Image Credit: Press kit image, with a special thanks to the Yuoni developers Tricore Inc.
Warning: This article will contain a few spoilers for the game, but not anything that will ruin your experience. If you want to, treat my review as an insight into the game before you buy it.
Yuoni’s official description:
“Ai is a grade-schooler in 1990s Japan who is about to realise just how isolated she is. Forced to play children’s games in a world of never-ending dusk, Ai is hunted by otherworldly entities as her life hangs in the balance. When these horrors begin to bleed into the real world, Ai must accept that she has only three choices: hide, run, or die.”
As you’ve probably gathered from the game’s description Yuoni is a Japanese horror title. The game itself combines run and hide horror with low light environments in an effort to provide an immersive feel, and overall, it’s trying to throwback to when horror games refused to give you weapons.
Yuoni opens with on-screen dialogue, a conversation between Ai (our character) and her friends about entering an abandoned hospital. Of course, like many young and impressionable minds, Ai is being peer pressured into going into the hospital, so she unwillingly enters to explore with her friends…
They each complete a ritual to summon a long-dead child who is simply looking for friends to play his game, but for whatever reason, only our ritual works. Whilst playing the game we learn more about the life of Tsun who is burdened by his family life.
As I have mentioned, Yuoni tries its best to capture the horror of feeling helpless and the need to run because you cannot fight the demons in front of you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a great job of providing a scary experience. The most frightening encounters end up being the occasional cutscenes that will randomly take over your screen to advance the story. While being forced to hold hands with Tusan as he asks you to “play a game with him” provides a shock factor the first couple of times it soon loses its effect.
Furthermore, the simplicity of the game will make it easy to pick up but quickly forces the player into tedious cycles of rinsing and repeating the same strategies, with a few awfully predictable level designs.
While the gameplay didn’t impress me, for the most part the game's aesthetic did provide some immersion. While playing the game and wandering through corridors or throwing yourself into hiding spots, Yuoni lived up to the time it was set. Personally, I enjoyed exploring each level and even peaking in rooms where I would risk encountering enemies just to look around and take in the environment.
To playthrough Yuoni the first time round you will need between four and five hours, maybe slightly longer if like me you want to explore each level in detail. What Yuoni perhaps does best is providing a variety of possible endings, some of which are locked until you complete the game but centre around the decisions you make.
While Yuoni isn’t a title like Until Dawn, in the sense that there are not an exhausting number of endings it certainly keeps you coming back to try and work out how to achieve them and spot each difference between them as well.
Overall the storyline, which explores Ai’s mental state, the complex nature of friendships, and Japanese folk law provide an interesting and enjoyable but not groundbreaking experience.
Is it a worthwhile pickup?
If you’re in the market for a terrifying horror game this title isn’t for you. However, if you want a mix of horror, a well-paced storyline that isn’t mind-boggling, and a well thought out ending, try it out. For a comparatively small price compared to most new releases, Yuoni will provide enjoyment and intrigue without breaking the bank.