Game: YIIK: A Postmodern RPG
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer/ Publisher: ACKK STUDIOS LLC | Ysbryd Games
Price: €19,99| $19.99 | £17.99
Age Rating: EU16| USA M (swearing and disturbing images)
Release Date: January 18 2019
Also Available on: PS4 and PC
Review code kindly provided by Stride PR for Ysbryd Games
Post College Blues
A crow asks you to name various kinds of people in life, rather rudely assuming one has that many different friends. Then the game starts off on April 4th 1999 with the protagonist Alex finally arriving home after graduating from college. YIIK is a weird game, unlike most though it doesn’t take long to get to that point. Alex ends up chasing a funny looking cat into a factory. In the factory he finds a woman named Sammy who doesn’t know what elevators are. Strange creatures kidnap Sammy and he runs away. Throughout the game Alex attempts to find Sammy, recruiting new friends along the way.
You Spin Me Right Round
Enemies are encountered throughout towns, the over world and dungeons. Combat is turn based however in order to successfully land an attack you have to do action based inputs. With Alex you must press a button within two coloured sections on a record turn. Other characters have to press button prompts at the right time or release something. If you mess this up your character fails their attack. When the enemy attacks you can press a and if you hit the yellow section you take slightly less damage, and if you hit the red you dodge it.
Enemies can also have attacks with three reds so you have to hit them all in succession to avoid taking damage. Just one or two doesn’t count and you get the full hit. There are also some attacks you can’t dodge and can only take less damage from by a joystick and button input at the right time.
With Alex it wasn’t until some hours later that the game tells you you can press the button multiple times in the sections. Not that it matters much since Alex is the most useless character only able to hit about two points of damage at most. The only solution for which I found was to use the time energy (which shows up a bit after the start). If you didn’t manage to read the game tips in the loading screens you wouldn’t even know about that. Time energy accumulates when you take damage, you can use it with the ZL button and it slows down time. Primarily I would use this to dodge more difficult attacks rather than waste it on Alex’s output. You can also fast forward the battle sections with the ZR button.
Like A Record
There are of course items, and skills. These skills also require different inputs not that you get much instruction for them. Not only that but even if you get the micro game right it still might fail or have detriment. As is the case with one of Michael’s skills where you must take a bad photo, but they still have to be in the picture. When a bad photo is taken they’ll get hit with the sick status effect, but if a good one is taken their defense and attack will be temporarily buffed. Whereas with one of Alex’s skills for a status effect to cause sleep sometimes you input it correctly and it doesn’t do anything at all! Running away requires you to play a small 2D platforming section, in boss fights (except the first encounter with an entity) it is pointless as you’ll be blocked.
Trip Back to Nostalgia Town
Thankfully enemies that appear in world do not re-spawn after being defeated. As even with a fast forward button the combat is painfully slow and regular enemy encounters can take around ten minutes.
Throughout the game you’ll acquire new tools required to solve puzzles. Such as a cat which you can use to hit switches from far away or an amp to blow up rocks. The cat is the most useful as you can shoot her at enemies to stun them so that you may temporarily get away or go through them. Dali (the cat) can also open chests from far away, going through enemies.
In the towns (or at vending machines) you can buy more healing items, equipment and weapons. Make sure to spend most money on healing items as you might encounter a stretch or two where you can’t get any more. Buying new weapons didn’t really seem to improve the characters damage output at all.
Rather than experience points automatically filling to level up you must spend them at the mind dungeon. Via any phone booth (which is also your save point) you can go in and spend one hundred experience points to level up. From there you can go through doors with different numbers to assign a stat that +1 or +0.5. If you’re like me you can also just talk to Marlene who will assign them for you. Make sure to walk through the book door or you might miss out on a skill.
