Yurukill – The Calumniation Games Review

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Our Score: 8/10

Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is a fun game that combines escape room puzzles gameplay with arcade-style shoot ‘em up gameplay. It has a very interesting setting and many distinct characters that interact with each other. The shoot-‘em-up gameplay is very addicting and the escape room style puzzles are fun to solve and are never overly difficult.

Yurukill is very accessible. From the beginning of the game you’re able to choose between easy, normal, and hard difficulties for the shoot-‘em-up gameplay segments. If you don’t enjoy shoot-‘em-ups then I’d recommend playing on a lower difficulty. The shoot-’em-up segments are never overly long or complicated.

The game features Japanese voiced dialogue with English subtitles. All of the dialogue between characters have voice acting. There is an option to auto advance dialogue, so you can relax and read the cutscenes as they progress naturally. The cutscenes are presented in a visual novel style, with 2D illustrated character artwork drawn to make the characters look like they’re breathing as they talk to each other. There are also short cutscenes for important story scenes as well.

I’ll give a brief synopsis of the first 20 minutes of the plot without any other spoilers. The protagonist of this title is a man named Sengoku. He finds himself in a mysterious prison, awake and confused along with other prisoners. Sengoku realizes from the sounds around him that he’s on a prison of a ship heading to a theme park. But at the same time, Sengoku is adamant that he didn’t commit a crime.

He meets Binko, a woman in a kimono and a fox mask who explains that they’re going to an amusement park called “Yurukill Land”. Binko explains that Sengoku allegedly committed a crime, but she’s willing to undo their convictions and even have a wish granted for one person who survives the games in Yurukill land.

Sengoku has no choice. Him, along with the other prisoners, have collars which Binko explains has poison that will kill him if he disobeys. Binko offers all the prisoners an opportunity to make their wills before entering these games. To add even more complexity, another prison shoves a written paper into Sengoku’s cell, explaining that they’re the real culprit of the crime Sengoku was accused of. Sengoku goes to meet the other prisoners and prepares himself to face the first amusement park game…

The setting in Yurukill is very unique and I was excited to see what horrific games awaited me.
(Image credit: NIS America)

You can see from this synopsis what kind of game this is. If you enjoy games with anime tropes and visual novel gameplay such as Danganronpa you would certainly enjoy this game. Yurukill can be extremely dialogue heavy at times, but I enjoyed the characters as well as the character interactions. I purposely gave only a brief synopsis because the story is amazing in this game. It’s full of twists that you would need to experience for yourself.

Binko is similar to Monokuma from Danganronpa in the sense she’s an administrator for these games, but she only explains the rules of Yurukill Land and doesn’t directly participate. Similar to Danganronpa, you have many dissimilar characters who play off of each other. Yurukill is also an interesting take on the genre; rather than having the characters kill each other off directly the focus is more on the characters surviving ordeals in an amusement park.

You can even compare this game to the Netflix series Squid Game, except instead of facing challenges to get rid of financial debt the characters are trying to get rid of their criminal convictions.

The character designs are great as well, with an extremely diverse set of characters of different ages and occupations. The character illustrations were professionally done by Hiro Kiyohara, who has worked as a manga artist since 2005.

The character portraits were very well made and you have a wide cast of distinct characters. Admittedly, many characters were tropey, but it was fun seeing their interactions.
(Image credit: NIS America)

Yurukill is a very front-loaded game and when you begin it you will get a massive lore dump, lasting about an hour. It’s required to set up the game and I thought it was fun to meet the cast of characters in the beginning, but I can definitely see others being put off with a lengthy narrative introduction. All I can really say is that if you’re feeling like the game is slow in the beginning, it is slow, but it’s worth it for the big payoffs you’ll see later on. The developers had to make a slow introduction to set up the entire premise of the game. I keep making references to Danganronpa, but it’s similar to those games too in the sense that they have very long introductions where you meet all the characters.

The gameplay also features many shoot-‘em-up segments, where you control a ship in 2D gameplay to shoot down enemies. These parts of the game are very retro-inspired and the gameplay isn’t in widescreen. Instead, the sides of the screen are used to show character information. This isn’t a bad thing at all, and it’s really fun to play through these parts if you enjoy arcade games.

When I was younger I was a huge fan of the video game Tyrian, a classic shoot-‘em-up from 1995 that shaped shoot-‘em-ups into what they became. Even if you don’t like shoot-‘em-ups, the gameplay is very easy to get into and has difficulty options you can adjust if you’re struggling. If you’re scared of this game being a “bullet hell” game, it’s not at all so don’t worry, it’s a simple shoot-’em-up and isn’t difficult like the arcade games of the 1990’s were.

The shoot-’em-up sections are very fun and are a good break after completing escape room puzzles.
(Image credit: NIS America)

In these segments you move on a 2D plane, shooting enemies, avoiding their projectiles, and collecting bonuses such as power-ups. Collecting power-ups is essential because your ship will shoot more projectiles if you collect several of them. At the same time, if you die you will lose a life and have to use a new ship that doesn’t have power-ups. Thankfully, the game will know if you died and will eventually spawn more power-ups for you to collect.

