We here at the Tavern are always keen for new horror/thriller experiences, so when we get alerted to something coming out there’s always someone on hand to be excited to check it out. Be it the latest big blockbuster Resident Evil, or an unproven indie, we’ll play – and deliver our verdict – on just about everything. And so it goes with Yuoni; a Japanese horror inspired tale of psychological and physical trauma based around myths of dead children and the games they play. Sounds good right? Well, unfortunately the execution leaves something to be desired.
We play as Ai, a shy student among a friend group of far more active and outgoing people. The group learn of the tale of Tsun, a young boy who supposedly died at a local – since abandoned – hospital. It’s said that by entering, dipping a doll in a bucket of water and escaping without being caught will grant those successful a wish. Naturally, those looking to catch us are of the ghostly variety, with the group sceptical that any of the tale is true. After entering and escaping without issue, they brush the experience off as rubbish. But of course, Ai sees things differently.
It’s not long before we greet Tsun in his ghostly realm, and it’s here that the game begins proper. We’re tasked with moving through a creepy school-like building, avoiding ghostly apparitions and demons in order to grab one of the dolls that the group had played with in the beginning. Once in our possession, a multi-eyeballed monster appears to chase us as we retreat back to the starting room in order to burn the doll, thus ending the day.
In a similar vein to titles such as Outlast, we’re completely defenceless, instead having to resort to stealth and hiding to survive. Some of the monsters can see but not hear, and others visa versa. This means we need to stay out of sight at points and at others hold our breath and tip toe past them. While the premise is a good one, in practice this veers very quickly into the tedious kind of horror. The only dread felt when entering room to see several apparitions is one of tedium, knowing that they’ll likely be easy enough to bypass, but even if we do get caught they are non-threatening enough to only be a nuisance more than a reason to be afraid. The bigger seeing monsters chase us quickly, but even then it’ll take several hits to kill us with them even giving us several seconds to run after each blow. Outside of the mandatory jump scares (a door slamming shut, beds shooting up to the ceiling etc) I found my time with Yuoni to be remarkably scare free. Even the big bad eyeball monster at that chases us is easy enough to avoid, and was more of a pain in the ass than anything.
In fact, I became bored of Youni all too quickly. The days all play the same with just ever longer distances to travel to get the doll before legging it back to the start. Generous checkpoints do help here at least so if we do die it’s generally not a massive set back, but with very little in the way of peril I found myself just legging it about to trigger the next checkpoint whether or not I was being chased. A stamina meter that I guess is meant to help raise the tension just feels like a hindrance, while Ai can hold her breath for a long time when hiding. We can gain our breath back quickly by sacrificing stamina, which makes a huge monster-attracting noise, but I found this to be almost redundant in practice.
The hide and seek gameplay just didn’t hold my attention at all here. It was too stilted, too easy to bypass enemies, and lacked any sense of tension or danger at all times. Even when Tsun appears at points – with the game warning us he can see and hear very well – I only ever got caught by him when I couldn’t be bothered to hide knowing it really didn’t matter. Even he gave us too many chances to escape that meant it was more of a nuisance than a threat for him to grab us.
It is at least somewhat decent in the visual department. The still images in the cutscenes are really good, with some genuinely creepy imagery again inspired by Japanese horror. In game is all red-hued, misty visuals with a good amount of detail and creepy vibes. The apparitions designs are OK, either flickering translucent shadows or towering red-blistered covered things, though again they don’t exactly inspire fear as much as apathy. Audio design is much more or a let-down – the main culprit being a 2 second sound bite of the most annoying bird on repeat for pretty much the entire level… that’ll end up being the most mentally scarring part of Yuoni.
With the raft of great horror titles out there already, there’s very little to recommend checking out Yuoni over most of them. The slow paced hide and seek gameplay lacks tension, risk, or any real consequence, and while the visuals can prove quite creepy at times, for the most part this is all too forgettable.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.