I will not go into any major story points or spoilers, as the story of YIIK (pronounced Y2K, in case you were lost, like I was): A Postmodern RPG, is a 26 hour mental, nostalgia-filled romp that needs to be experienced and you probably wouldn’t believe me if I explained it to you.
The story focuses on Alex, a college graduate who has just returned home after getting his degree. After meeting a young woman in an abandoned factory, he sees her being pulled out of an elevator. With his childhood friend, Michael, he sets off on a quest to find the girl.
If only it was that simple. Along the way, you amass a group of 7 friends to help Alex on his journey, each with their own personalities and desires. They soon find that what was a – relatively – simple quest to find the missing woman turns into something else entirely, with a lot more at stake. Set in the year 1999 and going into the Millennium, be prepared for a story with lots of 90’s tropes, the Millennium bug, and a talking panda. I got the feeling of The X-Files, film noir and Saturday morning TV whilst I played. It is a story that’s deep, meaningful, exciting, thought-provoking and thoroughly mental. With all this, the writing and execution are outstanding. Brian Allanson has done an outstanding job.
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is, in essence, a JRPG in terms of the types of battles. Ones you would expect to see in the Atelier Arland series, for instance. Turned-based battles, where individual characters are issued commands and the rest is down to statistics. The team consists of up to four characters that are active within the fight but can be swapped out for a character who is inactive, for the cost of one turn. That’s about everything it has in common with a JRPG, in the original sense, but it takes this content and twists it a little. Making the fights more than just pressing A to select, while playing, you will have to participate in what are essentially mini-games for attacks and defence. They are not overly difficult and after a dozen tries, you will get to grips with the more complicated ones.
YIIK’s play-style, for me, is engaging and fun. For example; Alex attacks with a vinyl record, his attack mini-game is hitting the two yellow areas and a red area to increase attack power, and the red area allows the record to spin again. Depending on the attack you select, the mini-game will be different but each attack will always have the same distinct game.
Defending has its own mini-game, too, where you must stop the crosshairs inside coloured spaces to defend or dodge. Even running from a battle is its own little game; you have to jump your character over blocks to get away. This, however, can be a turn-off for some players, as some find doing these types of mini-games difficult. I know for a fact that my friend couldn’t do most of the game’s fighting mini-games.
There is not a massive selection of enemies but to be fair, as the fights are so engaging, it really does not matter. The enemy types range from samurai tortoises – I wonder what 90’s kids show this was based on… – to emo kids, and a few surprises that made me giggle. While in a ‘dungeon’, there are 3 types of black enemies that you will run in to. The first is a slow-moving blob and there’s also a more humanoid looking, faster-moving blob that will chase you down, and a shield bearing tall blob. The first two can be dodged so there’s no need to fight, but the last one with the shield has to be fought as it will not let you past until it is defeated. The best part is: the blobs are not even in the fights. While on the world map, the fights are random encounters, and it seemed as though running by pressing Y increased the likelihood of a fight. The enemies seem to be the same depending on how far through you are in the game.
They mainly have two attacks: a focused, single character attack or a team attack that can hit between two to four members of the team. These team attacks were the most frustrating of them all, for me, as the defence mini-game was to hit three red lines on a bar but I just couldn’t do it consistently.
The telephone is one of the most important aspects of YIIK, it allows you to save your game as you play. YIIK is very generous with the number of pay-phones and telephones within the world. There is no autosave feature, though, so remember to phone often.
That is not all it allows you to do, however. It also allows you to enter the mind dungeon, a literal manifestation of Alex’s mind, where you can encourage your friends to level up automatically. This is also where Alex can customise his level statistics. Each level needs 100 EXP, which you get from fights. Once you gain enough EXP, you talk to Marlene who allows you to go down a floor. Each floor has four doors to assign a statistic to, out of HP, PP (ability points), Strength, Defence, Speed, and Luck. On some levels, new abilities will be unlocked with one door, too. While fighting, one character can banish a certain enemy that will be sent to the mind dungeon where you can lose a statistic point or defeat in the dungeon and get the statistic. There may be a surprise along the way, the more levels you gain.
I know this is just a glorified level-up system, but it shows the imagination and thought that has gone into the game. I wonder what else the telephones are used for…?
Equipment And Items
The equipment is nothing overly exciting. You can equip a weapon – this is set for each character – and equipment to the head, top, and other (accessory), each with varying statical changes but no visible difference on each character. There are shops in towns that sell different items. You will have to visit them periodically to see if they have new stock in. The shops are a record shop, a camera shop, a sports shop, and a burger joint.
