow, you’ve already grown tired of Breath of the Wild but you’re still itching for Zelda-esque adventures, Yono can be a little interesting stopgap for you.
Unrelated, I’m not a big fan of Amiibo whatsoever, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to a Yono one. That little thing is just too darn adorable.
Also available on: PC
Copy of Yono and the Celestial Elephants provided by publisher.