Virtual reality (VR) developers have never shied away from embracing the industry’s legacy, bringing back titles from yesteryear or reimagining retro genres. Side and vertical scrolling video games like Type R or Ikaruga were among the most brutal and ruthless, a continual onslaught of enemies and projectiles filling the screen. These “hellish” titles have made their way into virtual reality in various forms, the latest being that inspired by anime. YUKI, an energetic and physical playing experience from the studio behind Torn pixel.
YUKI is a roguelike shooter in the same vein as Until you fall or In Death: Unchained where the object of the game is to go as far as possible without dying, because if you do, you will have to start all over again at the beginning. These types of video games fall between highly repetitive and frustrating or addicting, you can’t quite give up right away. Fortunately, YUKI sits in the latter camp, but barely.
History and narrative aren’t really a major concern here, YUKI It’s all about killing swarms of floating enemies, dodging whatever they throw at you, and hopefully reaching the final boss fight, all over one life. YUKI is an anime character with the bold and colorful style you usually expect, the generous bursts of neon pink and orange are a feast for the eyes.
The control scheme is one you may have seen in other VR titles of this ilk before, striking YUKI with your dominant hand to then make it fly around the levels. Which generally makes it a fairly comfortable experience as the levels scroll automatically at a brisk pace. As mentioned, that means you have to move, in fact it’s essential and makes survival a lot easier. All the enemies are focusing their fire on Yuki, so if you can make the most of your play space, you have a lot of freedom to dodge.
It is therefore essential to have a nice open area because it is very easy to forget where you are – even with the configuration of the limits – because YUKI the gameplay can become quite captivating. However, this means YUKI not really suitable for sitting down. You can, it’s just without this ability to bend down or quickly get to one side, the later stages can be almost impossible to navigate as your eyesight is filled with orbs and brightly colored squares.
You are not a sitting duck, of course YUKI has a few tricks up its sleeve to be successful. There are two fixed abilities that gradually load on each controller, a shield for when the shit gets really mad and the Frozen Bomb to stop enemies in their tracks allowing you to clear yourself up. This means that on the Oculus Quest version, the Yuki controller does all the work while the other is largely useless outside of this single trigger function. It would have been nice to merge it all into one.
There are many other ways to make Yuki juice, some permanent, some temporary. The in-game currency is “Creative Drive” blue orbs that you collect mainly by killing enemies. These can then be spent in the Workshop once you die – so dying is helpful – either by purchasing new bonuses that appear in the level to provide those health bonuses (magnetic orb, rate of fire, health expansion , drones …) or spent on Charms. These permanently alter your base stats, making them costly, so accumulating enough can take a bit of time.
The big bonuses really come when you complete specific levels, unlocking four new Bladewings – Yuki’s cool flight suit. These all have their own unique stats and attributes, which makes life a whole lot easier. For example, all of the dodging and weaving makes it very difficult to continuously fire at a target, so the second Bladewing you unlock has homing projectiles that make the process a lot easier.
But that means completing the video game to unlock them all, so you’ll want to come back for another round. That’s good because they’re procedurally generated levels, so it’s always different, well yes and no. This is perhaps YUKI’s biggest flaw. These other roguelike titles mentioned earlier change their entire level, so every run is very different. Due to the nature of front scrolling gameplay, YUKI’s main level design always stays the same, it’s enemies, obstacles, and projectile designs that change.
So the enemies are a variety of Japanese themed animal heads that usually grow larger as they are more dangerous. Projectiles, on the other hand, come in a myriad of colors and patterns that look stunning, almost fascinating. There’s such a visual board – whether you’re trying to kill or avoid – that it’s very hard to notice procedural changes, so each run barely differs from the next. Which somewhat kills the value of roguelike proofreading. An “endless mode” is listed as coming but cannot be counted in the exam.
So is YUKI a fitting portrayal of bullet hell nostalgia that will keep you coming back for more? Even with dull procedurally generated levels, YUKI is always a pleasure to play, easy to handle and pleasant to watch. You are so involved in the levels that a few hours go by in an instant and it is only when you die and take a break that you realize how much the gameplay moves you. If you are looking for a highly refined hellish shooter, give YUKI A try.