Yurukill: The Calumniation Games – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Izanagi games with assistance from G-Rev and published by NIS America, Yurukill: the Calumniation Games, is a hybrid of visual novel escape adventure and bullet hell shooting action. As a prisoner convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, you have arrived at Yurukill Land, a mysterious amusement park where your life will change forever. This title is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 with links to the game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Yurukill: the Calumniation Games that was used for this review. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with a brief background for the plot of this release. I will be calling this release simply Yurukill to keep it nice and brief. I will only be covering the core of the mechanics as I feel that this title should be experienced first-hand.

Story – Pardon or kill. Let the madness begin. At the edge of despair, lurks the unsettling past, and an unspeakable truth! Convicted Prisoners face a series of attractions to clear their names in Yurukill Land. If they and their Executioner partners overcome the Yurukill Games, they will be absolved of their alleged crimes. What secrets are hidden in the twisted attractions of the secluded amusement park, Yurukill Land? Who will emerge victorious from its cruel, fiendish games?

Gameplay – the gameplay for Yurukill is a hybrid mix of visual novel styled escape adventure and bullet hell shooting, with a diverse cast of characters that each have unique stories. I will be separating the gameplay coverage into two segments, discussing the escape adventure and bullet hell shooting action separately. First to discuss is the escape adventure.

Escape Adventure: the majority of the gameplay experience takes place here, with each of the games chapters based on a different set of characters. Taking place in escape room styled hidden object puzzles called attractions. The characters in each of these chapters consist of prisoners and executioners. The prisoners have been accused and convicted of various crimes, with their partners having the ability to end their life at any moment as their executioners.

Each attraction is split into stages, containing puzzles and hints that are needed to progress. There is a gate that will need to be unlocked in order to progress through each stage, with the solution to the puzzles being the key. To search the areas, the player controls a cursor that will light up to show that an object can be interacted with. There will also be conversations between the prisoners and their executioners, providing further help and hints for the attraction.

While progressing through each chapter, the player will engage in conversation that can have multiple choices to select from. These interactions provide more details about the characters, can uncover hints to the puzzles and even offer a little light hearted amusement. It is important to also pay attention to the conversations, as they could hold clues that will be useful later, or may even be tied to an important plot twist during the story.

There is even a hint system that can assist characters with the puzzles, giving additional hints to answer the riddles and tasks to ensure smooth progress. Throughout the investigation stages, there will be information that will be added to a device called the Yurukill passport. The passport holds the evidence collected, a dialogue summary that stretches back a fair amount and other helpful details. Players can also save, load and access other information with the passport.

During the course of an attraction, there will be more obstacles that will hinder the player. First are deadly puzzles that players must solve in order to progress, which involve making a decision that could lead to a sudden end. The second is the deadly cross-examination called “Maji-kill Time”, where the prisoner is grilled by their executioner and one wrong answer will result in death. If the prisoner succeeds, they will be able to continue a little longer.

All of the Maji-kill sequences are multiple choice quizzes, where the player must select a response to the question they are asked. With each correct answer, the “urge to kill” meter will rise, ramping up the intensity of the questions and the risk to the prisoner. If the wrong answer is chosen, the kill meter will instantly increase to 100% and the prisoner will be executed, giving a game over and returning the character to a check point.

When all of the puzzles and stages have been cleared, the next part of the Yurukill games will begin. The Yurukill Judgment, a life or death battle between the prisoner and the executioner, which their opponent has the power to pardon or kill them depending on what they do.

Now it is time to cover the shooting action part of Yurukill.

Yurukill Judgment: as well as the escape room style attractions, there is the Yurukill Judgement. This is an intense set of bullet hell stages, where the prisoner and executioner are pitted against each other in combat. Taking place in cutting edge BR (Brain Reality) developed by Yurukill Inc, the characters pilot Yurukill Fighters in VR environments, with the prisoner fighting wave after wave of enemies. At the start of the shooting stages, the prisoner will answer a high-speed quiz before launching.

During the high-speed quiz, the player must answer five questions related to the attraction and alleged crimes, with five answers to choose from. Each time the player gets an answer correct, they will get extra lives that they will be able to use in battle, but if they get an answer wrong they get nothing. After all the questions have been answered, the shooting begins in full swing, launching the player into the stage to battle the enemies.

While flying through the shooting stages, enemies will appear for the player to shoot down which will increase the score, as well as some enemies dropping power-ups. Each time a power-up is collected the prisoner craft will increase in strength up to a max level of 4, increasing the special weapon shots and overall damage they can do. There is also a system called the outburst meter, a special bar that fills up by destroying enemies and collecting items they drop.

The outburst meter becomes active at 20% letting players use two special attacks, a bomb that exhausts all of the meter and an alternate attack that uses a little of the meter each time. Once the meter falls below 20%, the outburst skills cannot be used until it refills. The outburst bomb is the more useful skill as it can be used as a defensive shield when taking damage if it is active, when the meter is completely full a bomb that annihilates all on screen can be used.

