VR provides an opportunity for developers and designers to design games and experiences with a fresh take on a genre. Sometimes that’s as simple as putting a player behind the controls in a different or new perspective. Other times, it lets developers go wild and completely shake up a genre by completely recontextualizing established core mechanics or form-factor.
YUKI, ARVORE Interactive’s take on “bullet hell” games like Ikaruga or Touhou, falls largely in the middle of these two philosophies. Yes, there are dozens of non-VR games like it and no, it does not go out of its way to re-invent the wheel, but the ways it does change the genre lend a more personal, frantic sense of precision and tension that you won’t always get from playing similar games on a flat-screen. That’s why we’ve chosen it as our latest pick for the Oculus Quest 2 game of the week.
YUKI’s premise is immediately charming. Instead of some bad-ass space warrior or all-powerful chosen one, you’re just a kid playing with action figures. The game opens in a bedroom lined with posters of the main character’s favorite anime protagonist, Yuki the space ranger. Instead of controlling the character itself, you hold the eponymous action figure and step into the kid’s imagination as you weave the figurine through obstacles and enemy fire. It feels like being a kid and pretending you’re flying your favorite toy spaceship or action figure through the air, fighting bad guys.
The art direction is not nearly as inspired as the overall premise, though. Environments, enemies, and bosses alike feel like a noncommittal hodge-podge of relatively generic, vaguely Japanese aesthetics that you’d expect to find in a mobile game from 10 years ago. Thankfully, YUKI’s menu and UI design make up for it.
Sleek menus make it easy to jump right back into the action after a failed run. This also streamlines permanently unlocking upgrades and new powers for future runs or choosing between one of a few different characters before setting out on your next patrol. Aside from an enthralling, snappy loop, this is one of the most important features for a roguelike or arcade-style game to nail. YUKI does just that.
It’s the little things
Instead of the typical top-down perspective for this genre, Yuki brings bullet hell games into the third dimension, adding literal depth to the frenetic feeling of dodging enemy fire and finding the right time to return the favor. It can be a lot to get used to at first.
As someone who usually has no issue with motion sickness in VR, I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit dizzy on my first run, but as that feeling dissipated, the only thing that could get me to put YUKI down was the alarm on my dryer.
I even broke a small sweat! It’s not going to work you like some of the Quest 2’s dedicated fitness and workout games will, but it will have you moving more than your average VR game. As the levels progress, you’ll have a hard time just coasting by. You can opt to play this sitting down and be fine, but playing it standing up makes it more fun – and easy to dodge and weave.
Like many good arcade games, YUKI does swimming hold back. It’s not over-punishing; instead, it hits the difficulty sweet spot by challenging the player and keeping them engaged and motivated by offering permanent, unlockable upgrades for things like health or stronger power-ups or the option to unlock new power-ups for the next run.
If only there were more …
The only true pain point for YUKI is that there just isn’t enough there. Its moment-to-moment gameplay is incredibly engaging, fun, and easy to wrap your mind around that bolstered by its offering of unlockable characters and upgrades, but when you’ve beaten its Patrol Mode, you’ve seen most of the game. Everything from its three bosses to its synthy, 10-song soundtrack feels lacking.
Don’t sleep on YUKI
Despite its relatively limited content, YUKI’s charm, moment-to-moment gameplay, and different characters offer enough fun and breadth, even if each run tends to bleed into the ones before. It’s a welcome break from generic, gritty shooters that delivers the ideal dose of fun for the sake of fun. Its fast-paced action and ability to consistently reward skill and player growth with meaningful upgrades will keep you coming back, even if you’ve seen it all.