Review Yono and the Celestial Elephants

When Nintendo’s Summer Showcase aired, showing off many Indie developments, one of them caught my eye: Yono and the Celestial Elephants for the Switch. If only for the title, because I’ve never seen a game with an elephant in the lead. At the time, the developer Neckbolt described it as a grand adventure, featuring puzzles, treasure hunts, combat and a world full of people.

I was lucky to get to review the game early, eager to see what cuteness awaited me.

First of all, what’s the game about? A shining star falls to the world, and little girl Sundara goes to investigate. Sundara was already looking for an adventure, so this is heaven sent…literally. She finds Yono, who is a baby blue Celestial Elephant. The Celestial Elephants visit the earth in the game once in a thousand years, coming to help people and to bring joy. They often come at a time when they are most needed, which is exactly this time. The three races that populate the world have some huge social issues. Up till now the humans, the undead and the robots lived alongside each other, but they are struggling to do so in harmony.

Yono is very huggable!

Yono lumbers in in a naïve and stoic way, not exactly sure what his role is going to be but with a great ear (no pun intended) for the problems that the people have, and ever willing to help. Together with Sundara and Kai, a novice monk, he explores the world, solving little puzzles, helping people out and fighting enemies. Your compensation varies: sometimes they give an item you needed to fulfil another quest, at times you give you a Health Tokens, of which you need four to make a new Hearth Container to give Yono more stamina. What stood out most to me though is that Yono turns down the coins people want to give him. He just wants them to donate it to the Monk’s sanctuary. Usually in games we are all avidly collecting as much money as we can to get ahead, or is that Tom Nook’s indoctrination?

Yono and company travel in a simplistic yet awesome looking world, that leaves the impression as if you have landed in a children’s storybook. They meet an array of creatures, like Mercurium (from the Robot state of Freehaven) and undead Bonewright  Udertaker (who has chosen his profession of undertaker wisely). They all look upon Yono with wonder, after all, you don’t see celestial baby blue elephants every day!  There are statues dotted around the cities of Yono’s predecessors, and Yono wonders, rightly so, if one day he will be as great as they have been.

Head-butting is the way to go

In every city problems are solved, and in the fields connecting them you have to fight enemies blocking your way. The fights aren’t the strength of the game though, as Yono only has the move headbutt to fight them. The fights are never hard, but the boss fights offer more of a challenge.
Letters and little blocks are your reward. The letters you can use to fill the book at the Monks  sanctuary bringing them to the Lore Master. With it he can unlock more history is a mysterious old book, to learn more about the history of the mythical elephants.

Philosophical texts and great new outfits

Using the blocks, Yono can buy some nice new skins for himself. The creators have had some fun with this, as there are several skins that point toward popular icons, like a Zelda skin, Darth Maul and Aang, the last Airbender.
Talking about the last, the atmosphere of the game somewhat reminds me of that series. Yono tends to see the good in people, never judgmental himself. That is what makes this a good gaming experience, finding yourself in a beautiful world, with lots of history and lore, and interesting conversations with the inhabitants. The things they say come across as very deep, sometimes about social change and a better world, sometimes a bit creepy too. A lot of thought has gone into the interaction. For instance, one of the undead you meet tells “I will emerge again a hundred years from now, with the most sublime symphony the world has ever heard. I will compose it from shadows and solitude, and it will bring tears of joy to anyone who listens.” That’s not something you hear every day!

The music is great, it was a real joy listening to it. In fact, should the music emerge in iTunes I will surely add it to my games music playlist. What bothered me a bit was the limit of the moves Yono can make, and the limit to the menus. No inventory of the skins you have already bought, no list of the quests that you still have to finish or items you have to fetch. No over world map to look at either. That part of the game felt a bit rushed, although the auto-save and several save points to go back to felt nice. Plus, after opening the game up a bit there was a way to fast travel between locations too, I always like that.


The game is rather short, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing with lots of gaming choices and not a lot of gaming time. If you like the cute style, lots of text and an interesting world with plenty of puzzles, this is your kind of game. The puzzles aren’t very hard but clever at the same times. The battling surely isn’t the strength of the game, so if you are mostly into it for the battles this wouldn’t be your first choice.

The music is excellent, the little noises Yono make are sweet and what makes the game stand out is its atmosphere. Want to wrap yourself in an enchanting and charming little game? This would be a good game to play it together with your child, as I’m pretty sure they will be delighted by it. The lore and the clever interaction between Yono and the people might go over their head, but the puzzling and exploring would be fun to share.

Yono and the Celestial Elephants is available on October 12 in the Nintendo Switch eShop for the price of $ 14,99.


  1. Just one request/suggestion: mention the game’s platform. We have so many now for handhelds …
    I assume this is on the Switch?
    Oh, and you obviously haven’t heard of Tembo the Badass Elephant before! It’s on PS4.
    I like the sound of Yono better though.

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