YAKARI: The Mystery of Four Seasons, developed by french company Anuman interactive, is a side-scrolling platformer game based on the cartoon of the same name. As Yakari, the eponymous young protagonist, it is your job to traverse differing landscapes and figure out the meaning behind this sudden convergence of season. The story in the game is poorly written in my opinion, as it assumes that you are already completely familiar with Yakari and the other characters, tossing a few text boxes at you and a still image before the level begins. This really isn’t helpful to the player when the narrative involves abnormal ongoings such as a rabbit literally rowing a boat into the past. It reminds me of the old N64 days when developers would use a few still images as a stand in for the lack of FMV. Not acceptable in this day and age.
From a gameplay standpoint, the game has you running from left to right, collecting enough pemmican bags and then reaching a golden eagle to progress. There are also stars in the level and a selection of secret items to collect, spanning a few alternating pathways in order for 100% completion, but these feel largely obligatory and there is no incentive to do so, other than increasing your point score and replenishing the odd heart. Perhaps some sort of reward for scouring every level would be beneficial to replay value. The enemies in the game, whilst in variety in some cases (with one level featuring some pretty cool dinosaurs for example), all follow the same pattern, and require no skill or logic to avoid. Yakari himself controls smoothly in fairness, but there are no combat mechanics in place allowing you to attack the enemies or stomp on them (a la Mario), so I found myself just running and jumping, completing a level in a matter of seconds. The level design is also extremely samey, despite the changes in ‘seasons’, with most stages consisting of a few floating platforms to ascend and then the odd rope to climb or spike to avoid.
The music and sound effects used in YAKARI are awful. Aside from the tune played in the menu screen (which itself gets pretty annoying), not one track feels particularly fitting for the game or its environments, with most of them feeling better suited to a make-up tutorial on Youtube. The sounds used when collecting stars are also painfully stock and cringe-worthy, and I found myself actively avoiding the stars by the end. There is an option to turn off the audio in the settings however, which is a bonus. Perhaps the creators were aware of the stock garbage they had burdened the player with.
The visuals in the game are mediocre. Nothing is very memorable or unique, and the way the sprites are drawn makes it difficult to tell where precisely you are landing. This subsequently results in the hit detection being slightly off kilter, something that is paramount in this genre of game. YAKARI’s usage of the 3DS’s unique gimmick is a positive however. The crisp cartoon images have a lovely layered effect that makes them pleasing to the eye, and there is also a gallery feature in the menu that allows you to go back through the stills and admire their stereoscopic beauty. The levels also have satisfactory effects, and it is admirable that the developers tackled this, as you can only go so far with a 3D effect in a 2D platforming game.
YAKARI is obscenely short in length, and this is even more so outrageous when you factor in the £25 price tag, and the fact that the incentive to replay the stages is non-existent. The game has only 8 levels, and it took me 47 minutes to complete (and that’s going by my daily log records which factors in idle time, so I’m quite sure that you could have this game done in 30 minutes). I’m not saying that games with short length are bad by any stretch of the imagination, and in honestly the shortness of this game was a blessing due to its mediocrity, but this amount of content has so business being priced at any more that £3-5. It really is a mystery.
To conclude, YAKARI: The Mystery of Four Seasons is a thankfully obscure game that is boring and repetitive to play, which is quite the feat considering the experience is over in less than an hour. There are some saving graces, such as the lovely 3D effect and the smooth control, but the lack of imaginative level design and hefty price tag make this mystery one that is better left unsolved.
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