Yomi Review (iOS)
Yomi is an iOS version of a popular, card-based fighting game that brings together all of the intricate rules and rock-paper-scissors-based mechanics of its original tabletop game. Yomi, both the iOS version and physical counterpart, comes from David Sirlin, the arcade guru who was responsible for the hit box detection and character balancing put Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. Given Sirlin's history, it would make sense that having well-rounded mechanics are a priority to newcomers and veterans alike. Unfortunately, a thorough, ironed-out fighting system doesn't necessarily mean that it's really enjoyable, especially on the iOS format.
We feel that the fighting game genre has been misrepresented on the iOS format -- many of the fighting games found on the mobile market tend to be quick ports of preexisting, popular fighting games. Many of these titles tend to utilize poor touchscreen controls as a makeshift arcade stick. With Yomi, you don't have to worry about abysmal touchscreen controls ruining your combat. Instead, the expert skills of psychology and intense observation that tend to be found within the professional-level tournament scene of fighting games are at Yomi's forefront. Sirlin achieves this effect with a unique idea that we hardly ever see being associated with the fighter genre -- by combining together traditional fighting game mechanics with the strategic (but also luck-based) conventions of poker. The resulting effect is unlike anything we have ever seen in both the fighting and card game genres.
On the basic level, Yomi includes a high level of skill while incorporating a certain percentage of luck into its gameplay, we cannot reiterate the allusion to poker enough. Yomi consists of 1v1 fights that play similar to an elaborate game of rock-paper-scissors. Each player has a standard deck of 52 playing cards before the match begins. Face cards and your regular assortment of numbered clubs, hearts, etc. are all included in each deck. The difference is that each of these cards has one of three moves listed on it, there are attack cards, throw cards and block/dodge cards. Each of these card types exist in a rock-paper-scissors triangle of existence, where attack cards beat throw cards, throw cards beats blocks/dodges and blocks/dodges beat attack cards.
These three card types are much more detailed and elaborate than the attack>throw>block/dodge>attack triangle of power suggests. Each round consists of both players playing a single card face-down onto the playing field. Both cards are revealed at the same time, resulting in the comparison of card types between the two to determine if a melee hit went through and for how much damage (which is indicated by the number of the winning card during each round). After becoming confident with the system, Yomi's fighting becomes fast-paced, but if you don't plan out each of your moves and follow-ups, you can easily be decimated by both Yomi's online and single player matches (even on the lower difficulty settings). There are many more factors to be considered within the attack-throw-block triangle, and Yomi's tutorial system does its best to explain these numerous details to newcomers. Unfortunately, this tutorial system also reflects our major problem with Yomi: despite how in-depth and thought-out its fighting system is, it's still just a bare bones, digital version of the physical card game, with very little added into it besides online, multiplayer gameplay.
Yomi could have been so much better if it had just a little bit more pizzazz added to its presentation and if its tutorials were more newbie-friendly. There are three sets of tutorials, which mainly consist of rule after rule (and paragraph after paragraph) being listed on the center of the screen. During all of these tutorials, we were hit with paragraphs of explanations with only a few applications of the rules mixed in. There should have been diagrams and lines pointing to the specific statistics/details each rule/tutorial explanation was talking about. When there are a multitude of statistics included on each card and 2-3 sentences of additional information listed, multiplied by the eight cards you can have in your hand at once (with many cards having dual-functions), things get a bit chaotic.
While Yomi's tutorial system explains most of these rules in black and white, there's not much else that it does, and it is quite easy for even dedicated tabletop players to get lost in this large amount of information. For such a detailed fighting system, Yomi's tutorial system is roughly an hour of a rule-by-rule presentation. Given how long its tutorial system is, no one wants to sit through three massive sets of tutorials (Basics, Jokers/Aces and Advanced) that are roughly twenty minutes each, especially on the iOS format, which is intended for a pickup-and-go mentality. On this note, Yomi's tutorial system should have been divided into more categories to help players focus on the specific mechanics that might have been lost in the ocean of info you receive, or video explanations with voice-overs would have done wonders.
Yomi's anime-esque drawings look impressive, but every card is merely a high-def scan of the physical game's decks. While these cards may look crisp on screen, it is certainly underwhelming for those who may have played the original game and wanted to play the iOS version. Magic: The Gathering and many other card games try to integrate animations in order to differentiate its digital gameplay from its tabletop, corporeal counterpart. During each fight, you and your opponent's characters are depicted at the center of the screen. After just a few seconds, you will realize these two characters are just some of the card drawings with the backgrounds removed. For as bright and clean these cards look, this app brings nothing new to the table for owners of the original game.
Given today's standards of iOS titles, Yomi is a tough sell for such a steep price tag. While calculated fighting game enthusiasts and tabletop card game fans may find enjoyment in Yomi, it's still just an intricate version of rock-paper-scissors mixed with the strategic and luck-based aspects of poker. There are plenty of excellent card games and fighting games for players to enjoy on the app market that are much cheaper (and more aesthetically pleasing) than Yomi. As a bonus, there is a roster of additional characters players can unlock for another $10, but since there aren't many differences in choosing different characters (besides statistics distributions of each player's card decks and the visible drawings on each card), it's hard to think of why weren't these other characters already included with such a steep iOS purchase. By the time you pay for Yomi and it's expanded roster, you will have paid enough to buy a few decks of the physical game for you to play on your own. With a very apparent lack of any flair or no fighting animations, Yomi remains a methodical, thought-provoking card game at its core -- it's just that there isn't anything else to really keep you coming back for more.
This review was completed with a purchased copy of Yomi on iOS.