Presenting A Blast From The Past
Unlike most retro-esque turn based indie affairs this game is done with 3D models. It looks a little bit like a PS1 game but more pastel and with simpler textures and shading. The music is all over the place. There are several battle themes some of which I like and quite a few I don’t. As far as I’m aware most of them don’t sound like they’re from 1999 either. It’s arguable with some chiptune esque tracks but none of them really feel in place, even if some are nice. A few are just plain weird or like the mountain town theme, uncomfortable. Other people have mentioned that they don’t like the voice acting. I think it’s okay but there are changes in audio quality during voiced scenes.
The cut scenes are presented in a visual novel style overlapped on top of the game. The cartoon art looking very different from the game. One character’s art look particularly different from the others and it was odd to see them next to each other.
It’s been argued that the game is quite inaccurate in its depiction of the times. Such as Alex using records instead of CDs (and so many record stores being around). The way Alex dresses in particular being more of a modern hipster style. There’s also a grave for Satoru Iwata in Wind Town which in an attempt to be some kind of touching memorial is just unnecessary and weird.
More Issues Than That Zine Will Ever Get
I have a plethora of problems with this game to the point that I found it a chore to play. There are some major things such as the slowness of combat or the story but there are also so very many quality of life issues.
The main problem is that the story in general doesn’t appeal to me as it’s about paranormal things and questioning reality and a touch of self reflection. The only character I particularly liked was Sammy and she’s kidnapped at the start of the game. So in between the bad game play I also have to deal with long uninteresting cutscenes. A lot of the story is quite dragged out. At first I thought it was just Alex who talks too much but then Claudio subjects me to a two minute rant about a pretend anime because Rory asked about his shirt.
The most humorous parts of the writing were the loading screen tips. With that there is only one actual game tip in there, being vital information hidden among jokes and life advice. There also isn’t a lot of them, which is pretty bad considering the amount of loading screens you have to encounter. As there are loading screens before and after every battle, as well as going in and out of building or dungeons sections. They aren’t particularly fast either. Which given the games primitive presentation seems ridiculous.
Frankton-ly It’s Not Good
Alex is essentially a turn to use items, there’s a party member who can’t attack at all and he’s more useful than Alex. The game leaves much to be desired with instructions as it doesn’t tell you how to sort inventory or sprint, and the information can only be found on their website.
There’s no maps and the design of the towns are too large and hard to navigate. The camera moves unnecessarily and pulls out too far back, often. The over world is a pain to navigate because you can’t go past roads without the crossing marks. Marlene says you don’t have to kill all enemies which is well after you’ve already killed some and you can’t run away from boss fights so it’s a lie. It’s also quite possible to save yourself into a corner.
Some sections have flashing images which makes hitting the button prompts difficult. When you continue after failing a battle everyone starts back at the start of the battle however any items you used are still gone. There’s a cutscene that plays every time you go up a ladder for whatever reason.
The combat is too slow even with a fast forward button. The game doesn’t instruct you on the mini game attacks. If you mess up the first part with a lot of them you fail the whole attack. In Chondra’s case you could get seven right in a row but if you mess up one then you’d only be able to score one damage by getting the last prompt right. There’s no point to getting Claudio’s attack perfect with only one enemy as it doesn’t do anything special then. Also sometimes it says the damage is critical which means absolutely nothing as it’s the same amount of damage points.
The UI is too small for play on TV, it works fine in handheld but when sitting far from the TV you cannot read what their health is. Asides from falling through a bridge I didn’t even come across many bugs that some other players have such as Jenni from Siliconera.
I’m not sure who would enjoy this game. You’d have to be at least past thirty five to relate to the times. As it’s set with young adults in 1999. On top of being interested in turn based RPGs with this action based combat style. While also being interested in a story about paranormal, world ending, what is reality really type blathering. As well as the irregular music and old style graphics. I know people that gamed back then who don’t understand why you’d use an inferior presentation. Even if trying to invoke nostalgia. From this you can tell that it certainly didn’t appeal to me on top of the many problems I had with the game in general. It’s hard to play a role playing game when the combat is slow and the story is unappealing.
I don’t like it.