YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is a Surrealist Adventure – PAX West 2018
Growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, I would always play video games with my younger siblings and dreamed of one day developing my own. However, little did I know at the time, a few towns over brothers Brian and Andrew Allanson were busy making this dream their reality. Taking inspiration from surrealist writings, classic video games, and occult stories, the Allanson brothers formed Ackk Studios and subsequently created YIIK: A Postmodern RPG.
YIIK follows the story of Alex Eggleston; a teenager in the late 90’s trying to figure out the cause of the disappearance of his close friend, Sammy Pak. As he slowly starts to unravel a mystery he realizes that much stranger happenings are occurring in his small Jersey town. I played a demo separate from the main game that was set in a town called Cape June, which was full of zombie-like residents who loved fire; and as I ventured closer to the coast I found mermaids that were both friendly and hostile. The layout of Cape June felt similar to a town that could be found in Pokemon or Earthbound, and YIIK’s narrative and character designs worked in tandem to give the game a quirky vibe which really drew me in while playing the game.
YIIK pays homage to early PlayStation games with its polygonal 3D art style, but maintains a unique look by utilizing cartoon character designs during certain cutscenes. This combination of different visual styles lends a large amount of personality to the game. The characters in YIIK reminded me of characters in Paper Mario due to the game’s combination of turn-based and action RPG mechanics, and subsequently, each attack a character inflicts is linked to a particular mini game. For instance, the main character, Alex, primarily throws vinyl records at the whacky enemies, so his mini game features a rhythm segment during which the player taps the X Button alongside a record that’s playing. This feature keeps every battle encounter feeling fresh and engaging, however in my demo the battles were few and far between, but I still felt like the pacing felt good, especially since it was interspersed between conversations with NPCs and smaller puzzles. Each enemy in YIIK is a beautiful combination of cute and disturbing. One character in particular was a mermaid whose breasts had been replaced with crying faces. Suffice to say, the designs of the in-game enemies are incredibly diverse and interesting.
The co-director behind the game, Andrew Allanson, was heavily inspired by surrealist authors such as Murakami and David Foster Wallace, and the influence of their strange and eerie writing is quite apparent in the dialogue within YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. During development the team referenced their personal dream journals as a creative resource which no doubt is one of the reasons why the game feels so absurd at times.
Fans of Undertale’s chip-tune musical style will be glad to hear that Toby Fox has contributed to the soundtrack of YIIK. In addition to Fox’s contributions, Hiroki Kikuta, the music producer behind Secret of Mana, will be collaborating on the game’s original soundtrack. Overall, chip-tunes served as the foundation of the music in my demo, albeit with moody jazz inspirations, and it all felt as equally interesting as the rest of the game. After talking to the Ackk Studios team at PAX West 2018, it was clear that working alongside these industry veterans was a huge accomplishment for the dev team.
For those looking for a quirky, spooky, and melancholic RPG then I’d highly recommend YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, which should be releasing in the coming months on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch. Keep an eye out for the upcoming release date trailer on Ackk Studios’ official website or Twitter.
Follow all of OK Beast’s PAX West 2018 coverage here.