The gameplay is not punishing at all and if you never lose a life you will be rewarded with being able to keep all your power-ups and having a higher score. Some segments will have timers that count down, but these won’t lead to a game over like in old arcade games. Rather, the timer will stop you from getting a bonus score. From what I’ve observed, the score is for fun and doesn’t affect the story as long as you get through the stages.

I was initially confused by the mixture of dissimilar genres (escape room puzzles and shoot-‘em-up gameplay), but I found it to help break up the gameplay and offer a change of pace. The mixture of dissimilar genres is similar to the game 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, which mixed visual novel gameplay with real-time strategy gameplay but also offered many accessibility options such as lower difficulty if you just wanted to just experience the story. I personally liked the mixing of genres to help break up the gameplay.

During the visual novel cutscenes and escape room puzzles, you’ll have access to the “Yurukill Passport”. It’s essentially the menus in the game. The Yurukill Memory is one submenu that has all of the information you gathered in the game. The Character Profiles recaps details about the characters you’ve met so far. There are plenty of other mainstays such as saving/loading, help options, and text backlog.

The escape room gameplay segments are another main chunk of the game. They are rooms in a building you move between, and within each room you move your cursor to examine different objects. The gameplay highlights the cursor for objects you can interact with. As you interact with different objects you will be able to solve puzzles in the rooms.

There are many puzzles to solve as you progress through the escape rooms.
(Image Credit: NIS America)

The escape room puzzles in Yurukill are similar to those in Zero Escape: The Nonary Games (999 and Virtue’s Last Reward), but are definitely on the less-challenging side. Sometimes you will have multiple rooms you can explore, but the game will tell you where to go first or will highlight the room to go to on the mini-map.

As well, the game has a hint system if you’re struggling with a puzzle you need to solve and the characters will have useful dialogue relating to solving these puzzles. Each puzzle will have 3 hints you can use for no penalty, and you can even repeat them if you still don’t understand them. The hints will also start off by giving you a little hint to solve the puzzle, but by the time you get to the third hint the game will explicitly tell you the solution to the problem. The hint system is handy to use if you’re picking up the game after not playing it for a while or if you just find yourself stuck on a particular puzzle.

Sometimes you may need to present evidence you find in the escape rooms to NPCs to progress, but this is generally very easy from listening to their dialogue.

This little robot wants an item that you find in the escape room!
(Image credit: NIS America)

The escape room themselves are also not overly long. I’d estimate that each of the cutscenes, shoot-‘em-up and escape room segments make up about 1/3 of the game.

There are other minigames in the game as well such as “Maji-Kill Time”, where you need to answer all questions correctly in a cross-examination. There is an “urge to kill” meter which represents “someone’s” urge to kill you. This bar does rise no matter your answer, but as long as you get all answers correct the bar will only fill to 99%. Any wrong answer will cause the bar to immediately reach 100% leading to an immediate game over.

It’s not a hard minigame, and you can save anytime in the game except during the shoot-‘em-up segments. The game will immediately indicate if you selected the correct answer by showing a cut-in picture of the character, so you can reload quickly if you chose the wrong answer. There are also non-battle segments where you direct your aircraft to routes representing answers to questions, similar to Danganronpa’s Psyche Taxi minigame where you had to drive a car to the correct word answer.

There’s also another mini-game called Mind Maze, but again, it’s similar because you control your aircraft in the direction of correct sentences. They’re really just multiple choice questions where you need to choose the correct answer, but reskinned so that you’re answering by directing the aircraft. Although the gameplay in these segments may not be the most exciting, it’s very fun to use the evidence gathered in the escape rooms to solve mysteries and by the end of the chapters you’ll have many eureka moments.

The game doesn’t go back-and-forth between these haphazardly either. Instead, you’d spend about half an hour to an hour viewing cutscenes, then another half an hour to an hour investigating and solving puzzles in an escape room, and then finally a big battle where you use your ship to destroy enemies and bosses in a shoot-‘em-up while solving all of the mysteries of the chapter. Then the gameplay loop repeats in a similar manner.

Overall, Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is a very interesting new IP that combines visual novel, escape room puzzles and even shoot-‘em-up gameplay elements.

If you enjoy narrative-based games, solving logic puzzles in escape rooms, gathering evidence to solve mysteries, and retro arcade-style shooting segments you’ll definitely want to check out this title. It’s a very refreshing take for these kinds of visual novels because rather than have characters killing each other, the focus is instead placed on surviving amusement park areas. The game is similar to Danganronpa, The Nonary Games (999 and Virtue’s Last Reward), AI: The Somnium Files and even Ace Attorney, so if you’re craving something narrative heavy this game is definitely up your alley. It’s not meant to be a graphically impressive game; however, the character and escape room illustrations are very well-done and the game has a one-of-a-kind style.

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