Format: Switch (tested) / PS4 / PC
Developer: Ackk Studios
Publisher: Ysbryd Games
Release: Out now
Bearded college grad Alex Eggleston isn’t your typical charismatic hero – he’s a hipster, for one thing – but things soon take a strange turn when he becomes obsessed by the disappearance of local girl Semi ‘Sammy’ Pak. Recruiting like-minded misfits, you try to figure out the meaning behind Semi’s disappearance, going down weird rabbit-holes, and fighting a bizarre gallery of enemies, like samurai tortoises, alien spaceships and sentient stop signs.
Taking place in 1999, YIIK (pronounced ‘Y2K’) recalls the small-town surrealism of Earthbound (even its signature enemies have a resemblance to the Starmen) and the parallel dimensions of Persona. It’s ostensibly a JRPG made by Americans, albeit with a cruder style and on a smaller budget – though fans of Adult Swim shows will feel right at home. Garish palette aside, though, YIIK has plenty of its own ideas.
Indeed, there’s plenty of mechanics here that make it more than just another dungeon crawl and random encounter fest. Not only is there quite a bit of puzzle-solving and exploration required, including two deviously designed dungeons that take place inside the minds of two key characters, but even the turn-based battles have a lot of variation. Whether you’re attacking, defending, fleeing or levelling up, everything functions as a mini-game, including QTEs, rhythm-style button tapping, even a platformer paying homage to Super Mario 2. The best ones are for each character’s attack and abilities, tied to their weapon of choice, such as vinyl records, a camera, or protest placards for one character.
Disappointingly, most characters rarely deal much damage, even with new gear, making even the most common encounters outstay their welcome once you realise every battle really is a series of mini-games. It soon transpires that Alex has the most powerful ability, so it’s often a case of just spamming the same move while the rest of the party heals or tops up a PP meter with energy drinks. It’s quite something when I suddenly appreciate the simplistic battles of Dragon Quest.
Taking only 25 hours to finish, YIIK is a shorter RPG than most, yet somehow still manages to drag in places, not helped by loading times before and after battles, and also Alex’s tendency to indulge in ponderous monologues. Of course, when the discussions dabble in the surreal or metaphysical, YIIK can get pretty mind-bending, or perhaps just plain pretentious – something that Alex half-winks at in acknowledgement.
YIIK wears its love for JRPGs on its sleeve, but by doing something aesthetically and mechanically different, and going to some truly weird places, it manages to be more than just a cheap tribute act – even if it still does look more than a little cheap.
Given your protagonist’s fondness for records, YIIK features a hip, eclectic mix of music, from retro-tinged chiptune and dreamy electronica to rock and disco, instead of one designated battle theme. Whether the game will establish an underground following remains to be seen, but it feels apt that Undertale creator Toby Fox also contributes a track.
While lacking in looks and execution, YIIK may be weird enough to garner cult status.
This review is taken from Wireframe issue five. Interested in regular updates? Then become a subscriber.