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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Fingerlab
Release Date: Oct. 31, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Yuri'

by Cody Medellin on March 17, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Yuri is a platforming game that requires dexterity, curiosity and the ability to go with the flow to help Yuri overcome obstacles and reach the goal of his mysterious journey.

On iOS, Yuri is something of a success story. Developed completely by two brothers, the game was released to some critical acclaim and lots of positive reviews from fans. Such acclaim isn't easy to come by on a platform that's predominantly free-to-play titles. Porting the game to a different system seems logical, as is the choice to port the game to the Nintendo Switch, where indie games have been rather successful. Does the game thrive on the Switch? That's a different story.

Unlike many other modern games, there's no real story. The opening cut scene shows you waking up from a dream and the title of the game, along with the character's jump calls, and you learn that you're playing as someone named Yuri. Beyond that, the rest of the tale is left up to your interpretation.

On the surface, the game looks like a standard exploratory platformer. There are quite a few pathways to go through, but only a few of them will actually lead to the level exit. There are no points to be gained and no real enemies to kill, but you have plenty of orbs to collect. Yuri can die with just one hit from a spike or dangerous creature, but he has infinite lives and a fairly generous checkpoint system to use through 17 stages.

What makes this game immediately different from its predecessors is that it is based on momentum, which is immediately recognized when you see that your character is always on his bed, which has wheels attached. As such, you might have to leap up inclines, but slopes and flat surfaces help you zip across levels at a rapid clip.

There's a base for a good platformer here, but Yuri commits too many mistakes for any of this to become apparent. The first issue has to do with the color scheme. For the most part, you can stand on black objects, but that thought gets quickly dashed when you see that the foreground is also black and can be passed through. Pits are also black, so you won't really know that you're falling to your doom until you see that there's a gradient fade on the surface. This also becomes problematic later on, when you jump on another vehicle and realize that once passable objects collide, you'll fail if you hit it. For many, this inability to immediately spot what is and isn't safe ground is a big platforming sin.

The second issue is with the camera, which is inept at giving the player enough information to progress through a level. You'll see this often when you try to jump, as you'll often have to blindly leap off slopes and hope there's solid ground beneath you, turning the game into one where trial-and-error is your only viable strategy. There is one particular chase sequence where this issue comes to a head, as a large boulder is chasing you and you can get so far ahead that you'll need to blindly platform because waiting to show up on-screen will result in you getting crushed. It might be forgivable if the sequence were short, but considering how it takes over most of a level, the slow camera become a big source of frustration.

The third issue is with the unpredictable physics system. For example, jumping in the middle of a web won't make you bounce as high as hitting the edge. Some of those bridges might have large bumps, but you'll be able to ride on them cleanly while smooth plains will cause you to stop if there's so much as a pebble. Sometimes, you'll be able to stand perfectly still on a surface, and other times, being on a moving object means you'll constantly have to shift back and forth to not fall into an abyss. In other words, prepare to constantly correct yourself, as you'll never be able to predict if you're safe.

There are other issues that rob Yuri of any fun. Should you get stuck somewhere, the game lacks the ability to restart a level, so you can either quit the game and start over, or you can select an older stage and pause again to select the last level you were on. When starting from a checkpoint, there are a few seconds when you can't control Yuri, sometimes ruining moving platform patterns. Then there's the fact that you need to collect 1,500 orbs before you can progress in the final level and see the ending, something you're not informed of until you reach that final level. That means having to explore every nook and cranny of a level, which goes against the nature of you being on a wheeled bed with unpredictable physics. It is enough of an obstacle that you're sapped of your motivation to collect everything that you need to see the finale.

Presentation-wise, the high points are overshadowed by the title's shortcomings. As mentioned earlier, the aesthetic causes a constant issue where you're unsure of what is stable ground and what should be avoided, but it makes everything look pretty. The black platforms, creatures, and foreground elements make for a good contrast to Yuri and his bed, which are completely bathed in white. That contrast is more pronounced when set against the backgrounds of various colors, relieving the game of being as bleak-looking as something like Limbo and making it a little more cheery, like Badlands. There's not much to look at in terms of special effects and other visual tricks, but the game holds a steady frame rate from beginning to end.

On the audio side, the effects are fine, and the voices are minimal, but you'll sometimes hear Yuri shout his own name while jumping. It isn't a cute thing to hear, but you will be glad he doesn't do it often enough to become annoying. The only other voice sample you'll hear is when Yuri falls to his death, but you'll be amused at how it sounds similar to Luigi's own death scream. Elsewhere, the music is nice, but it doesn't play often enough since silence is often your main soundtrack. When it does play, you'll notice that it doesn't correspond to the scene, since death doesn't reset it. In particularly devious sections, that means it can play completely and then stop, even if the intended section hasn't been completed yet, robbing the scene of the intended emotional effect in the process.

Yuri isn't great, no matter how you spin it. The physics system actively works to make platforming unbearable, and the ability to read the environment is sacrificed in the name of making things look good. The constant issues with the general mechanics and push for methodical searching, despite having mechanics that prioritize speed, make the player want to quit despite the game's relatively short length. With a glut of better platformers on the Switch system, there's not much reason to spend time on Yuri.

Score: 4.5/10

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