Set in 1999, YIIK: A Postmodern RPG throws up a hard mix of 90’s nostalgia, from the design of the gameplay to the music and styling. It’s mostly a harmless play off of quirky mechanics and ostentatious dialogue that sometimes works and other times not so much, but there’s plenty of interesting ideas that make the initial hours quite intriguing.
You’re quickly introduced to Alex, the not-particularly likeable main protagonist that has a talent for drawn-out monologues and upsetting his co-cast. Alex has just returned home from university with the aim of finding a job, but thanks to a chance meeting with a cat with a wicked moustache, learns that something strange is going down. Cue a whirlwind of further bizarre events and pretentious attempts to commentate on the human psyche, along with some turn-based battling that’s infused with some novel ideas.
The narrative and setting give you a strange sense of curiosity. It can feel so whimsical early on that half the draw is just wanting to know what oddness might happen next, whether it be the disappearance of a strange young woman who Alex crosses paths within an abandoned building or the strange beings that inhabit it. There’s a ton of dialogue that doesn’t really endear you the cast. Unsurprisingly, Alex bumps into other characters who will make the journey with him, but most of the interaction feels a bit like pretentious self-analysing and philosophical jibber – like being stuck in an episode of Dawson’s Creek, but with moustached cats and lots of hitting monsters with vintage vinyl.
This vinyl swinging, camera flashing, keytar striking, turn-based combat is quite enjoyable. It’s as you’d expect for the most part – choose your enemy, pick your attack, wait for your next turn whilst the enemy slaps you up a bit; you know the drill. However, in YIIK every attack comes with a mini-game dependent on what character you’re using. Alex, for example, is seemingly a keen music connoisseur as his weapon of choice is a vinyl record that you’ll be tasked to tap a button at certain times as it spins. If your reactions are good and you hit at the right times, you’ll get a boost to damage you do to enemies, or in some cases reduce the damage taken which becomes quite important in certain fights.
The mini-games are genuine fun and add something to the repetitive nature of turn-based fighting. Unfortunately, it also adds its own kind of monotony because the length of time it takes to get through fights can become quite tiresome, especially on bosses or tougher enemies that are multi-phased or have deep health reserves. I liked the progression of upgrading weapons that altered the mini-games to give you more chances to do more damage. It certainly made things a little more interesting at least. The other saving grace is that there aren’t the plethora of enemies you might find in other turn-based RPGs, but you should be prepared for a bit of a combat slog as you get deeper into the game.
Another interesting slant is the levelling up system, the Mind Dungeon. Whilst at the core it’s not really that different from most systems, its design and how you progress does have a nice spin. In the Mind Dungeon, you’ll get access to several floors of doors, located in a stylised version of Alex’s head. Each door can be used to boost a particular stat, then you’ll need to walk through the door to lock that boost down. The kicker is you’ll only be allowed onto the next floor once you have acquired a certain amount of EXP. It’s all very strange talking to a crow to level up in a head-space full of doors and levels, but the quirkiness is definitely the appeal here.
The game does feel clunky in places. Sometimes I’d have to continually re-position the character or repeatedly press the action button to get a dialogue to appear. Other times, like in the save menu, for example, the text delay felt obnoxious, especially when you’re saving repeatedly. Niggles aside, the game world and the art design is beautifully rendered. From the quaint town areas to the supernatural world where things get a little crazier, it all looks fantastic. The music is worth a mention too, it’s, without a doubt, one of the game’s highlights and sets a cool 90’s tone throughout.