This intriguing creation from composer David Su isn’t what can be traditionally described as a game. Yi and The Thousand Moons is essentially a music video that has been created to have gameplay elements. It is very short and tells a simple story, providing an interesting artistic experience but certainly not something that will appeal to many.
As a concept, Yi is a good idea, but the creators clearly have minimal knowledge of game design or coding and the controls are all extremely clunky. The character controls handle like a train and although there is relatively minimal interaction required from the player it’s still a point of frustration and the stark contrast between the music and the extremely rough edges of the rest of the game feels very odd. The story is extremely linear and the game can be completed in under half an hour with the only things slowing you down being the unwieldy and temperamental controls.
There is no failure state and no challenge in Yi, so it is very much supposed to be a relaxed, artistic experience rather than an actual game. In a sense, this means that the gameplay is not the focus and does not matter as much but it is disappointing that such a short game is so poorly constructed and feels so lacklustre to play through. It feels very much as though the game itself was an afterthought and it would absolutely have benefited from having some more time spent on the design of the product as a whole rather than the focus apparently purely being on the music. In neglecting all the components of the experience as a whole has suffered greatly, which is a shame when it’s clearly a lovely concept and could have potentially been wonderful to playthrough.
Visually, Yi is also lacking. The environments you encounter look and feel very empty. There is little attempt to create a world that you feel any sort of connection to. While the premise of the story is that the world is being engulfed by darkness it’s still necessary to build something for the player to see and understand, rather than presenting you with a mountain, a basic village and a flat, featureless brown landscape. It’s difficult to build a connection to this bland world with very few features. The character and object models are all extremely basic and virtually the entire game appears to be created from pre-made assets. These assets are cobbled together in passable fashion but at numerous points in the game, it feels as though things have literally be shoved together with glue. The animations are stuttery and not nice to look at, which just contributes to a rather amateur graphical experience.
The soundtrack to this game is its main feature and the part the all the work clearly went into. The music feels a bit disappointing in places but overall it is wonderful to listen to. The only parts where it falls down are a couple of points where the vocals are slightly out of key with one another. It seems a shame that the soundtrack has had so much love put into it and conveys a lot of emotion, but the rest of the game fails in delivering what the music is trying to achieve.
An interesting project and one that is perhaps worth investigating if you enjoy short, artistic games, but with it lacking in so many areas it’s difficult to say that it’s really worth the five and a half dollars. The soundtrack is available as a separate item but it’s difficult to really recommend this game to anyone other than the truly curious.