Yurukill: The Calumniation Games
Developer: IzanagiGames, G.rev, ESQUADRA
Publisher: IzanagiGames, NIS America
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Windows
Release Date: 8 July 2022
Price: $39.99 USD/ $60.00 AUD – Available Here
Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is a quirky hybrid of an investigation adventure in the vein of Phoenix Wright and a classic shoot ‘em up. Yurukill stars six prisoners offered a chance at freedom in exchange for participating in a dangerous escape room type game. The prisoners are partnered up with five executioners who alone has the decision to pardon or kill the prisoner based on their experiences during the game.
The writing in Yurukill rarely has a light touch, often opting for an over the topic dramatic writing style. The cases created by the writers are interesting, but the short length of the game and individual cases make it hard to become too invested in the story. One major factor is there are too many playable characters. It makes it difficult to get attached to characters or provide time for subtility. I think the writing would have been much better served to focus solely on Sengoku and Rina and explore their complex relationship.
There’s also a good bit of wasted space that could have been used for more productive purposes. The game insists on repeating, albeit in shortened form, instructions for the escape room and shoot ‘em up areas for each character. Characters also feel the need to explain their logic for a recently solved puzzle, much like a supervillain explaining their plan to the hero in painstaking detail. The player just solved the puzzle. These ramblings are completely unnecessary.
Considering its dark premise, Yurukill has a lot of comedy in the game. Humour tends to be a deeply personal thing, but I found the humour to be hit or miss. Allen Poe’s segments between chapters are designed to be comedic relief. I found them to be eye roll inducing blather. On the other hand, Binko, the amusement park guide, offers some sharp moments that elicited a few chuckles thanks to her seemingly endless personalities and obscene workload.
Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is an odd combination of investigation adventure and shoot ‘em up. Each chapter consists of three investigation levels and three short shoot ‘em up levels. The shoot ‘em up levels includes pop quizzes on the investigation section to see how well the player has been paying attention.
The investigation section has players searching around three levels for hot spots that will provide the clues needed to solve the final puzzle for the level. The investigation sections feel immersive to the story as the whole area is built around the crime each prisoner is accused of.
The puzzle quality is a mixed bag. There are fun and creative puzzles like the Sudoku inspired keypad, big leaps of logic like the vine puzzle, and bog-standard ones like the four dolls. Most of the stronger puzzles are found in the early game and the ones that follow the room’s theme closely tend to be the strongest of the bunch.
The game has an extremely generous hint system. The game offers three tiers of hints, starting from a vague hint to point players into the right direction to practically spoon feeding the answer to the player. These final puzzle hints are usually more than enough to solve the lousy puzzles that require such large leaps of logic that they would be unsolvable without the hint.
The shoot ‘em up sections are enjoyable but lack depth due to the short length. Each character has their own fighter. The ships have different enough shooting patterns and movement stats to feel unique, but the levels are so short that it’s hard to really enjoy them. Finishing each chapter will unlock score attack mode with an online leaderboard. Those looking for a slightly more in-depth shoot ‘em up experience have some extra gameplay to squeeze out, but it’s a shame that it wasn’t incorporated more into the main game.
The game has a very good learning curve with its three difficulty levels. I may not be new to the shoot ‘em up genre, but I am notoriously bad at the it. I found easy difficulty provided an entertaining challenge as the game comes with a few mechanics to scale the difficulty with a little more granularity beyond the three levels. First, there is an automatic shield that consumes energy for easy and normal difficulty. Players are free to horde the energy to use as a shield or spend it on special attacks to get through the level faster. Second, the game will increase the difficulty if players are doing well to ensure a consistent challenge throughout the game.
Yurukill uses the shoot ‘em up sections as a final exam of sorts. Before the shoot ‘em up section begins, players are given a quiz on the major facts of their case. Getting answers correct provides more lives to be used in the shoot ‘em up and test segments. The tests are dull as the answers are obvious, especially the final Mind Maze questions. I found the initial quiz to be more intellectually stimulating in comparison.
There are some quality-of-life additions that could be added to the game. For example, there are several passcodes players will need to input; however, the game does not automatically advance the cursor when a number is pressed. There are also some clues that are visually difficult for those of us using smaller screens. The gondola clue is difficult enough to see on a small monitor and would be nightmarish on a Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.
Yurukill’s art style is classic mecha anime. The ship and boss designs are great, often mirroring the theme of each character. The Sly Stalkers level stands out as the design team leaned into the Japanese pop star aesthetic, from Hanaka’s cute pink ship to the glow stick waving enemies. The transition animation between the boss fight and the questions doesn’t feel like a single smooth animation but rather two distinct ones. A longer, smoother transition would add a more polished feel.
The audio experience is decent. The soundtrack is enjoyable. The voice acting fits with the writing style, as they both use the same over the top in your face delivery that often lacks subtility. Binko’s multi-personality performance deserves a special mention as the actor’s performance brought the character to life. The sound effects are the weakest part as many sound effects are not done properly and sound obviously out of place. The sound of doors closing and electronic beeps are the worst offenders as the volume and quality sounds markedly different than the rest of the game.
Yurukill is an interesting concept. Prior to this game, I would have never imagined combining an investigation adventure game with a shoot ‘em up, yet Yurukill makes this odd pairing work. The problem with Yurukill isn’t the poor match: It’s the lack of depth. The levels and storytelling are too short and abrupt to be more than a sampling. The game could have benefited from better puzzles, greater focus on a smaller number of characters, and longer shoot ‘em up sequences. It’s one of those quirky games that are definitely worth a look eventually during a steep discount, but just isn’t offering enough to justify buying at full price.
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