This week, a new milestone was hit. Yono and the Celestial Elephants became the first game to be released on a subscription based platform on day one of it’s full release. Utomik had the pleasure of having the game available to them, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to play it. There are very few games that feature elephants, even though they are in the top tier of excellent animals. Dumbo, Babar and Elmer are all wonderful elephant characters, but none have really ventured away from their usual media. Having grown up with the vibrant characters in Humongous Entertainment’s games, I’m surprised they never offered an elephantine lead, but I’m glad to see indie developer Neckbolt picking up the slack with their game.
Something you absolutely need in a children’s game is a a vibrant, colourful user interface. Anything bright and beautiful will always appeal to, not only the children playing, but also their parents who are buying the game. This seems to be the forté of Neckbolt, as Yono is absurdly pretty. It looks as though it was torn straight out of a fairy tale, and it’s positively gorgeous. The vivid colours present in every little bit of the world, from the characters to the towns are combined with some wonderful illustration. The drawings, especially of Yono, are so adorable and cutesy that it’s impossible to not fall in love with the characters and environment.
All good kids games, from my experience, needed some strong puzzling to ensure they retain interest. They can’t be action packed, gory or contain a complex story, as it may not be appropriate or appreciated by children. In order to keep the player engaged in the game though, a few decently difficult puzzles need to be in place so the game is challenging, fun and engaging. Yono has these in abundance. Some are occasionally a tad buggy, but on the whole, the puzzles are really fun to play through. They give you the chance of getting stuck in some really challenging conundrums. Not too tricky so that children will get stuck in them, but tricky enough so that they’ll need to use their brains.
A Few Snags
As with all indie games, it’s tough to be able to ensure a fully rounded game. Neckbolt have done really well with the majority of the game, but something a little lacking in Yono and the Celestial Elephants is the shortness of the game. Admittedly, I’m an adult, so you’d expect me to be able to complete the game in a quicker timeframe than the target audience, but it still felt a little short. The Humongous Entertainment games took hours and hours to complete, but Yono only took me around four hours to 100%. It has some fun puzzles, some brilliant visuals and a fantastic soundtrack, but it is short. I could imagine even children would be able to see it through in less than a day.
The other slightly off thing with Yono is something that all developers struggle with – fixing all the bugs. Yono hasn’t got many, but due to the shortness of the game, they do feel a bit prominent. Clipping issues and a major glitch that required a reload would normally be forgivable, but they stick in the mind because the game was quite short. I think my playthrough was moderately unlucky, as no-one I knew encountered the same bugs on their games.
The Final Word
It’s a bit short, and perhaps not a game that adult gamers should play, but Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a brilliant kids game. The puzzles are perfectly crafted to be a challenge, with a couple of different ways around them, and coupled with the story-book feel of the game, it’s a wonderful experience.