Roguelike about Japanese folklore that feels like it’s from ancient times.
The latest title to round out the year of the roguelike on Switch is Yodanji, coming from RPG publisher KEMCO. It doesn’t get much more retro than graphics that look straight off of my Commodore 64. We’ve had some good minimalist roguelikes on Switch in recent months but unfortunately the quaint graphics are overshadowed by confusing and not so much fun gameplay.
Yodanji was definitely developed for the casual gamer looking for a light snack in between much heartier games. From the beginning, the purpose of the gameplay is to crawl a procedurally generated dungeon in order to expand your collection of yokai, which begins with a choice of 3. Three scrolls are hidden within a dungeon and it’s your job to track them down with your yokai without becoming lunch for enemies that lay within. Once you’ve found the scrolls you’ll be rewarded with new yokai for future runs.
Starting with the tutorial is pretty much required if you want to reduce the amount of frustration you will incur. The controls are slightly counter-intuitive even with the control legend constantly shown on screen. It’s not immediately clear but the game is turn based. Each movement or attack that takes place is considered a turn and as such enemies will not perform actions until the user has made a decision. Unlike traditional RPGs, the attack is not performed through the press of a button or a menu choice. but instead by walking into an enemy. Once beside a enemy the attack is chosen by double pushing into the foe. The only way you have an indication of the result is through a text based description at the top of the screen.
Items can be found within the dungeons to increase stats and to replenish health. A small inventory system allows a few items to be carried with you for future needs. Just don’t be too hasty when making your selections, as you could easily make the mistake of using the item instead of banking it if you're pushing the button too fast.
The draw for Yodanji is to see how long you can last in a dungeon. After you’ve collected all of the yokai in Hunt mode you’ll be left with Challenge mode which is just an endless dungeon. Each run is tracked and recorded and assigned a score so that you can either challenge your own top scores or check out the global rankings to see where your skill level lies.
While there certainly will be a market of people that will enjoy Yodanji I think that selection of people will be fairly narrow. In a year that has seen dozen of roguelikes becoming increasingly popular, one from a text based era may have some issues finding a following. For me personally, although I have enjoyed many of the recently released permadeath titles, the prospect of the collection of yokai just wasn’t enough to overlook the minimalist gameplay and 80s inspired graphic design.