I’m always looking for games that take an established genre and make it their own. I just find enjoyment in playing through games that borrow tried and true systems, but present them in a way that is totally unique and progresses the genre is a good direction.
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is very much a game that borrows elements from other titles but presents them in a very peculiar and interesting way. Its story, while densely packed with abstract ideas and existentialist thoughts, had me eagerly wanting to uncover more. What I discovered was a game that lived up to colorful appeal to tell a story that I made it tough not to enjoy nearly every second of gameplay.
The story follows the character of Alex a recent college graduate with a Liberal Arts major who checks all the boxes of a hipster stereotype. He has returned home during his transition period between finishing school and finding a job. One day, while on an errand to pick up groceries for his mother, he comes across a cat with a Salvador Dali mustache that steals his grocery list. Alex gives chase, and similarly to how Alice follows the White Rabbit into Wonderland, Alex follows the cat and the whole thing leads down a rabbit hole of insanity and strange happenings. This leads Alex on a journey to uncover what is going on and he alongside his childhood friend and other like-minded conspiracy hunters go out fighting monsters and piecing together uncovered anomalies.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. The whole thing was weird and out there, but that also made me more invested as I wanted to find out how everything tied together. This also helped me relate to the main character because similar to Alex I was being thrust into the game’s crazy world and together we were on a journey to make sense of it all. Every new crazy thing he encountered was also new to me and together we were equally freaked out or confused.
Additionally, the game has some great moments outside of the insanity where Alex and his friends are just chatting, cracking jokes, getting excited about music, games, and anime. These moments in the game were my favorite as it slowed things down and brought things back down to earth amidst all the chaos. It was great seeing these characters interact in such a human way which is important to the overarching themes of the game’s story.
The aesthetic for YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is very well put together and its blend of retro art styles that pay homage to various classic games such as Earthbound and Final Fantasy pairs really well with the more modern art used for the dialogue sections of the game. I liked the whole vibe the game gave off and the setting and characters reminded me of things like Scott Pilgrim where the mundane setting and peculiar but down to earth characters serves as a backdrop to video game references and over the top crazy occurrences. The music is also quite enjoyable to listen to and similar to Earthbound it is used to highlight tonal shifts in the story. Additionally, there are tons of gaming and pop culture references in the game such as the names of items, posters on the walls, and even the various minigames used when attacking enemies.
Gameplay in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG features your typical turn-based RPG mechanics with a few twists. You have your standard RPG party which consists of characters that have a variety of attacks, skills, stats, equipment, etc. but YIIK: A Postmodern RPG follows the route of games like Steven Universe: Save the Light and Undertale where combat is interactive with minigames. Whenever you do things like attack, use a skill, defend, or run away, you have to play a corresponding minigame. Depending on how well you do in the minigame you will either do more damage, have stronger effects for your skills, succeed at blocking/dodging attacks, or succeed at running away. Each character has their own minigames for each of their attacks and skills. There are also a variety of minigames for dodging enemy attacks, but only one minigame for running away.
Personally, I love when RPG’s have interactive combat mechanics because it adds some skill to basically what was originally was a numbers game. If you are good enough, you can output a bunch of damage, evade almost any attack, and successfully run away from any encounter. It added a level of challenge to the game and had me more immersed and invested in each combat encounter. It also gave me a sense of accomplishment after every fight as my skills with each characters’ minigame improved.
The best part, however, is that if you ever get frustrated with the minigames, there is a mechanic that allows you to slow down time which makes the minigames easier. This slowing mechanic uses up a meter, but for those who don’t want to worry about managing that meter can toggle an option in the menu that allows for infinite use of the slowing mechanic.
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG also features various puzzles that you need to solve to progress in the game. These puzzles are similar to those you would find in a Pokemon game where you have to use skills you acquired to destroy objects and navigate mazes and platforms to unlock new areas or grab items needed to move forward in the story. There is even an instance in the game where you have you have to use a “poke flute” to poke a rather large sleeping individual who is blocking a door you need to get through. All of the puzzles were fairly straightforward and simple to solve, however, some of these puzzles were harder than they should’ve been due to some minor clunky and glitchy mechanics.
This brings me to my one minor complaint about the game. The game has some clunky/glitchy mechanics. There were several occasions in the game where the mechanics had me a bit frustrated. One mechanic has you throw a kitty cat that can hit switches and buttons from a distance, but when you try to throw the cat, sometimes nothing comes out and sometimes it only travels a short distance before disappearing.
There was on particular instance where I threw the cat to hit a switch and it clipped through the screen to hit not only the switch I was aiming at but also a second switch behind me which canceled out the initial switch. After some finicking around I got it to work, but it took way longer than it should have. There was also a puzzle which requires you to pick up a door to prop up against a wall to make a room appear, but the game glitched out and the door disappeared. I thought I was going crazy until I went back and restarted the game to have the door suddenly be there again. While frustrating, I consider these issues to be fairly minor since I was able to eventually get past them, but at the time it was fairly frustrating to the point where it took away from my enjoyment of the game.
Overall, I think YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is a great game that is enjoyable for most individuals. The story and characters are interesting, the RPG combat mechanics feel good, and the whole package makes for a great gaming experience. The game is not without its flaws, but those flaws are easy to look past when the rest of the game has so much to offer. I highly recommend this game to those who enjoy RPGs especially those that like Earthbound and Undertale since I think tonally and mechanically this game is very similar.
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