Being able to paint your own picture or write your own story is something that games have always tried to tap into throughout time. It’s not just a matter of choice, but also an appeal to one’s creativity for coming up with a player’s own unique experience. It’s an ever-elusive light at the end of the tunnel that developers will pursue for eternity, and the journey has resulted in some pretty good titles that have memorable narratives. The Yawhg is one of those games, and it’s worth playing through even though a lot of people would think that it’s not even much of a “game” to begin with.
The Yawhg is sort of a hybrid between interactive fiction and role-playing game made by designer Damian Sommer, with gameplay that lets you various decisions made leading to multiple outcomes. It’s a game that features some gorgeous-looking hand-drawn storybook-style art that fans of stuff like Adventure Time and the like can appreciate. Its gameplay may feel uninvolving for most players at first, since it starts of with a ton of text like a Japanese visual novel, but you are then treated to an interesting interactive experience and a multitude of stories that can unfolds with each playthrough.
When you open the game, it starts right away after you press a key to continue from the title screen. You pick at least two characters to play. After picking two characters, you are then greeted with the message stating that the Yawhg is coming in six weeks and no one expects it. It’s not explicitly stated what the Yawhg is, whether it’s a gigantic monster, some natural disaster, or something completely out of this world. All you know is that it’s coming, and there’s nothing you can really do about it. Your chosen character goes about his/her own business throughout those six weeks, and that’s what most of the game is about.
Upon starting a game, you get to a screen that shows a map of the town and which week it is at the moment. On the left, you get to choose which part of town you could go to, like the forest, the tavern, the hospital, the garden, and so on. Everyone else in town doesn’t know about the Yawhg, so your characters can’t really do anything else but go about daily routine. On the right, there are the character stats that can be built up through doing stuff around town, like helping to clean the hospital, hunting in the forest, fighting in the arena, and so on. There are dating simulation games that employ similar role-playing mechanics, also with a time limit wherein taking part in activities around town lets you boost stats and hope to be good enough when the time limit comes up.
The four characters featured in the game are all fundamentally similar, with only cosmetic variations to differentiate between them. This game is meant to be played with two or more players on the same computer, taking turns in making choices for each turn. You could play all four characters yourself, but having other players lets you see and compare each other’s choices throughout the game. After six weeks, the Yawhg comes and lays waste to the town. You must then choose one of the roles available for your character. Based on the chosen role and the character’s stats, you are given a particular ending to end the story in that playthrough.
Unfortunately, this game is very short. Six weeks have never been over so fast before, as if it was actually six days instead. Perhaps it makes for a uniquely poignant and depressing party game that could be played with 3 other players, but you do get to appreciate the fittingly somber music that sets the tone, especially in the ending of every game. For people who are very much into story-driven content, this game is several stories in one.
Due to its brevity and the nature of its gameplay, you may think twice about shelfing out for the full $10 price tag, but it’s worth considering if you have friends to play it with. You can then talk about the choices each of you made in the game and what you take out of it. Replay value may not be totally there, but the stories you come up with can make for memorable experiences.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7/10