The items are simple enough: each item you buy or find will do one of a few things. They will either heal a set % of health, restore a set % of PP, heal nausea, or revive a fallen character. Some items will restore a set % of health and PP at once. Items are not cheap, however, some costing up in the $400 range, and multiple items can rack up a hefty bill. It is a good thing that YIIK gives out plenty of money, then. In my playthrough, I had $10,000 and I didn’t even notice I had built up so much.
The downside is that items can’t be sorted in the inventory screen. It would have been nice to have different tabs to make finding items slightly easier.
Dungeons, World Map And A Talking Panda
Like any good JRPG, there are plenty of dungeons to traverse, and YIIK is no exception. They are simple in design with an almost clear set path to the final destination, with only one or two slight detours to get chests. These will involve solving a simple puzzle with the help of Tools. Remember the talking panda? Well, outside of battles he can be used as a shield to stop a blob getting Alex or to bridge small gaps.
No doubt a few hardcore JRPG fans will moan about the dungeons, but take them as an extension of the narrative and then it makes sense from a story point of view.
There is a world map that you get access to fairly early on. Here, Alex can wander around, get into random fights, visit towns, catch a bus, and cross the roads at pedestrian crossings. Fun and educational, what more could you want? Throughout the world are challenge dungeons, which consist of a handful of fights, each having more challenging enemies to fight than the last. The inclusion of these is a good way to get experience points and are also a good break from the game. There is plenty to keep you occupied while playing YIIK.
YIIK is fully voice-acted and it is done very well. Alex, who is by far the most animated in terms of emotions, is voiced by Chris Niosi (multiple voices in Smite, ‘Dezel’ in Tales of Zestiria, as well as many other games and anime.) He does an outstanding job with the feeling in Alex’s voice, as well as the distinction between talking to himself and to others.
There’s also a whole host of other amazing voice actors, including Melanie Ehrlich (Battle Chef Brigade, various voices) and Clifford Chapin (‘Katsuki Bakugo’, My Hero Academia, ‘Cabba’, Dragon Ball Super).
The music is also outstanding, from the nice town music to the ‘out there’ battle and dungeon music, each piece is totally different and not what you would expect, though they fit perfectly with the narrative in their own right. The music has been composed mainly by Andrew Allanson, one of the directors and brother of Brian.
It also has guest tracks from Michael ‘VA-11 HALL-A’ Kelly. Visit his Bandcamp site here
Visuals & Performance
YIIK has a low-poly style with a bright colour palette, which is what interested me in the first place with this game. It stands out, it’s different, but something about it felt almost nostalgic in its presentation. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, the animation style looked so familiar but I just couldn’t place it. In fact, it was so annoying that I ended up messaging Brian to tell me what it was; it was stop motion animation. Different, disjointed, but loveable.
I did not find any major problems with YIIK while playing in handheld or docked modes. There was no frame rate drops. However, one issue is the load times which take up to 10-15 seconds for a fight. That would be more of a problem if this was not a JRPG of sorts, but it can still ruin the immersion somewhat.
Day One Patch Notes
A little added extra
Balance fixes for Alex and Enemies
Assist Mode for disabled players
General bug fixes
Invisible walls fixed
Lost ladder bug fixed,
Clarified PC controls
Performance improvements for the Switch
The Switch performance improvement is much needed, so I am glad it has been put into a day one patch. I am really looking forward to seeing the Assist Mode for disabled players, as well. After my article on “One Way Disabled Gamers Can Enjoy The Switch” it is really good to see that some developers are considering people with disabilities.
At a very modest $19.99 USD/£17.99 GBP, it is underpriced for a game that is 26 hours long, to me. I would gladly pay £25 for the game length alone. Tagging on a crazy adventure that is this good is more than worth the money.
Engaging battle mechanics
26 hours of gameplay
A different take on JRPG’s
There will be an Assist Mode for disabled gamers
Load times too long
A different take on JRPG’s
Lack of Inventory sorting
Looking at the whole package of YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “These guys have taken a leap of faith with something different and out there, it could have been a mess.” In actual fact, it turned out to be a fantastic game. It has been a breath of fresh air to see game developers are willing to go out of their way to be different in a market where there is plenty of competition.
Only a few minor issues cropped up, and even then, they were nothing too major or game breaking, more like a quality of life changes. There is a patch coming on day one to fix load times, so this should help.
With the continued support from Ackk Studios, this could be a sleeper hit that no one was expecting. I personally loved every second of the game.