The Yawhg Review: Grimm Sims

Written by Tim Latshaw, June 1, 2013, 0 Comments

The Yawhg is born from the Comic vs. Games project of 2012, combining the development skills of Damian Sommer with the artistic talent of Emily Carroll, and woe unto you if you want to try reviewing it like most any other game out there.

The most thrillingly unique experience you’ll have with the game is playing it for the first time, with little-to-no clue what is there or what is to come, and yet a review has to say something to be a review. Therein lies the dilemma.

OK, I can tell you this: The Yawhg is a visual story game akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Up to 4 players can huddle around a keyboard (controllers are accepted but far from necessary) and take turns moving the game’s 4 characters to various locations within an old, fairytale-style city. The city and characters have no names or histories, but are represented with enough artistic distinction and interest that it’s easy for players to conjure their own backstories.

It is made clear outright in the beginning that The Yawhg will come in 6 weeks, unbeknownst to the characters. You might as well be just as clueless, since no indication is ever made of just what this thing is–only that it’s probably bad. With each character’s turn lasting a week, that’s 6 turns to mill about the city, each location presenting a pair of choices that will affect that character’s RPG-like stats.

The text that plays out each turn is snappy yet atmospheric. We’re certainly not in novel territory, but it gets the job done. It’s almost deceptively simple at first glance, really, as there lies a surprisingly deep pond of consequence beneath it all that can ripple from the choices, resulting in the response to one event potentially influencing what another character experiences in an entirely different location. There are times you will feel very much in control of the story, and others when a choice will drag you down a path toward something unintended or unwanted, as fate tends to do. The stats and the story all culminate into an endgame that would be a disservice to delve much into, but the choices here become vital and those previously made during the game do tend to tie into here as well.

The magic of The Yawhg does fade a little after the first or second time it’s played, once it becomes clearer what’s going on and the mechanics under which the game operates are unearthed. But to “master” The Yawhg is missing much of the point. It is the journey as a whole where the strength of the game will be determined for players.

While each game lasts 15-20 minutes at most, there are elements that can make it worth coming back. Carroll’s artwork is perfect for the events that are told within the game, blending the wonder that comes from magical yarns with the bleakness and darkness inherent in the hardships of this world and some of its overpowering forces. In addition to the many avenues down which the story can turn, each character also has his or her own artwork for the two primary choices of each location in the game, lending additional curiosity toward seeing them all. Additional events that take place often do not have their own artwork, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, seeing Carroll’s portrayals of these incidents would be awesome; on the other, some faith should be lent to the text’s ability to power the players’ own mental imagery.

Whether someone finds The Yawhg worth the price of admission may depend on the approach taken toward it. Those who enjoy quickly conquering all a game has to offer and mapping out all its routes in a few days may end up disappointed by the shortness of their endeavors, overall. The Yawhg feels like something more to be savored and taken out from time to time, especially in the presence of others. There’s something classic and wistful about getting everyone huddled around one computer–perhaps it’s the new generation’s version of gathering around a campfire–and bringing The Yawhg out for others to experience its artwork, theme and secrets may make it feel more like a beloved board game or keepsake piece than a more common videogame.

About Tim Latshaw

Tim Latshaw proudly represents the USA's love of snack chips and passive-aggressive self-deprecation, operating out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He loves more pink things than he probably should.