For a roguelike game to be successful, it needs a secret ingredient to keep players hooked and willing to play over-and-over again. YUKI accomplishes this in spades.
The fun, arcade bullet-hell gameplay draws you in, whilst the unlockables, different character abilities, power-ups and procedural generation help to keep things fresh and engaging.
The game begins by selecting a suit called a bladewing for Yuki. There are a total of five bladewings to choose from, each with different abilities.
For example, the bladewing you start the game with is called K1-M1 and offers rapid fire bullets that do moderate damage, whilst the Tracking Star bladewing equips you with homing bullets, but this extra ability comes at the expense of bullet damage.
You begin the game with only one bladewing to choose from and need to unlock the remaining four by completing stages. Once you have your bladewing suit selected, it's onto the game.
YUKI consists of six stages and at the end of every second stage there is a boss encounter. Six stages might not sound like a-lot but they are quite challenging and the roguelike permadeath feature means there's no in-game save points, so if you die you have to start back at the first stage.
However, you do get to keep some upgrades from one play-through to the next. The idea is that Yuki gets stronger with each play-through which should make it easier to complete than before.
This progression system works quite well. The power-ups you unlock are typically well balanced, offering a slight improvement to Yuki that doesn't feel too under or overpowered. It also adds to the addictive gameplay, as unlocking power-ups often made me want to jump into another game to try the new ability and see if I could get much further than last time.
Gameplay is fairly simple. You control Yuki's bladewing by moving one motion controller and shoot with the trigger.
There is also a powerup pod you control with the other motion controller. Unlike the bladewing, the powerup pod cannot shoot but it does have a freeze ability that causes all enemies on-screen (except bosses) to become encased in ice for a period of time. Once frozen, enemies can be shattered easily with a single shot.
This freeze ability requires time to charge as does the shield ability, which is another special power Yuki has at her disposal. The shield makes Yuki invulnerable to frontal enemy fire whilst active.
Stages are a linear point A to point B affair with Yuki's bladewing flying forward automatically at a steady pace.
Along the way you'll encounter obstacles that change depending on the stage's theme. On the space themed stage for example you'll come across floating asteroids, whilst the river stage has thorny roots that emerge from the murky depths to ruin your day.
The biggest challenge however comes from enemies called Yokaliens, which are floating faces that spray bullets. Players encounter a variety of Yokaliens, each with different movement and firing patterns.
When a Yokalien is destroyed, it either drops a health pickup or these blue orbs known as 'creative drive' which act as in-game currency.
Players also encounter power-up capsules that look a bit like Poké Balls during each stage. When touched, these capsules reveal a random assortment of power-ups like weapon and health upgrades that have been unlocked using creative drive between stages.
The creative drive orbs dropped by destroyed Yokaliens can be redeemed between stages to increase the range of powerups that appear when the powerup capsules are activated in-game.
Players only get to choose from one of the power-ups that come from each capsule, and if Yuki dies, she loses all of the power-ups gained during that particular play-through.
Creative drive can also be used to purchase traits known as 'charms' that are permanent upgrades to your bladewing. Unlike regular power-ups which are picked up in-game and are lost when you die, charms are permanent upgrades that are carried from one game to the next.
YUKI provides simple, addictive gameplay that will give you a 'just on more go' experience. Fans of retro rail shooters like Space Harrier or Star Fox will know what to expect with YUKI which clearly draws heavily from these classics.
The gameplay feels balanced for the most part, although there are odd occasions where there are so many obstacles on-screen that losing a life seems inevitable and a tad unfair.
Roguelike games such as YUKI risk becoming repetitive by their very nature. Fortunately, YUKI does enough to keep things feeling fresh for the most part.
The different bladewings, power-ups and unlockables, along with the procedurally generated enemies and obstacles make each run unique enough to stop things from getting too stale.
Despite this variety however, some monotony does still creep in after a few hours of repeating the same stages.
