Yurukill: The Calumniation Games – Review
Follow Genre: Visual novel, mystery game, shmup
Developer: Izanagi Games, G. Rev
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Platform: PC, Switch, PS4, PS5
Tested on: Switch

Yurukill: The Calumniation Games – Review

Site Score
7.3
Good: A surprisingly effective blend of two completely different game genres
Bad: Too much handholding
User Score
10.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

When Yurukill: The Calumniation Games was first announced, we had a difficult time wrapping our heads around the game’s concept of combining a murder-mystery visual novel with arcade shmup gameplay. That didn’t change when the game’s trailer was revealed, as it seemed like it showed footage from two completely different games. It wasn’t until we actually got to grips with the game that things clicked. A game that is this unique and out there can be difficult to explain, but we’ll definitely take a shot. Read on if you want to know what Yurukill brings to the table.

Story

Given that Yurukill is a murder mystery game first and foremost, with the emphasis on mystery, we’ll refrain from giving away anything here that might spoil your experience, so you can read on without worries. The story, which is presented in the form of a visual novel, introduces us to a cast that is equally intriguing as they are likable. Players take on the role of protagonist Sengoku Shunju, who finds himself on a prison ferry at the start of Yurukill. Said ferry is headed to Yurukill Land, an execution site disguised as a theme park, where the passengers will have to atone for their crimes. Said passengers, collectively known as the Prisoners, are teamed up with Executioners, people that have a connection to the same crime in one way or another -and they’re able to eliminate their assigned prisoner with the push of a button. The only thing preventing an Executioner from doing so is that a personal wish will be granted if they sit things out until the end. It’s up to the Prisoners to convince their Executioner that they are innocent, by visiting replica crime scenes and looking for clues.

The overall narrative and the well-written cast were the main driving force behind our motivation to keep playing the game, but there are a couple of hiccups in the writing here and there. The main offender is how certain plot points are repeated ad nauseum, to the point where we felt that the developers didn’t trust us with understanding them if they didn’t keep rubbing them in our face. While this does help to quickly recap things when you’re returning to the game from a break, we felt that this could have been handled more elegantly.

Graphics

We adored Yurukill’s art direction from the get-go. The bright theme park aesthetics of Yurukill Land, combined with fantastic anime-inspired character designs really drew us into this world. That said, we weren’t a fan of the animations of the character sprites. These mainly consisted of a very subtle loop of minimal movement, which actually cheapened their presentation and we would’ve preferred static sprites. The visual novel section takes up the majority of your time with the game, and we understand that having nothing but static images would be considered boring but what IzanagiGames came up with simply doesn’t work. The visual performance takes a bit of a nosedive during the ‘shmup’ sections of the game -more on those later- where the frame rate noticeably slows down and textures become muddy and blurry.

Sound

Yurukill’s soundscape left us with mixed feelings. Not because of the music, which perfectly fits the atmosphere that the game tries to evoke and stands perfectly well on its own, but because of the voice acting. The performances are often exaggerated and don’t always fit the mood of the character portraits on screen. The over-the-top delivery is something that is common in anime-inspired games, but the art style felt a bit too serious for this level of hamming things up.

Gameplay

We’ve looked at unlikely video game genre combinations in the past such as Sakuna, which married platforming gameplay with a farming sim, or the Voice of Cards games, which masterfully blended traditional JRPG gameplay with card game mechanics, but Yurukill might just take the cake for most unexpected genre mashup that we’ve ever seen. The meat of the game lies in its Danganronpa-esque murder mystery, but for whatever reason, developers IzanagiGames and G. Rev decided that what Yurukill needed to set itself apart was top-down spaceship-themed shmup gameplay. And the most baffling part about this combination? It actually works. Yurukill’s gameplay concept is one of those things that sounds absolutely horrible in theory but turns out to be actually surprisingly good, like combining pineapple with ham and cheese or adding bacon bits to your milkshake -trust us, we’ve tried.

Had Yurukill been served up as a pure murder mystery visual novel, we would’ve still enjoyed it, although it wouldn’t have stood out as much. Investigating crime scenes and solving puzzles is enjoyable but nothing we haven’t seen before in games like Ace Attorney or AI: The Somnium Files, two series that Yurukill shares more than a few similarities with. Players explore crime scenes, tapping on potential clues or pieces of evidence. Some of these require you to solve a puzzle in order to progress the story: you’ll need to decode a passcode to open a door, for example, or swap bottles of body lotion around between two crates to divide them equally. Not every puzzle is designed equally well -some are clear from the get-go but others are needlessly obtuse. There is a hint system in place to help you if you get stuck but there were several instances where the hints actually made us more confused and we had to resort to looking up a puzzle solution online occasionally.

It’s when a player “clears” a crime scene that Yurukill really turns into something unique, as this is when the shmup action comes into play. The relevant Prisoner is hooked up to their Executioner and must shoot their way through any accusations or prejudice against their innocence. This is done over three rounds and in between each round, evidence must be presented towards a crime’s solution. Selecting the wrong answers results in losing lives in subsequent shmup rounds. The mechanic plays out exactly as ridiculous as it sounds but it led to tense and exhilarating gameplay and it provided a nice change of pace from the crime solving. Upon successful completion of a shmup stage, new truths about the crime are revealed as well, which led to a satisfying conclusion for each chapter. There are various difficulty levels to these as well, and although Yurukill’s shmup action is no match for dedicated titles in the genre, what you’re getting here is still quite solid.

If there is anything that we can fault Yurukill’s gameplay for, it’s that the game seemed afraid to take any risks. Apart from some obtuse puzzles, the game progresses in a very straightforward way, continuously telling the player what to do or where to go next. As such, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get stuck and anyone that has played a similar murder-mystery title will find that Yurukill plays it a bit too safe and by-the-numbers. Likewise, while the shmup gameplay is solid, we felt that it could be fleshed out a little more. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a miracle that the two genres were blended as seamlessly as they were here, but if Yurukill gets a sequel, then we’re hoping that the developers won’t hesitate to push the experience to the next level.

Conclusion

We weren’t expecting to like Yurukill: The Calumniation Games as much as we did. It’s not a perfect game, but even as an experiment, it was surprisingly enjoyable. We can definitely recommend the game for the story itself, and although the gameplay didn’t push any boundaries for either of the two genres, it’s still enjoyable enough to get stuck in. If you’re still on the fence- which we’d understand as this isn’t an easy game to wrap your head around- then there’s a demo available for the game. Even if you decide to take the plunge, we’re going to recommend giving the demo a try first, as Yurukill is such an unusual game that you’ll either love it or hate it.

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Yurukill: The Calumniation Games - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


1 Comment

  1. 3rd-strike.com | Sunday Gold – Review
    September 22, 2022, 00:01

    […] it’s the visual novel meets shmup gameplay of Yurukill or card game meets RPG gameplay of Voice of Cards, we’ve seen some unusual genre combinations in […]

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