YIIK: A Postmodern RPG (PS4) Review

I think it’s safe to say that the RPG genre isn’t exactly a dying breed. We have your standard RPG games like the Vampyr, JRPG like Star Ocean, SRPG like Achtung! Cthulu Tactics, and ARPG games such as Titan Quest. Due to the vast numbers of games out there which fall into these categories, a game has to be special and contain something memorable in order for it to stand out these days. YIIK: A Postmodern RPG stands out within the crowd, but is it for the wrong reasons? 

At its core, YIIK is a turn-based RPG with comedic and real-life elements as we take an adventure in 1999 America (which is a nice change from fantastical lands and times). However, the game does something I’ve not seen for a while which is both intuitive and frustrating at the same time. But, does that affect my enjoyment? Let’s find out…

YIIK 1

What secrets lie within…

Instead of our protagonist being a well-known knight or bounty hunter, Alex is your bog-standard American. He grew up in a small town, left to go to college, and returned upon completing his courses. However, upon his return to his family home, things don’t seem right for some reason. One short trip to the shop to pick up some groceries for his mother will change his life in an instant! Upon chasing a small moustached cat through a seemingly abandoned building, Alex finds something he really wasn’t banking on finding locked away within this otherworldly residence – a girl.

As you watch, first hand, this poor defenceless girl get taken away from you within a rather horrific elevator incident, little did you know that the whole thing was caught on CCTV. This footage ends up where all strange and unusual events usually do – on the internet via message boards! Knowing now that it was no dream, you grab your trusty sidekick (and friend), Michael, and head out to uncover the truth about who this girl is, where she’s gone and what the hell you just saw. Strange things are happening and Alex is about to drag a number of other people into his personal investigation along the way, as long as they’re willing to stand and fight alongside him.

The question is – what dark secrets and fantastical beings reside within the forbidden places people aren’t meant to venture into?

YIIK 2

Yellow is a basic attack, Blue is a heavier attack, Green is a critical hit to all enemies!

YIIK: A QTE RPG?
When I first saw YIIK: A Postmodern RPG (pronounced Y2K) I didn’t know what to think, it looked like your standard turn-based RPG with very colourful and rather simplistic graphics. However, once I began playing the game, I instantly spotted this games ‘thing’, its stand-out mechanic which sets it aside from all the big boys in the genre – it’s a mechanic I both liked and hated. Whilst engaged within combat, with one of the rather quirky and wacky creatures you come across, you initially have a standard set of options such as attack, skill, item and run. However, once you choose one of these options, don’t you dare put down your controller as the game isn’t your standard RPG where you sit back and watch the action – it’s time to get involved!

Basic attacks require you to perform a QTE based upon who your character is – that’s right, everyone has their own QTE to perform. Alex has a record which spins and you have to press Cross on the yellow segments without missing, Micheal is a camera film with random button prompts you must press, Vella requires you to pull back and release the left stick, and the others are different variations based on their weapons. Yup, Alex throws records at the enemies ala Shaun of the Dead style, Michael smacks them with his camera strap, and Vella smashes her guitar into their head. Later on, you’ll also come across allies with a hula-hoop, katana and a picket board. It’s all rather interesting and different.

YIIK 3

Run for your life as you jump over oncoming obstacles and try to run from battle.

However, the QTE fun doesn’t stop there, when you’re attacked you need to perform a QTE to defend, running from battle is a cute endless runner style minigame, and using your skills all have their own mini-game or QTE event. What I’m trying to say is, there is a lot of QTE action within YIIK so if that’s not your thing, you may not get as much enjoyment as I did out of the game. At first, I really didn’t like it as I like to set up my attacks and then put down the controller whilst I get a drink but you can’t do that in this game, you have to always be ready to respond. Over time, I began to get used to it and the whole process was different enough to keep me interested and entertained.

Not all actions require QTE events though, you’ll be pleased to hear. Some actions will simply do their thing without lifting a finger. Personally, I would have liked it if there was an option to enable the QTE mode for the ability to be more hands-on, or an automatic option which randomly decided if you were successful or not. This particular mechanic was present in The Last Remnant and was a godsend for people who don’t like QTEs.

Okay, so QTE-filled battles aside, what else was there to do within the world of YIIK? As you progress further into the story you’ll get access to a number of skills you can use outside of battle – a bit like Pokemon. These range from a giant panda who will sit on switches, the ability to hair-whip bushes, a skateboard, and a rock-crushing guitar. These work a lot like the Pokemon HMs in that you can backtrack and use your newfound abilities to access new areas and locations which were previously hidden away. 

YIIK 4

The enemies are rather creative and eccentric.

Dungeons and Creatures
As you progress through the interesting and unique story, you’ll come across a few dungeons which you must work your way through in your search for the mysterious elevator girl. I’m not going to lie, I found quite a few of these to be really difficult as your character doesn’t appear to level up as much as I’d have hoped. You see, the enemies don’t respawn in any of the areas outside of the dungeons (except for random encounters on the map). This makes grinding a bit difficult and you often come up against enemies who will easily wipe you out if you don’t have enough recovery items and if you’ve not mastered the QTEs you need to perform. Also, I’ve noticed that some enemies were always around the same level as me, so I imagine there is some sort of automatic level parity going on where the enemies are scaled to match your level.

