REVIEW: YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

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TITLE YIIK: A Postmodern RPG
DEVELOPER Ackk Studios
PUBLISHER Ysbryd Games
RELEASE DATE January 17th, 2019
PLATFORMS PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
RATING M Mature 17+
Official Website

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is a game I have been waiting an extremely long time for. I have had high expectations for this game, from the button timed combat to the quirky enemies to the hipster party members, all wrapped up in a nostalgic old school RPG aura. Did it deliver? Let’s find out in my review of YIIK: A Postmodern RPG.

Our game begins with Alex, our protagonist, returning home. We scour the town, looking for secrets and talking to everyone multiple times in order to undercover clues to more secrets or possible side quests. The fun basically stops here. Scattered in-between this early scampering are constant looks inside Alex’s head and his rationalization for each and every action or thought he possesses. This got old rather quickly. I honestly did appreciate the depth with which we examine why Alex is such a jerk, even it made for a headache inducing chore each and every time we had to read dialogue that was overtly full of itself. The dialogue and inner monologues do not end and I was really hoping they would ease up by the end of things.

YIIK | Town

The town starts out nice and colorful, I just wish the inhabitants had less depressing things to say.

Sometimes our methods of exploration go rewarded and other times we are thrown an existential quip or philosophical mantra meant to get us to think and reflect deeply. We begin the game with Alex eventually returning home. He reminisces about his old room and old habits, and heads downstairs to find a shopping list. Upon heading to the store to buy things, this list is stolen by a stray cat. We eventually stumble upon an abandoned factory building, with supposedly a hotel in it, I’m not really clear what is real and what is metaphorical or supernatural here. We meet the owner of the cat, Sammy, and briefly form a party with her.

The opening of YIIK caps off with a look inside the dreamscape. I’m not sure if it’s Alex’s head or Sammy’s or some other entirely different scenario. I then blitz through a very fun platforming puzzle straight out of an abstract painting. Once I finished this puzzle, our friend is ripped from our hands and abducted by extraterrestrial beings, which came out of absolutely nowhere. That felt like the game was breaking the fourth wall to tell me just how ridiculous and without purpose most things would feel in this game. Alex begins a quest to find her in order to give himself something to do, and to uncover the origin and explanation behind these beings and why Sammy was abducted.

YIIK | Factory Hotel

It’s a lot creepier once we get inside.

I spent much of this early experience wanting to explore the maps and surrounding areas, but the game constantly threw boundaries at me or rushed me along with the storytelling. I was constantly finding items and holding onto them in the hopes that they served a purpose later. The lack of direction during quests was hard to get used to. It definitely piqued my interest the further I got. I felt like every quest was challenging enough. Most of the rest ofYIIK felt aimless and really hard to figure out. I am still left wondering just how absent and up to the user most of the hidden secrets are. There are some great early puzzles here involving the characters’ out of combat special moves, such as summoning a panda that sits on levers or calling a cat who dashes across the screen to hit switches for us. This felt intuitive and fun but didn’t come up as often as I would have liked throughout the whole adventure.

I felt like YIIK didn’t want to respect my time and wouldn’t let me have fun. It often forced me to rush through the narrative, just to get things over with, as opposed to exploring and adventuring like most RPGs do. There’s even a cap on enemy mobs early on, in which you need to explore dens to fatten out your levels. This is a chore, something this game is plenty full of. That is most evident in the combat, which featured a grating musical score that is constantly evolving in depth during battle. I personally wasn’t a fan because I felt like the game had spliced together a few inconsistent tracks. I would have much rather things had been consistent during combat, to numb the pain of the mechanics. The fighting mechanics take a nod from Super Mario RPG where timed button presses, each relating to the character’s type of weapon, pop up and need to be completed successfully in the hopes of doing any damage at all. Most of these timed mechanics take the form of a musical instrument. I felt like when I failed these mini-games that the game was really harsh in the damage calculation. If the game wanted me to complete these mini-games just to hope to do enough damage to enemies, it was going to be a very long game.

YIIK | Combat Screen

I wish the combat was more exciting than this.

The animations are slow and evoke that old nostalgic style reminiscent of PS1 era RPGs, but are sincerely too slow. There is more variety in the combat from even the simplest of PS1 era RPG than what we are given here in YIIK. With the added button timing and the archaic animations it was really hard to truly enjoy the combat here. If I’m being honest, YIIK’s combat was a chore. It was truly hard to get used to how unsettling the musical choices were in combat. Both of these factors just weren’t fun to me.

That said, the theme of negativity doesn’t end with the combat. I wish it did, but YIIK is really bleak. During my exploration most of the dialogue and interactions weren’t explicitly cheerful. Most of my time with YIIK was rather depressing. I thought a lot about what YIIK had to say and most of it felt lost in the story it was trying to tell. I mean yes, Alex does struggle with being overly confident and does not gather much empathy and understanding in most situations. By the end of the game he has grown and having shared his journey, now has friends to lean on and their friendship forms the basis of some empathy for him. Being in his shoes was a bit of a shock compared to the average RPG hero, just because he was extremely unlikable for most of the game.

YIIK | Pyramid puzzle

This crying pyramid sums up my thoughts about this game pretty succinctly.

My issues with the story are that it tells you the specifics once, in large information dumps during key scenes, and then expects you to remember it all through the depressing dialogue and obtuse combat. I wanted things to be more fun, I wanted the dialogue to make me laugh and be full of hidden jokes and respectable interactions. Instead, everything is a chore to read and a punishment to experience. I really wanted a fulfilling journey for Alex and his friends, and I didn’t feel like we earned that goal based on most if not all of the dialogue in this game. It was all very depressing and felt like it had been written specifically with self-reflection in mind. I felt like YIIK was a game made to analyze. I wished it carried those critical elements of fun and enjoyment. Even though the world was beyond interesting to look at, its contents and message were just unnecessarily padded with inner monologue. It took me roughly 30 hours to beat the main story and begin some of the side extras. YIIK will cost you $19.99 on PC, PS4, or Nintendo Switch.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

About Skip Zepeda

JRPGS are my jam. I'm a huge fan of dungeon crawling and giant robots. An elusive Help desk support technician who plays games when his kids are asleep. Surviving out in sunny California.