Recently, YIIK (pronounced like Y2K) went on sale on the Nintendo Switch shop, so I finally picked it up. I had looked forward to the debut of the game for a while but ended up not buying it for some reason when it initially released. Pretty sure I was playing other video games at the time.
I enjoyed the game so much that I wrote AcckStudios and told them, and I got an email in response in mere hours! Very cool people. They also included a survey about what things could be added and improved, so I think all the things you’re reading in this entry were mentioned.
This game has so many influences, the more obvious ones being Earthbound/Mother 2, the Persona series, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
My review, in a nutshell: that YIIK is overall an amazing game with some serious need of polishing. Another way of putting it: the game feels like the world’s most romantic love-letter written directly to my soul, but then someone dropped it in mud, and now my love-letter is all stained.
But even with the stains, the love-letter of a game is personally meaningful. That YIIK was able to knock Earthbound out as my favorite video of all time says something.
Let’s move on.
The main issues in the game, the frustrating parts, were these three:
The battles had a unique set-up where you play mini-games to attack. Some aspects (like the Time Energy Meter) never seemed to be explained, or if they were, I missed them.
Playing mini-games every single time to attack, defend, and run became tedious, especially against enemies that had high HP.
Sometimes an enemy would attack, the attack would hit every person in my party, and that meant I had to play a mini-game four times in a row.
Possible solution: for a turned-based RPG, make the mini-games an optional power-booster but not required.
Better solution: YIIK has the makings for an action-RPG. I would’ve preferred to have Alex running around, throwing records in real-time, or have Vella smashing her Keytar over the enemies.
Okay, some of the dungeons made me so incredibly angry because the puzzles weren’t obvious; solving the dungeon became a matter of trial and error. There aren’t a lot of helpful guides online. I had to watch a video to figure out a part of one of the dungeons, but in retrospect, that player and myself were probably doing things out of order all because one other part to obtain a necessary item had a bizarre solution.
Possible solution: add more hints.
Better solution: clarify some of the puzzles and simplify others.
Leveling up takes places in the Mind Dungeon. The Mind Dungeon is a great idea (and has excellent music), but it moves so slowly. First, you have to set your attributes in doors, then you have to go in the doors, and then you obtain the items. The text boxes in particular seem to load slowly here, and I’m not sure why. There are some bizarre and intriguing cut-scenes that pop up on certain levels of the Mind Dungeon, but I don’t remember them overall tying into the story.
Possible solution: remove the Mind Dungeon and let leveling up be automatic.
Better solution: streamline the Mind Dungeon; make it more useful. Make it faster. Make it into a hub-world. Alex’s Mind Dungeon would be a perfect place to use for fast-travel to all the previously-visited locations.
We’ve finally ended the critique.
Everything else about the game- the characters, the tone, the atmosphere, the art direction, the music, and especially the story, become an obsession for me.
For instance, Michael is easily my favorite character (especially toward the end of the game), and Chondra is easily my favorite character design. Alex is, of course, a douchebag, but he gradually comes to realize that.
This game’s had a bit of controversy surrounding it, but with the way the Online Outrage machine works, that’s unsurprising. There’s a difference between genuinely not enjoying a game that you’re playing and jumping on a bandwagon of anger over “what someone else said on the internet.” Click here for an article talking about YIIK and the weird controversy surrounding it.
It’s also unsurprising because the main character is something of a hipster, so there are people who immediately see that and assume what the game is or isn’t, but Alex, as a character, is fairly well-designed, has a well-constructed personality (we know he’s pretentious and hipster-ish), and has a lot of character development (going from being kind of pretentious douche to valuing what matters, like friends and family).
Some people really read some awful things into this game that just aren’t there and could only be there if they traveled the Soul Space into another world where those things are there. (This a joke for the people who played the game).
If you aren’t a fan of surrealism, if you aren’t a fan of Carl Jung and depth psychology, if you aren’t interested in mysticism, the occult, the supernatural, and so on, you’re probably not going to enjoy this game as much.
I can see why so many people are put-off by the story; it isn’t for everyone. It just isn’t, and you can’t expect it to be. The creators even wrote to me that sometimes they think they made the game too niche, but then, that’s what I like about it- I’m that niche!
This isn’t the sort of game that just anyone will pick up, play, and enjoy. There are a few sub-plots that get resolved in milquetoast ways, some that don’t seem to get resolved at all, and…
…I think maybe more (not all) of that was intentional than people realize.
I think there also may be a tendency for us to assume that plots and subplots that don’t resolve in ways we feel are absolutely satisfying are necessarily done so because of weak writing or laziness, but that isn’t necessarily the case. However, in this case, I can’t be sure.
With YIIK, I think the story itself is meant to be surreal; it follows a sort of dream-like logic, one thing bleeding into another. Dreams are like that: things that make perfect sense in a dream won’t make any sense at all in waking life, and we scoff at it all.
My stance is that, for me, YIIK made sense from an archeypal perspective. The entire thing echoes the process of individuation.
Without spoiling it, if you pay attention, there are some points where the story specifically explains why things don’t make sense.
One thing the game left me wondering was how much the creators are into all these things; how much of the metaphysics of the backstory inform the creators’ own world views? The idea of multiple realities and simultaneously living multiple lives isn’t new, exactly, but they really drove the point home here.
The soundtrack is also excellent: instead of each battle having the exact same track, there were a number of different soundtracks (like in Earthbound!) that did bring fresh air to the game.
So, I can’t recommend this game for everyone, but then, I don’t think it was ever meant to be something for everyone. It’s its own weird archetypal, individuation journey.
And not everyone is ready for that.
This also strikes me as the sort of game that people will praise in the years to come; for a game named after Y2K, it’s way ahead of its time.
I’m hoping for YIIK: Deluxe Edition in the future.