I think the standout element of each of the dungeons clearly has to be the creatures who lurk there. From nods to pop cultures such as a Samurai Tortoise (clearly not a Ninja Turtle), a rather strange ‘Sheep Man’, an underpaid cashier who attacks by talking about how crappy her day is, and even a flasher who attacks you with the sight of his wang! All of these have their own unique attacks and a very, very, very long health bar. Which brings me to possibly issue number two – the battles are so damn long! Alex, our main protagonist, sits on the bench in my game as his record throwing attack takes off hardly anything – sometimes only 1 or 2 hitpoints even if I get an 8+ combo on his QTE. The others are much better but still only scratch the surface. When you’re against a boss, expect around 30 minutes sometimes in order to take them down.

I think the issue is because the enemies tend to be at the same level as you, and there are very few weapons you can actually buy in terms of a much more powerful attack impact, it feels like you’re chipping away at a large rock with a small spoon. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind long battles – I killed that giant turtle in FF15 on release and that took me about 80 minutes, but combined with a QTE for every single attack and defence action, it begins to get old and tiresome after ten minutes or so. However, I’ve not grown tired of YIIK yet as the story has me hooked, so even though it frustrates me at times, I’m addicted to it and can’t stop playing.

One thing I would love the developers to fix is the inventory – the whole thing is a mess. It’s sorted based on what order you picked up an item and there is no way to sort or arrange things. This means that you’re constantly trying to wade through weapons, drinks, key items and armour as you try and find some food to recover your health. Personally, I would like a tabbed inventory, like in most games, for weapons, food, armour and key items – all with the ability to manually and automatically sort into alphabetical order. As it stands, it didn’t affect my enjoyment, but it was very cumbersome to use. 

YIIK 5

Choose wisely…

Progression
Okay, one thing I’ve not talked about is the Progression within YIIK. You don’t level up within or after battles, you have to accumulate experience points and then manually unlock the next level by means of a telephone. Does that sound strange? It should. Basically, each battle will give you a tiny amount of experience, from 10 to around 30 – with bosses giving you around 100. Once you hit over 100, grab the nearest payphone (which is also the only way you can save) and head into your mind palace.

In here, you’re in a room full of doors with numbers above them such as 1, 2, .5 etc… There are four doors per floor/level. Enter a door and pick which stat you wish to increase – for example, if you went into the ‘2’ door and picked strength then your strength will go up by 2. There are also special doors which gives your characters new skills. Once you’re done, talk to the Crow at the end of the floor and pay him 100 experience points so you can proceed to the next floor, thus increasing your level by one and giving you access to four more doors to customise your character. All your allies also gain experience but they level up automatically when you do without having the ability to customise them. 

It’s a rather novel way of upgrading your character, but it can be a bit cumbersome if you’re in a dungeon and can’t find a phone or you completely forget you can do this until about six hours into the game then realise that’s why you keep dying…

References galore
Earlier this week I reviewed Asterix & Obelix XXL 2, I stated in that review that I’d not seen as many references before as it was pretty much a bunch of references with a game built around it! However, YIIK has a lot more real-life references rather than video game ones. The moment you’re told you can’t use the internet at the same time as the phone reminded me of my youth, the old-school message boards where people shared information on the internet, countless nods to old RPG games, callbacks to the developers last game (Two Brothers) via albums and T-shirt designs, and even a rather beautiful remembrance to Satoru Iwata.

The whole game is held together tightly by it’s well written and hilarious narrative which was a joy to experience. From the countless posts on the PC which look and sound just like a bunch of curious teenagers typing up random theories on the disappearances and then buckling when called out for making stuff up; to the random conversations, you’ll have both with other characters and with the player directly through a fourth wall breaking inner monologue. There were moments I was literally laughing out loud and moments I felt what the characters were feeling – it’s all been packaged together inside of this quirky little RPG perfectly.

On top of the great writing, the developers have hired a number of extremely talented voice actors who play their part perfectly. I would even go as far as saying that the voice acting was better than some major AAA titles I’ve played recently as each actor literally became their personas and delivered a performance I can’t imagine any other way. This is further emphasised by the retro-style music which is delivered throughout the game. It’s not chiptune as such, but it’s along that style, only with actual instruments and not bleeps and bloops! The whole game just feels ‘right’ in terms of what it’s trying to pull off with its visuals, music and narrative.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
I can honestly say that YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is one of the most hands-on and unusual RPGs I’ve played in a while. There are a lot of QTEs within the game, almost every attack and literally every defence will require you to grab your controller and test those reflexes, but you get used to it after a while. The game may not be a ‘looker’ with its simplistic design, but it all adds to the charm.

With its brilliant writing, equally as good voice acting, intuitive combat and progression system, and overall quirkiness – I can’t help but recommend this game to all RPG fans.

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is more than a game, it’s an experience which will stick with you long after you stop playing.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

8.3

Final Score

8.3/10

The Good:

  • - Very interesting story and overall narrative
  • - Great voice acting and sountrack
  • - Intuitive QTE events for attacks and interactions
  • - A completely wacky set of enemies to fend off
  • - Lots of nods to 90's pop culture and events

The Bad:

  • - The QTE mechanic can get a bit tiresome after a while as battles tend to drag on for too long
  • - Hard to level up with the scarcity of enemies
  • - Not much customisation other than a few weapons and armour which doesn't change your appearance
  • - The inventory system is a mess as you can't sort things or find them easily
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