As a child, I can remember being haunted by many creepy tales. Whether it was whispering a name into a mirror 3 times to make a ghost appear, messing with Ouiji boards to speak to the dead, or stories of serial killers, they all chilled my blood. However, as an adult, I love anything that incorporates this idea. The thought of folklore that is horrendous, unexplained, and sinister gets my heart pumping. As such, when I was offered Yuoni, I couldn’t resist.
Developed by Tricore and published by Chorus Worldwide Games, this is a first-person survival adventure. What’s more, it incorporates a weird game of hide and seek, and is painfully slow to experience. Yet, this tedious pace is designed to enhance the fear factor as the game relies on traditional jump scares and its melancholy and sombre surroundings. Consequently, if you enjoy harder-hitting and faster-paced titles, you will be sorely disappointed from the off.
Yuoni plays it too safe.
The concept of Yuoni should have been fantastic. However, in reality, the developers have played it far too safely. Their reliance on the same vital mechanics and a rinse-and-repeat gameplay loop leave you wanting much, much more. Sadly, even the jump scares and ghastly apparitions do little to improve the situation. Consequently, a horror game without much horror, fear, or suspense leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth and an overwhelming sense of disappointment.
You control Ai, a quiet student who feels like they don’t truly belong. As such, they tag along with a group of more outlandish students, and this is the start of a terrible and life-changing mistake. The group hears the tale of Tsun, a boy who died at a local abandoned hospital. The ghost of this unfortunate lad is said to haunt the area, and by dipping a doll into a bucket of water and escaping, you’ll be granted a wish. Yet, for poor old Ai, her experience doesn’t end when she escapes. No, instead, she awakens to the ghastly figure of Tsun, and the knowledge that she must escape or be stuck in the nightmarish realm forever.
Run, hide, escape, repeat.
The repetitive gameplay loop is simple. You must explore the creepy hospital while looking for one of the hidden dolls. If you find one of these horrendous items, you’ll need to track back to the start and burn it. Subsequently, if you are successful, the day is over, and you must begin again. However, as you’d expect, things are rarely that simple. Instead, you encounter some heinous monsters that want to kill you. There are some that can hear but can’t see, and then there are the ones who can see but can’t hear.
In order to escape their attention, you must hide in the shadows, under beds, or in lockers. Alternatively, you must hold your breath as you sneak past and evade their gaze or hearing. If you fail to do either of these things, you must run for your life and hope the annoying turds don’t catch you. If they do, you’ll die and the cycle begins again. This is noticeable when you grab the doll. When this happens, you are chased by a fast-moving monster with many eyes. This beast won’t stop until you are captured, so a good memory of the stage layout is a must.
The further you progress, the more convoluted the stages become. What’s more, you discover snippets of information about the people that are supposed to be your friends. I don’t know what was worse. Was it knowing the true intentions of your “friends”, or escaping the deadly game of hide and seek?
Yuoni is too dark.
Whenever I play this genre, I expect it to be claustrophobic, uncomfortable, and sinister. However, Yuoni takes it too far. Its dark environment and shadow beasts make it unnecessarily difficult to navigate and play. Furthermore, it wasn’t always easy to denote which doors could be opened, or which path to take. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but when you want to explore without drawing unnecessary attention, it could have been much clearer. I understand that the developers were trying to create an uncomfortable vibe, but I don’t think they got the balance quite right.
One element I did enjoy was the audio. Whether it was the slamming of doors, the sound of your breath being held, or the noise of each ghoul, I never tired of it. Moreover, the lack of music created a daunting and empty world that worked perfectly with the action. Alongside this, the uncomfortable squeals and true moments of fear from Ai were horrible to listen to.
Though the gameplay was mostly slow and methodical, the controls were too sluggish for my liking. Consequently, I always felt like I would be caught or make a mistake. On top of this, the breathing mechanic was absurd. Ai can hold her breath for an incredible amount of time and this was just stupid. Not only did it make most situations unrealistic, but it also took away from what little challenge there was. Accordingly, the developers should have balanced this to make the action much tougher.
For all its negatives, there is a fair bit of longevity and replay value. If you can look beyond the shortcomings, you get plenty of horrible subplots about Ai’s friends. Furthermore, there are multiple endings to be “enjoyed” if you can survive each day. Unfortunately, though, I’m not sure many people will stick with it to experience each playthrough.
Yuoni could have been great.
Yuoni left me feeling disappointed. In theory, this should have been a game I loved. However, in reality, it falls short in practically every department. Sadly, the action lacks finesse, and the reliance on traditional jump scares is way beyond tired. Unfortunately, Yuoni does very little to make it stand out from its peers and there are many better games in this genre. As such, I won’t recommend that you buy it. Yet, more information can be found here if you so wish. Will you escape the nightmare realm? Explore your surroundings, collect the doll, and burn it to end your misery.