Yurukill: The Calumniation Games Review

Yurukill: The Calumniation Games by developer IzanagiGames and publisher NIS America Inc.Sony PlayStation 4 review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes. 



Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is an interesting title that combines room escape with shoot'em up, while adding in pop quiz segments for fun. A tale of prisoners trying to prove the claims against them false while vying for their lives, by…playing room escape and virtual shooting games…? Seem a little eclectic and confusing? Well, let's take a look into Yurukill, to see how it all comes together.

Waking up in a holding cell aboard a ship, convicted prisoner Sengoku Shunju discovers that he, and a handful of other prisoners, are all being transported to Yurukill Island, a sort of deranged theme park where the prisoners must bet their lives as they visit the park attractions. Notified by a strange girl in a fox mask, calling herself Binko, that the successful prisoner will be given the evidence necessary to prove that they were falsely accused of their crimes. In addition, an Executor will follow each prisoner around, thereby creating a team. The executors will have a wish granted if they win, and are also in charge of the prisoners' lives, as a collar has been attached to their necks that can inject a lethal poison if the Executors so desire.

So just to let you know ahead of time, half this review will probably be a rant about the room escape half of the game. For this reason, I'll be more or less dividing Yurukill into two, with a tag about the "pop quiz" type gimmick. I personally believe Yurukill feels like a shoot em up that someone decided to tack room escape elements on to for plot or to appeal to a wider audience without really giving it enough thought, which I'll try and be really spoiler free about explaining.

The room escape sequences are pretty standard, you can examine rooms, move a magnifying glass around and examine objects, find puzzles and hints, solve the puzzles, and make your way through. There aren't really all that many segments, and some are closer to puzzle rooms than escape rooms per se. Each attraction in the park starts off with a different set of characters exploring a room escape attraction associated with the crime the prisoner was convicted of. The attractions are, for the most part, three areas with each area having one central room and two side rooms, or just one large room. You must solve puzzles to open the door to the next area, leaving the previous area behind.

This is all pretty standard fare for room escape titles. So, why do I dislike the room escape segments so much? Well, the truth is I actually love room escape games. That is, provided the puzzles are reasonable. The puzzles in Yurukill are, except for maybe one puzzle, either extremely simple or frustratingly underexplained or poorly translated. Well, maybe it isn't that they are "poorly translated" rather than there is a lot lost in translation. Keep in mind that the game is Japanese, with anime stylized characters, and the voice acting is also in Japanese. This means that anything that either uses English as a hint, or Japanese wordplay, won't come across well, if at all, if translated literally. Normally I'm not a huge fan of localizers taking "artistic license" with translations unless necessary, and this is one of those times it's absolutely necessary.

Thankfully, you're given up to three hints for each puzzle, and while most can be solved fairly easily with a hint or two, there were exactly two puzzles that made me want to throw something. The first is in the first attraction, and it involves choosing one of two bottles. The second is in the second attraction, and if I recall correctly was the very first puzzle. Good lord, I want to beat whoever thought the solution to that puzzle was a good idea. Even after having the hints literally give me the answer, it still took about 15 minutes for me to get the correct answer. Sometimes it's easier to hit the reset button and start with nothing than try and put in an answer.

Just so you know, I did clear the full game, so I did manage to solve everything, one way or another, but it really was either extremely frustrating or disappointingly easy. Fortunately, after clearing the escape room, you get to my favourite part of the game: the shoot em up segment. Explained in-game as some sort of neural interface into the brain, the characters will get in these pods and then pilot ships in a bullet hell type shooter segment. The actual in-game explanation may be a little forced, but I found the way the shoot em up segment was handled was very well done.

The general outline of the shooting segments is that they come in three stages. This is a theme throughout the game it seems, where each stage will have a boss to defeat before moving on to the next. During the stage leading up to the boss, you will be assaulted by a number of enemies. These enemies can be shot down with either bomb energy or normal shots in one of two configurations. Normal shots are performed in two different ways, depending on what the button you use is. One normal shot is pretty basic, having your ship fire ahead, and any sub ships also firing as normal. The other firing mode has your ship reduce in movement speed, but usually allows you to manage your sub ships in a way.

