Written by Games of DAYNE for One More Game | Reviewed on PlayStation 4
When an urban legend regarding the spirit of a young boy named Tsun, who died in a now-abandoned school building is played with, bad things happen to Ai, the young school girl protagonist of Yuoni. Played from the first person perspective, Yuoni is a ghastly game of hide and seek that tasks the player with navigating the old school building while avoiding spirits that will alert others of your presence if detected and draw the towering slender-man-esque spirit to stalk the player.
Sneaking, hiding and running for dear life when detected provide a far more challenging experience than anticipated and effectively establish a layer of fear that is ever-present.
The haunted halls of the abandoned school are oozing with creepy noises such as footsteps of the spiritual entities that roam, harrowing moaning and suddenly shutting doors. Atmospherically tense at all times, Yuoni clutches the player with its brooding setting, not unlike the spirits that grapple and batter the player upon detection. To avoid detection, the player can crouch to reduce the sound of their footsteps though not eliminate them entirely.
The player can also hold their breath while stationary or moving to further attempt to stay undetected though this consumes a breath bar that will eventually deplete, and Ai’s exhale will draw the attention of her spectral company. It is possible to increase the duration of the breath holding by spamming both bumpers simultaneously, decreasing the rate of depletion. The breath bar slowly replenishes automatically though a deep gasp can be performed to restore it rapidly but the sound from doing so will likely draw attention. Capitalising on hiding places such as lockers and under beds as safe spaces to do so are recommended though that still doesn’t guarantee a successfully stealthy replenishment.
Accompanying the breath meter is a stamina bar that drains when sprinting, which also creates a loud noise to draw Ai’s deadly foes to her location. Sprinting is best reserved as a measure of last resort when identified by a spirit, running, and attempting to break line of sight and sound by hiding in lockers. As the enemies are unable to see, their sharp attention to sound is how they seek the player out.
It is very easy to become disoriented in Yuoni, especially when being pursued while the player seeks a moment of respite to gather their breath, stamina, and wits. Avoiding interaction from the evil spirits that intend to kill Ai can often lead the player to backtrack inadvertently due to their sometimes-relentless pursuit. This can be frustrating as some enemies return to their stations while other variants continue to roam randomly.
The way forwards is never clear and reaching the required door only to realise a key is required is painful and frustrating as backtracking often leads to death and having to restart from the last checkpoint. As the aim of each level is to find a doll and returning to the beginning area of the level to submerge it in water or burn it, remembering the way back is difficult given the number of instances players will likely encounter that require them to scramble and run in any direction that doesn’t have a spirit in front of them.
The effectively spooky sound design and ominous music always keep the atmospheric tension high and the dramatic and frantic escape attempts from the alerted spirits only amplify the tension. Visually, Yuoni is competent while failing to be particularly memorable outside of the design of the spirits and the ominous red glow of the sun peering in through the hazy windows.
Yuoni is hard. For someone very experienced in survival, horror and first person hide and seek type experiences such as Outlast, I struggled getting through this. My constant failure to move through areas undetected is possibly my own fault though the AI of the more aggressive spirits can be difficult to escape, hide from and break line of sight and sound. Yuoni is enjoyably challenging until the repetition of repeated failure settles in and frustration takes over. Yuoni is a good horror fuelled hide and seek experience, it is just a difficult one that will test the patience of the player with repeated failure.
+ Atmospheric tension
+ Spooky sound design
+ Spirit art direction is creative
+ Lighting is strikingly effective
+ Premise is interesting
– Quite difficult
– Relentless enemies prevent possibility of hiding at times
– Lack of clarity in direction
Developed by: Tricore Inc.
Published by: Chorus Worldwide
Release Date: August 19 2021
Platforms: PlayStation 4/5 and PC
* A digital code was kindly provided by the Publisher to One More Game and reviewed by me, as a member of their team *
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