Trek to Yomi Review

Richard Walker

In feudal Japan, a quiet life in the village doesn't remain quiet for long. And so it goes in Trek to Yomi, as young, burgeoning samurai Hiroki finds himself springing into action when his home is invaded by a marauding gang of bandits, and his adoptive master rushes to the gates in a heroic effort to stop the onslaught. No prizes for guessing what comes next, as we flash forward to Hiroki as a grown man, his village besieged once more by thieves and thugs. Amid the flames, destruction, and pillaging, you're a lone warrior, a stoic protector who's more than handy with a katana.

It's a samurai showdown!

The work of developer Leonard Menchiari, with support from Shadow Warrior studio Flying Wild Hog, Trek to Yomi wears its samurai cinema influences on its sleeve, rendered in lustrous black and white, replete with scratches and marks that help in mimicking the look of old celluloid film. It's an artistically impressive game, its moonlit environments forming the backdrop to its dramatic tableaux, silhouetting Hiroki and his foes against dark skies, punctured by light rays breaking through clouds and forest canopies. There's a very clear nod to the work of Akira Kurosawa here, and it's remarkably pretty.

As you progress through paddy fields, deserted burning houses, temples, and muddy streets strewn with cracked pots, crates, and abandoned carts, you'll find hidden areas, scrolls, health, stamina, and ammo capacity boosting collectibles, as well as points at which you'll learn new moves and combos. Initially, Hiroki begins his journey with nothing more than a few basic light and heavy slashing attacks, a block, and a parry, but before long you'll be able to string together short sequences of strikes, timing successful counter attacks to swiftly cut down your enemies and leave them in the dirt.

Exploration between combat encounters plays out in 3D, and always proves worthwhile, whether you're helping stricken villagers or simply scouring an area for collectible trinkets. As for combat, this invariably takes place from a purely side-scrolling two-dimensional perspective, and later encounters see new enemy types thrown into the mix, whether it's spear-wielding bandits that attempt to stave you off from a safe distance, or armoured fighters who are more susceptible to thrusting, piercing attacks. You're often made to change up your tactics on-the-fly, especially when stuck in the middle with enemies approaching from both sides.

In addition to his katana, Hiroki can throw bo-shuriken or launch arrows from his bow, before acquiring a slow but lethal Ozutsu rifle that takes an age to reload. Ammunition is in abundance (at least at the game's 'normal' Bushido difficulty setting), so you're encouraged to use ranged items liberally, but there's no substitute for standing toe-to-toe with an opponent, then slashing them down to size. Crucially, Yomi's parry system proves to be quite gratifying once you've mastered the (slightly unusual) window, indicated by a subtle glint from your rival's blade as they prepare to attack.

It's perfectly straightforward, but aggressive stabbing assaults can, nonetheless, catch you off-guard, and can be significantly trickier to parry. Fortunately, health replenishing shrines – which also provide a saved checkpoint – are generously dotted around each level, so after most encounters, you're able to push on at full strength, safe in the knowledge that death is only ever a relatively minor setback. Also, it's usually your fault if you're overwhelmed by bad guys – more often than not, it's impatience and button-mashing that will see you coming unstuck.

Trek to Yomi does tend to suffer during its latter parts, leaning increasingly into the supernatural - Yomi being the land of the dead in Japanese mythology - while forcing you through lengthy encounters without a checkpoint. At one point, the camera also zooms out to such a distance, that it's difficult to even see what the hell is going on, which can lead to a few rather egregious, and immensely irritating, deaths. After delivering such an even-handed challenge – and compelling narrative, in which Hiroki grapples with his inner demons, and his own fragile grip on the meaning of honour – it's a shame to see the game make such a frustrating misstep, with horrid difficulty spikes and cheap boss encounters.

What's more epic than a samurai duel?

Still, the diversity of moves and combos that Trek to Yomi's combat affords will likely carry you through, especially as your list of abilities expands and you gradually combine different directions, stances and moves to get the better of your foes. Finishers and counters also reward you with small health boosts, keeping you in the fight against bosses, or sections during which the game decides to throw more and more enemies your way. And in spite of its trifling niggles, I wanted to see Yomi through to its denouement.

Choosing Hiroki's path, confronting his past failures, and ultimately deciding his fate, while engaging in enjoyable, meticulously crafted sword-swishing duels, ensures that Trek to Yomi is a journey worth embarking upon. While it has the occasional annoyance, it's an experience that can feel hugely rewarding. At one point, I may have wanted to turn back, much like Hiroki himself, but I found myself pushing on. “I dread what lies ahead,” he remarks at one particularly trying juncture, “but to turn back would betray all that I am”. Damn straight.

Trek to Yomi

A stylish side-scrolling samurai epic, Trek to Yomi combines cinematic influences and sharp combat to great effect, but descends into frustration towards the end. Nonetheless, this is a journey worth sticking with.

Form widget

Excellent Japanese voice work and an evocative, atmospheric score frame the action beautifully. The only issue is that some late-game dialogue seems to be missing.


A sumptuous black and white art style inspired by '50s and '60s samurai cinema, Trek to Yomi looks fantastic. If we're nitpicking, character models are ever-so-slightly rough when viewed close-up.


Streamlined combat, exploration, and a handful of simple puzzles make for a consistently enjoyable experience, while learning new moves, and how best to deal with different enemies, keep things fresh.


A playthrough will take you about 5-7 hours, but with three paths to take to different endings, there's a nice bit of replay value on offer. The one-hit kill Kensei mode is also unlocked upon completing the game, and it's as hard as it sounds. Late game difficulty spikes also conspire to spoil the fun.


At least three playthroughs are required here, as all endings are required for the completion, and there are some achievements awarded for not being hit by certain bosses. Then there's Kensei mode to tackle, which is hard as nails. A tough 1,000G.

Game navigation