Into The Spine of YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

YIIK wants to be the cool guy on the block, but can’t see past itself to notice its many issues.

I tried to like YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. I really did. But even with an interesting premise and this sort of urban-legend marketing prior to the game’s launch, it was one of the first games in recent memory that I didn’t want to play anymore. Frustration, issues with pacing, and an annoying main character haunted my experience from the get-go. Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wished it wouldn’t have been like this.

A young adult who returns to his hometown. Eerie rumors that start spreading on the internet. An equally interesting and shallow town to explore. These are just a couple of things one can notice during the first hours of the game. It starts off pretty okay, but there’s something that set me off tone-wise right before it started. A character shows up, asking you a number of questions with scripted replies. And right out the bat, the only gender options available were male and female.

Now, I identify as male, but I’m surprised that a game as YIIK was careless with this, considering the premise of being a postmodern RPG. Whatever that might mean. 2064: Read Only Memories was one of the best games I’ve played last year, and both the focus and care for letting players choose their own pronouns it’s perfect. I don’t know why this wasn’t present. And it rubbed me the wrong way.

Back to the game, you’re basically entitled to go around in circles through town, talking to NPCs in hopes of getting sidequests or some valuable information. This doesn’t tend to happen that much, and you’ll quickly begin to notice how lifeless the city is. You can see cars driving around, but their purpose is unclear. Most NPCs are static in place, just waiting for you to interact or ignore them. It’s okay to pass by, but that’s it, really. And it’s easy to get lost while doing this, although the game offers a tips option that reminds you about your current goal.

Once you start following the story, you’ll begin to experience one of the most tedious aspects of the game: Combat. As vital as it should be for an RPG, this turn-based combat revolves around mini-games. Press a set of pre-defined buttons in the correct way or wait until the right light to show up to press a button, and your attack will deal more damage than usual. And then rinse and repeat, over and over.

In YIIK, this is how each battle works. It’s funny and inventive at first. But then you begin to realize you’ll be stuck with this system for dozens of hours. There’s no variation of sorts unless you use another attack. And some mini-games are plain confusing, without any tutorial to guide the player. Combat can get so ridiculously hard that missing a special attack isn’t an option.

At one point, I had to ask around about a certain person in a new local town. Everything seemed rather ordinary, but I was surprised to see that each and every NPC I encountered was hostile towards me and the party, which triggered a fight. Once I was on my third battle, making the same mini-games over and over to both attack and defend myself, I gave up on it. I ended up holding the Switch with one hand while browsing through Twitter with the other. I know, it’s an RPG and I’m supposed to be grinding. But not like this.

That was the moment when I ended up parting ways with YIIK, but there were other factors involved. Alex, the protagonist, is just obnoxious to hear. He’s a prideful, boring, and plain harmful character to others. But not in a way where it’s compelling, or that it sparks interest to wait for someone to slap him or watching him grow through the story. It’s just annoying, in the level of having to hear his internal monologues about recent events or things from the past that are just irrelevant.

And then it was the little things. Some of the musical scores are entertaining, while others presenting vocals feel way more cheap than I could stand. As for the main mystery in which the game is set on, it starts off interesting, but the ridiculous dialogue and issues with pacing overwhelmed me way earlier than I could have expected.

I’m not sure YIIK is the postmodern RPG it claims to be. Nor it’s a fair niche, but interesting game to dive into. I don’t understand what it wants to be, and when most of its elements are just annoying, there’s no real motivator to keep going. This isn’t about rough edges. It’s about bad decisions during the game’s development, or maybe even a lack of a different perspective from an outsider. Some of its problems could have been caught up early on and it shows, especially with an interesting premise and a gorgeous art style. But in the end, it’s a flat and infuriating experience that I cannot recommend just now.

Sometimes I go back and think about everything that YIIK could have been. But it’s not a thought I want to hold on to for long.

By Diego Nicolás Argüello

Founder and EIC of Into The Spine. Probably procrastinating on Twitter right now. Talk to him about pinballs, Persona, and The Darkness. @diegoarguello66

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