Christmas isn’t a time of confessions, is it? Regardless, I’ll make one: I struggled a bit with Yuoni on the PS5. I ‘cheated’ at first and played with the sound low, then on the second time gave myself a cardio workout for something that wasn’t even then.
Anticipation is everything.
Hardly an exclusive as Yuoni was released on Steam earlier in the year, the PlayStation 5 version arrived in my inbox, and, forgetting what the game was, dived in and promptly filled my pants.
This isn’t a revelation; I’ve made countless statements about how rubbish I am at horror games. Horror films are frequently on my playlist at night, though they don’t bother me as they’re passive. The first-person perspective unsettles me – especially as Tricore Inc.’s title is a Far Eastern spin on horror.
Those familiar with the J-Horror wave back in the late 90s will find this run of the mill. As 10-year-old Ai, you head to the outskirts of town with your chums to play a spin on hide and seek. The game itself is a creepy concept: grab a bucket of water and a doll. Hide the doll, hide yourself, count to ten, then go back to retrieve the doll and drown it without anybody seeing you. Nice.
After all the friends have a turn, they survive the game and return to their daily lives. Then, in class, Ai shifts into an alternative reality heavy on the red. Tsun has found her and enlisted her in playing the game. Why can’t this eyeless and mouthless yokai settle for a game of Mario Kart 8 instead?
Anyway, Yuoni’s concept is simple: stealth. You’ll have to avoid all manner of nasties and navigate an abandoned school. It’s a bit like Silent Hill or Stranger Things and the Upside Down, but not as lavish. Ai will sneak through crouching about and holding her breath to avoid the apparitions. They have weak eyesight but bloody good hearing. She can’t hold her breath forever, so hides under bed frames, lockers and whatnot, hoping not to get caught.
And that’s pretty much it. Yuoni is quite a short game, and you’ll see everything in the first 15 minutes or so. It builds up a fair amount of tension as it’s from a first-person perspective and relies on sounds and stealth. If you’ve got brass balls or equivalent, perhaps you could steam through and find this quite monotonous. For me, I found it uncomfortable and erratic – the perfect ingredients for horror.
Yuoni doesn’t necessarily have many cheap tricks as you can often see the enemies in advance, and they’re not scary. Still, it’s that lack of peripheral vision that had me struggle and uncertain whether I had been seen or not. It also doesn’t help that there’s a feature to do a 180º like in Resident Evil and had me questioning my bravery levels when greeted by one of these spirits who wasn’t creeping up for a cuddle.
A friend told me they had the game on PC, and while I have this as a PS5 review, I played through with them on their ‘puter. Having someone there reduced the tension, and it was a little more exciting (for me) this way. Yuoni works perfectly well on the PS5, and the visuals look the part, but not much different to a PS4 title.
The game set the right mood as it made me uncomfortable. The presentation works, and the minimal use of sound was great in creating a ‘presence’ as you hang on every breath. Unless you turn the sound down(!). However, it was the storytelling between chapters that were a highlight. They were a bit ugly but instilled enough fear to create scenarios in my head that never featured in the game. A bit like Silver Chains.
If horror games don’t bother you, this does have the potential of being quite monotonous and more like a walking simulator. That didn’t phase me as the danger element meant I took my time. I just need the guts to finish it on the PS5 on my own, even though I know now how it pans out via PC.