Trek to Yomi review: Hack and slash never felt so good – or so tragic

Poland - Ever wanted to be a samurai? Well, then Trek to Yomi is the game for you, with a loving, fresh take on the hack and slash genre and samurai adventure.

Each individual fight is like a scene from a movie.
Each individual fight is like a scene from a movie.  © Devolver Digital, Flying Wild Hog

Platforms: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One

Publisher Devolver Digital and gaming developer Flying Wild Hog have cooked up a stylized, black-and white adventure that is also one of the most beautiful games of the year.

Unlike more colorful titles like Tunic or LEGO Star Wars: A Skywalker Saga, Trek to Yomi leans real hard into its roots. That means going back to film-grain filters, traditional Japanese instruments, and excellent voice acting with English subtitles.

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The game starts you out in the sandals of young Hiroki, a samurai-in-training who has to defend his town from a bandit attack.

After saving the village, you continue the story as a grown-up, full-blown samurai. You'll walk, run, and slice your way through new set pieces and baddies. But things get darker, fast, and the story takes you on a tour of a time when brutality was the order of the day.

It's a 2.5D action game, so sometimes you can run around freely, but when it's time to fight you are locked into side-scrolling mode. That works surprisingly well, and the devs made the right choice when they kept the combat as pure as possible.

The game's name also hints heavily at what's in store for you, since Yomi is the land of the dead in Japanese mythology.

And death is a constant companion, turning Trek to Yomi into a tragic journey for our hero, Hiroki.

Trek to Yomi: Eye and ear candy galore!

You've just walked through a dank cave and suddenly you see a vista, and flashing lightning.
You've just walked through a dank cave and suddenly you see a vista, and flashing lightning.  © Devolver Digital, Flying Wild Hog

Trek to Yomi is a feast for the senses, no matter what difficulty level you choose.

Even if you're banging your head against the wall during the challenging fights, you can still enjoy the sights, and the sounds, of a beautiful homage to old samurai movies.

While you're moving through the game, you see rainy forests, burning villages, and rushing rivers – visuals that really pop despite the grayscale. This is easily one of the best-looking games of the year.

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And the atmosphere is tense, moving, and can kick you right in the emotional guts, thanks to a lovely soundtrack and excellent sound effects. The rhythmic clacking of traditional Japanese drums ups the suspense as you trade strikes with a well-armored opponent.

There are even scripted moments where the "film" bubbles, something old movies used to do in theaters. It's a 100% perfect ode to the genre.

The looks and sounds of this game are consistently good, and really help sell the feeling of being an old-school samurai on a tragic quest.

Slick and deliberate combat

Wait for your moment to attack, and strike with certainty.
Wait for your moment to attack, and strike with certainty.  © Devolver Digital, Flying Wild Hog

This is no over-caffeinated weasel hack and slash, where you just go ham on the buttons and hope you make it.

Trek To Yomi gives you a huge set of moves, but you have to take your time. Rushing into each fight will get you surrounded and overwhelmed if you are just mashing attacks.

But when you do what your Sensei tells you at the start of the game, "Breathe in. Breathe out. Concentrate," you can become like water, flowing across the battlefield.

Rolls, blocks, and your best friend – the parry move – have weight to them, as do your enemies' attacks. And it doesn't get better than pulling off a parry to spin past your opponent and give them a slash as you pass, before turning to the next bandit or shogun.

Then there's the boss battles, which are delicious. You have to put together everything you've learned to handle healthier opponents that will walk all over you if you're not prepared.

But defeat them, and you'll taste a victory so sweet, you'll wish you could go right back for round two.

Bottom line: Trek to Yomi is a great game, and well-worth your hard-earned cash if you want a beautiful, stylized experience that plays like you are really in an old samurai movie.

Trek to Yomi is already a solid candidate for 2022's top 10 games.

Cover photo: Devolver Digital, Flying Wild Hog

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