Ok, now you’re probably thinking “What on earth is a calumniation? Is it just weird, filler jargon for a name like Kingdom Hearts: Praise Darkness to the 7th Power or something?” Well, apparently not. According to our trusty old friend, Google, the verb ‘calumniate’ actually means to make defamatory statements or to falsely accuse. And that’s precisely what Yurukill’s all about, proving your innocence… By battling it out in giant mechs and solving escape room puzzles. Yep, exactly how legal systems work.
Putting The ‘Kill’ Into Yurukill
The story of Yurukill features a very interesting spin on the ‘deadly gameshow’ trope. The main character named Sengoku and a handful of others who’ve been falsely accused of murder, awaken on a ship en route to a secluded theme park in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Upon arrival, they’re placed into pairs with the victims of their supposed crimes and are compelled to reach the truth together.
But the big kicker is that these victims are already convinced their partners are the actual culprits. And to make matters worse, they’re readily armed with a ‘Kill’ switch on hand, which can instantly inject a lethal dose of poison into the accused if they conclude that nobody else could’ve done the deed. Talk about judge, jury and executioner, right? Very tense.
As a result, this setup leads to some great emotionally charged scenes, themes, revelations and outright hilarious moments that’ll surely keep those eyes peeled throughout Yurukill’s 15-hour runtime. I also loved how some of the more climactic moments encourage players to tap into the psychology of the conflicted characters, rather than using pure logic to break down their misconceptions. A very cool touch. The dialogue and Japanese-only dub are excellent too. Even though there are some seemingly stereotypical anime characters on display, they often turn out to be much more in-depth than you’d expect.
Bring On The Escape Rooms!
The point-and-click escape room parts follow a similar theme as well. While they may appear pretty simple to solve at first glance, some of these puzzles will leave players scratching their heads like a highly confused Psyduck. Thankfully, no one should end up having a nervous breakdown like our big-beaked friend, since there are 3 helpful tips you can access for each puzzle. Even better is that there are no score penalties or hint coins to be found like in Professor Layton. Just use them if you’re a little stuck, or spam tips until the cows home. I won’t tell if you don’t.
Honestly though, the puzzles themselves are heaps of fun and almost every single type hardly ever repeats either. From rotating blocks to combination locks, magic squares to dividing up shares, there’s a tonne of variety and care in Yurukill’s puzzling flair… Alright, I’ll stop the rhyming. But the best thing is that none of these brain-teasers contain outrageously stupid solutions like some of the riddles in Zero Escape, for instance. As much as I love that series, a few of the answers make me want to double facepalm into oblivion. Good grief.
The High-Octane Thrills of Yurukill
When it comes to the auto-scrolling shoot ’em up side of things however, this is where the intensity really starts to amp up. Particularly on the hardest difficulty called Hell mode, Yurukill suddenly becomes a lot more stressful. And yes, I’m aware there are obviously harder games in the shmup genre than this, but Yurukill will still give veterans a solid run for their money.
Now I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain how these types of games work, as they are pretty simple. Move, hold shoot and fire off a bomb or laser when they’re ready. Then if you can max out your Outburst gauge, the whole screen will be banished to the Shadow Realm. Done. Although, just like any other shoot ’em up or bullet-hell game out there, it quickly becomes an easy-to-use, hard-to-master situation in no time.
Luckily, there are different characters to play as during the story and arcade modes, who all have their own unique attributes. For example, some are generally faster or stronger, while others can shoot in all directions or deal more damage when in close proximity. I found it enjoyable to play through the game on Normal and trial out each pilot, then pick my favourite and replay all the unlocked stages on Hell mode. As the forced switching of characters during the story can be… a little jarring, since the shoot ’em up gameplay only accounts for about 20-25% of the narrative’s length.
A Somewhat Blemished Cake
That being said, there is a cool crossover aspect with the visual novel style gameplay. Because at certain sections during a bullet-hell story segment, the pilot will be asked specific questions about the plot and players can either gain or lose lives depending on their answers. The question segments don’t occur in arcade mode, in case you were wondering. But I honestly believe these parts are great examples of gameplay-story integration. I also really liked the enemy variety and boss encounters, as the pilot often has to fight them multiple times with slightly different attack patterns, which definitely helps keep players on their toes.
What didn’t land as well were some of the presentation elements. The hit detection just felt off at times and it did lead to some rather questionable lives being lost, to say the least. On the Nintendo Switch, the frame rate would frequently drop whenever there were too many objects on screen, as well as throughout the pilot dialogue sections too. And whenever you press the ‘Log’ button to view past communications at any point, the game would lag out so ridiculously hard that the music would freeze and instantly yank my brain out of its sockets. It was that bad.
Fortunately, Yurukill only crashed on me once—during the final boss of all things. It was like my Switch went “Nup, too many pink balls on my screen. Just gonna assume you gave up and died… Oh, you didn’t? Well, that’s a shame. Tell someone who cares.” But for real, a good visual novel needs, nay requires a great soundtrack and Yurukill’s OST is honestly fantastic. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, though I must say almost every track suits the mood and tone of each scene to a T. Give the soundtrack a listen when you can. You won’t regret it.
This unique mix of escape room sim and shoot ’em up gameplay should certainly be on your radar. Yurukill features a highly engrossing story and premise that’ll hook players in from the very start, while the escape room puzzle variety and bullet-hell intensity work extremely well in keeping players right up on their toes. There are a few presentation issues like a bumpy frame rate here and there, laggy menus and the occasional odd hit detection on the Nintendo Switch. But as a whole, Yurukill contains a gripping 15-hour adventure that any video game fan can enjoy.
Yurukill: The Calumniation Games contains an addictive blend of escape room escapades and fast-paced bullet-hell segments that will keep players eagerly awaiting the next corner. The story and character presentation are great too, with only a few technical flaws that get in the way of an otherwise spectacular theme park ride.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by NIS America. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.