YUKI is all about a kid who loves this anime and spends all of her spare time playing with her favorite action figure, Yuki. Yuki the space ranger is an action figure brought to life by a child's imagination. Players control Yuki in her quest to defeat the evil Yokaliens that seek to control the universe.
The idea of stepping into a child's world is a fairly unique concept that's in line with ARVORE's previous hits, Pixel Ripped 1989 and Pixel Ripped 1995.
Overall, it's a simple story that suits the simple 'pick up and play' arcade style of this game.
YUKI delivers a colourful and bright anime visual style that's nice to look at. It also makes the enemies, bullets, and obstacles easy to see which is essential in a game that relies on split-second timing to dodge incoming attacks.
The bold colours are also reminiscent of the retro classics that YUKI pays homage to and seem entirely appropriate since you are viewing the world from the colourful imagination of a child.
YUKI features nice sound effects and a groovy, upbeat soundtrack with original songs created specially for the game. I could tell the music was tailored to the game as the tracks seem to fit the experience like a glove.
Each song begins relatively calm before reaching a little cresendo as you approach the final part of each stage or boss encounter.
There are six stages and three bosses to get through if you hope to complete YUKI.
Technically, this can be done in about 30 minutes but YUKI's roguelike nature means it will take you quite a few tries before you are strong enough to accomplish one full playthrough.
Then in order to unlock the fifth and final playable bladewing you will need to complete the game using each of the other four bladewings. So to accomplish everything, you will need to complete the game at least five times.
With the number of times you need to replay the same stages, you might begin to wonder if the game gets a bit repetitive.
YUKI does a good job preventing the gameplay from becoming too stale by including procedurally generated enemies and obstacles so that each play-through is different. On top of that, the different character abilities and power-ups help to add some variety.
Despite this, it can still get a bit samey as the level design essentially stays the same with each game. It would have been good to have seen some additional variation such as a few alternate pathways included in each level to help mix things up a bit more.
There is an endless mode coming that is currently unavailable at the time of this review but which should increase replayability when it is released. There is no word yet on when the endless mode will become available.
Playing YUKI can involve the whole body, from head to toe, as you move around trying to dodge incoming attacks or peek your head around obstacles that obscure your view.
In fact, the more you are able to move around the easier it is to avoid taking hits. In this way, YUKI is able to bring you physically into its incredible anime universe.
However, on the whole, immersion is one area where I felt YUKI had room to improve.
Gameplay follows a literal straight line from the beginning to the end of the level. This means there isn't much reason to turn your head to look in any other direction than straight forward. In this regard, the game doesn't capitalise on the immersive 360 degree environment that surrounds the player.
YUKI is made by ARVORE, the same developers who brought us the retro inspired classic Pixel Ripped so it could be that this is the kind of feeling they were aiming for.
However, it would have been good to experience occasions where it was necessary to take in more of the environment than just the 90 degrees or so in front of you.
Motion Options: 8
Forward movement is automatic and players are able to move Yuki along all axes using their arm. Players get the choice to swap Yuki from the right hand to the left hand but this is the only movement option available.
In terms of intensity, you will experience some in-game movement as your bladewing flies through the stage at a consistent and gentle pace that will be comfortable for most.
YUKI can also be played sitting down but it does become a bit more difficult this way as this restricts your physical movement, and movement is key to survival in this game. You might also find a little strain on your shoulders after a time of holding the motion controllers in front whilst you navigate both Yuki and the pod.
Learning Curve: 9
YUKI's arcade gameplay is naturally very easy to get to pick up and play, but there are some hints and tips provided to help along the way.
Value for Money: 7.5
YUKI will set you back $19.99 and for your money you get a first-class bullet-hell arcade experience with a decent amount of content to boot. It took about six hours before I completed my first full play-through and you could easily be looking at double that if you want to unlock everything.
Summary: YUKI is an upbeat mix of the bullet-hell and roguelike game genres in VR, set in an incredible anime universe.
Game Modes: Single User
Genres: Action, Shooter, Space/Universe
Platforms: Oculus Quest
Release Date: July 21, 2021
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11