However, if the player has their ship destroyed, they will lose their power-ups with a few appearing on screen to recollect and the outburst meter resets to 20%. When the player ship is destroyed, a life is also lost, reducing the remaining total for the stages but more lives can be earned. Hidden in each stage is a Binko icon, which is uncovered from outburst attacks and providing an extra life when collected. There is a Binko hidden in every stage to be found and collected.

Towards the end of each stage, the executioner will appear as the boss for each stage, engaging in multi-phase battles with the prisoner to attempt to wipe them out. During these battles two special instances can occur, depending on the stage that the player is on. During the early stages, a mind barrier will appear which allows the player to enter the “Prejudice Synapse”, where the prisoner can provide evidence to prove innocence. However, failure will result in lives lost each time.

In the last part of each Yurukill Judgment there is the “Mind Maze”, where players must complete sentences that are related to the incidents, with each success getting further. But if the wrong answer is chosen, lives will be lost and the chance of failure increases. If the prisoner can solve the sentences and select the correct answers, they will get one step closer to completing the Yurukill Judgment and obtaining their freedom.

After the Mind Maze, there is one final set of boss phases that the player must overcome before Judgment is complete. Once Judgment is complete, a total score for the cleared stages will be given and the story will continue. Separate from the main story, there is also a dedicated Score Attack Mode where unlocked stages can be played with any of the unlocked prisoners. While in this mode, players can challenge any of the stages for a place on the leaderboards.

There are leaderboards for each individual stage, as well as for all stages played consecutively which gives additional replay value when the main story is cleared. All of the prisoner characters that have been unlocked can be used in the score mode, giving access to a variety of play styles in free play. The different characters have their own different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses which allows for experimentation with in the game.

The score attack provides additional replay value, extending the playtime for the game once the story has been cleared entirely. The shooting sections play very well, with smooth movements and reactive inputs that make the shooting a lot of fun to play. There is a lot going on at once and there are occasional moments of slowdown, but they do not interfere with the gameplay experience to a great extent.

Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls for this release are separated into two styles, the cursor based search controls for the escape room style puzzles. The left thumbstick controls the cursor, the face buttons perform interaction functions and the shoulders control the camera. The shooting controls are fun, with responsive and easy to use inputs for shooting, featuring an auto fire, charge fire and outburst attacks. Both game styles handle well, with minimal lag and are comfortable in docked/handheld play modes.

Difficulty – the difficulty for this game is almost entirely within the Yurukill Judgment sections, with the adventure segments being fairly straightforward and easy to follow. The shooting however, can be tense and difficult, with a hail of bullets and wave after wave of enemies to fight. In this section the difficulty settings that can be chosen are Easy, Normal and Hard, with each setting affecting the number of available lives and attack patterns of enemies/bosses.

Presentation – the visual style for this release is very distinct, with the manga artist Hiro Kiyohara (the illustrator for ANOTHER) responsible for bring the characters of Yurukill to life. The character portraits are expressive, which adds to the overall atmosphere and tension of a scene with almost all dialogue in a Visual Novel format. The environments and backgrounds have their own unique charm, with each location having its own distinct theme.

The shooting gameplay looks fantastic and switches the experience from the 2D VN style, into intense 3D bullet hell action. The player ships look unique from each other, the wire frames for different segments are vibrant and the bosses look fantastic. There is no real issue when it comes to slowdown or lag during play, as the action moves quite smoothly with only a brief pause in the flow when losing a life in battle, or when there are lots of enemies on screen.

The sound design for Yurukill ties the whole experience together, with atmospheric musical themes and distinct sound bites make the narrative more engaging. The background soundtrack has a lot of diversity to it, ranging from creepy carnival/theme park music and melancholic violin, to intense orchestral themes for the BR sections. There is voiced dialogue throughout, featuring the vocal talents of Sayori Hayami (Demon Slayer), Takuya Eguchi (Spy x Family) and Yu Kobayashi (Attack on Titan).

Final Thoughts – I was intrigued by the whole concept of Yurukill, as the combination of escape room puzzles, visual novel presentation and bullet hell shooting is not one I have seen before. The mix of the puzzles and the shooting is a lot of fun, with the two genres blending quite well. The featured artwork and character designs are distinct, with a variety of unique characters that have stories the player can get invested in.

I can easily recommend this release, the overall story is engaging and can be entertaining at times. I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in the narrative, finding the twists and turns of the plot pulling me in further. I applaud both Izanagi Games and G-Rev for the outstanding worth that has been created here, along with the artwork created by Hiro Kiyohara. The only flaws I found with this experience aside from puzzles being a little hard at times, was the very ocassional slowdown.

In the end, I give Yurukill: the Calumniation Games a final score of 4.5/5. This is an unconventional mix of hidden objects puzzles, visual novel storytelling and bullet hell shooting doesn’t appear to work on the surface. However, all of the different elements come together, creating an excellent and unique experience, with a narrative and characters that can really pull the player in. If you want to check this release out for yourself, links to the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

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