For example, one character ship can get a number of sub ships to follow them around. Normal firing will have all the ships fire as they follow the exact same flight pattern you take. The secondary firing mode locks them in their place while firing. Power ups to your shot and subships are acquired by defeating certain types of enemies.

As you defeat enemies, hit things with your normal shot, or collect score items, you have a bomb gauge that will increase. The bomb gauge can be used as either a one-off shot or as an actual bomb. The shot will take a set amount of energy, while the bomb consumes it all. Both bombs and shots using the bomb energy gauge can destroy bullets, and can be immensely helpful, as one hit and you die. Another use is that there will be fox masks, one per stage, which are invisible until hit. If hit with bomb energy, they can be collected for a large chunk of score as well as an extra life.

So, now we come to the gimmick of the game: the pop quizzes. These will happen during four points in the game: once per initial escape room segment, at the start of a shoot em up segment, mid boss fight in the shoot em ups, and at the end of the shoot em ups. During the escape room sequence, it is called "maji kill time" and you have to choose the answers that will keep the executioner from killing you. You have four options, and honestly, sometimes the options are as dumb as: Yes, No, Maybe, and That shouldn't be right. Yup, and getting that wrong means you're dead. You need to get four right to continue. At the beginning of the shoot em up segment, correctly answering questions will give you a corresponding number of lives for the segment. Mid boss fight you get asked to provide evidence that you aren't the real culprit of the crime you've been accused of. The final pop quiz is basically like "confirming the events of the crime". While the Maji kill time and the evidence presentation aren't timed, the other two are.

Now I have to draw attention to this, but the music is actually really good, especially the boss themes for the shoot em up segments. MMM. The characters were all really unique and pretty much everyone was quirky in some way or another, making all the character interactions entertaining. The art style was also well drawn for the characters and shoot em up segments, and while it was a little bland in the escape room backgrounds and art, it wasn't bad by any means.

So now comes the tough part where I need to score this. I honestly really loved the shoot em up segments. They were fun, unique layouts and enemy types and spawn patterns, the areas you go through are well varied, and all of the bosses are really neat. Did I mention that enemy shots take priority, meaning they're easier to see over anything else? Yeah, definite praise for that. On the other hand, the escape room segments seem kinda rushed, or shoddily put together. While a lot of my issue stems from how the English language localization made a few gaffes here and there, it was still largely underwhelming, and seemed like it was only there to prevent you from getting bored of the plot or to pad out the game length. The puzzles were almost all way too easy, except the localization ones which were almost relegated to guesswork.

If this were entirely based on the escape room portions, I would be forced to probably give it a 4 out of 10 for boring puzzles and being frustratingly obtuse at times. A pure shmup, I would rate it rather high at a 9 out of 10. Now, while usually I would just average these values out, I do need to give credit where it's due for have one of the weirdest mash-ups of genres. Despite the rather poor in-game justification for it, I found the genre mix actually worked really well. After completing an escape room, I sure as hell didn't want to go back to another one, so the shmup stage was a nice break. After having a rather good length shmup stage, I was ready to go back to the room escape as a break from a repetitive shooter. With the weird pop quiz elements thrown in to break up some of the tedium, it meshed extremely well together, despite my initial hesitation.

Summary

Overall Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is about as weird as its title suggest. A wacky mash up of escape room and shmup with Phoenix Wright/pop quiz elements thrown in that was weirdly endearing. While Yurukill certainly fell flat in some areas, it certainly had a good showing with the cast of characters, interesting storylines, and decently integrated genre changes.

I'll be honest, it can be frustrating at times, but I still found myself wanting to continue so I could figure out the truth, and to see if I could guess at what happened before the reveal in each chapter. I laughed, I cried, I raged, but in the end, I had a lot of fun.

Score: 7 / 10


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