Review – Trek to Yomi

I used to think I knew what to expect from a game published by Devolver. For the most part, they are focused on high-octane gameplay, with addictive loops and a distinctive sense of humor I can only call “Devolverish”. If you’ve played games like Death’s Door, My Friend Pedro, Shadow Warrior 3, or The Messenger, you know what I mean. I also know that I should occasionally expect a shockingly competent, emotionally-driven art game, such as Gris or Essays on Empathy. Trek to Yomi, on the other hand, is a complete deviation from the company’s modus operandi. This is a hybrid between a 1950s jidaigeki samurai movie and a 90s hack ‘n’ slash, with a serious tone and huge focus on fooling your brain into thinking you’re playing a movie. Somehow it works, astonishingly well.

Trek to Yomi Art Style

If they don’t nominate this game for all conceivable art style-related awards, we’re gonna riot.

Trek to Yomi is the closest to a playable Akira Kurosawa movie we will ever get in this medium. It makes Ghost of Tsushima, once lauded as the perfect love letter to the Japanese film mastermind, look like Onimusha in comparison. It not only recreates the same grainy, black-and-white visuals you’d expect from these older jidaigeki movies, but it also knocks it out of the park with impressive camera angles, traditional Japanese music, and a very down-to-earth plot. Sure, it’s about vengeance and honoring your dead sensei, like most of these stories, but instead of fighting a horde of Mongolian invaders, you are merely defending your town against bandits. It makes the plot feel a lot more personal, a lot easier to digest. In no moment it felt lame or clichéd.

Trek to Yomi Sensei

Also, remember to always do your homework. And eat your vegetables.

Oddly enough, the only moment I was taken away from this game’s atmosphere was during some of its cutscenes. Trek to Yomi is indeed gorgeous from a distance, but I didn’t feel the same level of immersion during character closeups. Human models are decent, but their facial animations felt cheap and inconsistent. Those were the moments when I’d realise I was just playing a lower-budgeted indie game. Thankfully, those scenes are few and far between. That doesn’t happen at all during gameplay, where everything feels as realistic as possible. I even appreciated the occasional framerate hitch, just to remind me of mixed quality of 1950s film projections. Whether they were intentional or not, I’m not able to say, but they did not hinder the gameplay at all, for this is just a small bit of Trek to Yomi‘s main appeal.

Trek to Yomi Combat

The combat looks cool as hell onscreen, but it’s definitely not the game’s main focus.

Yes, oddly enough, even though this is a hack ‘n’ slash game, let’s just say that the combat isn’t exactly what you’ll play this game for. It’s not bad, but it’s limited. It’s very simplistic. Instead of the exaggerated, often over dramatic portrayal of samurai warriors in media, Trek to Yomi goes full Kurosawa in the sense that fights are sparse and slow-paced. Throughout most of the game, you’re limited to exploring level chunks set in fixed camera angles, not unlike an old-school Resident Evil game. Every now and then you will solve a puzzle, but more often than not this will resort to pushing a cart or cutting a rope.

It’s only when you meet an enemy that you’ll be able to take advantage of the game’s combat mechanics. First of all, the perspective will shift to a traditional side-scroller. Combat is simplistic in the sense there are not a lot of combos to try to use, not only due to the slow pace they’re unlocked for you, but also because most enemies die after just a few hits. It’s actually quite easy to cheese on their dumb AI, even on advanced difficulties. With that being said, be careful: you take a long time to perform your attacks, and you cannot cancel midway through their animations. One mistake can cost you a hefty chunk of your very limited health bar. Not that it mattered that much by the end. The game never felt that challenging, and I’m sure that was the intention right from the get-go.


They are all gonna die. They will all bring dishonor to their families, and to their cows.

Know what to expect from Trek to Yomi before purchasing it. I had a great time with it, but that’s because I knew this wasn’t going to be a high-octane, indie equivalent of Ghost of Tsushima or Sekiro. This is the closest to a Kurosawa game we’ll probably ever get. Not only due to its phenomenal presentation, but also due to its emphasis on storytelling and world building, instead of nonstop action and ludicrous combos. Combat sections were more sparse and sluggish than anticipated, but that’s fine since it’s so easy to sink into the game’s world. If you’re okay with a samurai game that’s more focused in being an audiovisual and emotional spectacle, then Trek to Yomi is absolutely worth your time.


Graphics: 9.5

Trek to Yomi features one of the most striking art styles I have ever seen in a game, which is best appreciated from afar, like an older movie. Cutscenes are actually not as visually pleasing due to the inconsistent quality of the character models.

Gameplay: 7.0

The gameplay is good, but a bit sluggish at times. It feels a bit simplistic, as if the gameplay wasn’t exactly the game’s main selling point.

Sound: 9.5

Great feudal Japanese music and excellent Japanese voice acting. Exactly what you expect from a Kurosawa inspired game.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Trek to Yomi is a really great game, but most of its fun factor comes from its striking presentation and storytelling. Its gameplay is good, but nowhere near as engaging as other samurai-styled games in the market.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Trek to Yomi is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S.

A copy of Trek to Yomi was provided by the publisher.