Prior to playing YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG for the second time, I had to complete a lot of long, complex forms. They were the type that our lovely bureaucratic society loves to churn out; the sort of forms that ask for lots of very specific information while also depriving you of any actual chance the explain yourself.
They were the type of forms that make you want to set them on fire and then toss yourself into the blazing inferno. Why am I mentioning this? Well, once I began playing YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG immediately afterward, I realized that I was actually more engaged ticking boxes and recalling long-forgotten dates than I was playing a game allegedly meant to entertain.
I am sure most of you are asking ‘what is YIIK’? YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG describes itself as a ‘post-modern RPG’, which immediately set off alarm bells in my head. Media that declares itself as post-modern usually ends up as a pretentious mess that prefers to sneer at its audience rather than engage them. Still, thought I, I have enjoyed some postmodern indy titles in the past. By some, I pretty much just mean Undertale, but I strove on trying to keep an open mind.
The next alarm bell that rang occurred upon opening the game. I noticed that the graphics settings had only one option: post-modern. Oh, aren’t you so bloody clever? What an absolutely hilarious and meta joke you have for us silly players, YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG. This trend continued into the opening ‘character creation’ segment, with the game allowing you to name yourself, your best friend, your nerdy friend, your friend who is nothing like you, a girl you like etc. Immediately afterwards, the game tells you that all those choices were meaningless, and you are called Alex and not the piss-take name you no doubt chose. Well, thanks for wasting my time and efforts YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG, it’s a really good idea to begin your game by disappointing the player in a tedious manner.
Moving on, what is the game actually about? As previously mentioned, you do not play as ‘Arseface’ or ‘Titty Licker’, but instead as Alex, a liberal arts student slacker who has just returned to his home town. He is a self-righteous, snobbish twat, and someone who is far too insecure to recognize how truly pathetic he is. Annoyingly, I kept feeling that I was somehow supposed to relate to the man, that YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG meant for me to project onto this unlikeable loser.
Sadly, this just doesn’t work as most of us really aren’t as big pricks as Alex is, nor as completely inept at socializing or talking to ladies. The only thing that I liked about his character is that he resembles fellow n3rdabl3 writer Josh Vale, and so every time he got slapped by a piece of excrement I could imagine it was happening to Josh instead.
Anyway, Alex is soon led to a hotel with strange metaphysical properties. He meets Sammy, who is your box-standard anime magical ditzy girl. Sammy is kidnapped by ethereal beings, and so Alex must team up with a bunch of other losers in order to find out what has happened to her.
Most of the other characters are also fairly unlikeable, though not to the same degree as our hipster protagonist. Vella, a young twenty-something who works at an arcade, is your typical female character written by a nerd who has had no contact with women besides anime and their own mum. She is stronger and smarter than all the boys, and nearly every line is her rolling her eyes at one of the men before verbally putting them down.
It is this combination of total competency and hostility that makes characters like Vella so cringeworthy to me, as you can really feel the author’s own insecurities surrounding women emerge. Now, I don’t know either of the Allanson brothers, the developers behind YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG, personally, so perhaps they get laid more often than eggs at a farm, but characters like Vella still create this pathetic impression and it taints the overall experience.
Another irritating character is Rory, an isolated misanthrope with new-agey ideas about astral projection. While this is bad enough on its own, he is also completely unable to act offensively in combat, since he is a pacifist. From a gameplay perspective, this is extremely annoying, but worse it also makes the player dislike him at a character level. We’re not fighting people here Rory, we are fighting living pieces of shit that are belching all over you!
I’m sure even a Quaker would pick up a rifle if sentient pieces of shit were emerging from the latrine to eat their family. About the only character I enjoyed was Michael, a young, arrogant teenager who continually, unwittingly embarrassed himself. There was some okay humor around him, and he had an energy to him that the other characters seemed to lack.
The gameplay is functional if fairly unoriginal. It is a classic turn-based RPG, where you choose a move for each of your characters and then the enemy does the same in return. Along with your basic attacks, each character has their own special moves that use up PP. So far, so standard. The main difference between this system and most turn based RPGs is that each move comes with its own quick-time event.
Yes, the innovation of YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG’s combat is quick time events. Equally, every time an enemy attacks you, there is another quick-time event that allows your character to either defend or dodge the move. When an enemy has a move that attacks your entire party simultaneously, you have to do a separate quick-time event for each character. This gets incredibly tedious, especially when facing three enemies that all use area of effect attacks.
This makes combat a complete chore, and I found myself just zoning out whenever I was forced into it. You cannot complain that YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG isn’t consistent, however, as the leveling up system is just as frustrating as the combat. Rather than the usual RPG affair of leveling up in a menu or just after combat, in YIIK to level up you need to gain experience through fighting, find a phone, go into your ‘Mind Space’, go to the leveling up arena, approach 4 different doors and select a stat you want to improve, go back to those doors to confirm your stat, then finally pay a talking bird experience points to actually level up. It takes a surprising amount of time considering that leveling up mechanics have been streamlined since the bloody 1990s.
Now, I will say that the presentation in YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG was pretty well done. The game has a nice stylised appearance, which once again shows that a lot of indy developers are smart enough to know their graphical limitations and create something appealing anyway. The visuals also match the story quite nicely, giving an appropriate anime dressing to a strange and surreal story. The music is another highlight, with a wide variety of songs that are memorable and fitting to each location.
The character design, which I sometimes found a bit too quirky for my tastes, is at least varied and easily recognizable, and most of the enemies were fun if a little bland.
Overall, I would say that YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG is an indie title you can quite confidently skip. It is trying to be a post-modern adventure title like Undertale but without the unique story, fun characters and setting, or the interesting gameplay. It seems to aspire to be art but it is lacking in its execution, which means that any of its meta-messages are just lost in a maelstrom of niggling issues and frustrating features.
If you enjoy postmodern stories but are one of the three people not to have played Undertale yet, go do that. If you are an aspiring indy game developer, play Undertale and YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG back to back in order to compare how to make an effective game with how definitely not to.