Andrew in Steamland: Yohjo Dissimulator
Yohjo Simulator (not to be confused with Youjo Senki, an anime I reviewed earlier this year that should be above such comparisons, nor Yandere Simulator, which, although of similar quality, will never be released) is a game so bad, it was pulled from the Steam storefront by Sekai Project. In all fairness, that wasn’t the only reason, though the stated explanation – that a scene of a man standing over an unconscious girl lying next to her panties unexpectedly slipped through quality control – isn’t terribly convincing. Sekai Project, I remind you, published Nekopara under the fig leaf that the uncensor patch is hosted on the developer’s website, completely separate from Steam. Apparently, any amount of explicit, depraved sex with childlike catgirl slaves is acceptable, but the implication of sex will land you in hot water.
The game was eventually allowed back on Steam, although that wouldn’t have made any difference to me. A fan sent me the game in the short window before it was removed, and I opened it for a few minutes before deciding there wasn’t enough content to warrant a review, then shelved it for a couple years. It wasn’t until very recently that I fired it up on a whim and discovered the hidden technique that transforms Yohjo Simulator from an ordinary walking sim into something bordering on entertaining. So, let me apologize to my benefactor and take you on a magical tour through my experience with this game.
This is normal.
I was greeted with a pile of corpses surrounded by trash. In search of the source of these bodies, I directed the eponymous little girl onto the sidewalk, where she stepped on an errant umbrella and was launched down the street. This proved to be a fortunate development, since it placed her right under a pipe that ejected additional bodies into the pile every few seconds.
Sorry, but you’re not going to eat Goat Simulator’s lunch unless you add some wacky achievements related to finding this.
There are three basic actions available to the player in Yohjo Simulator: walking, jumping, and bowing. To the novice, it might seem that bowing, with its tendency to send physics props flying, is the primary tool for interacting with the world. Running while mashing the bow button turns the player character into a cyclone of destruction, which is amusing for a minute or two. But there is another way of experiencing the game, a powerful and arcane technique without which this review wouldn’t exist: wall jumping.
Yes, the blur is part of the game, and no, it doesn’t look better in motion.
By standing next to a wall, jumping, and pressing the jump button again in midair, it’s possible to send the girl bounding even higher, reaching places that usually wouldn’t be accessible. I say “it’s possible” because this is less a rule of the game than a whim, and whether the girl wall jumps, slides up the wall diagonally, or does nothing at all depends on her position and orientation relative to the wall, the angle the control stick is held at, the timing of the button press, and whether the player has the blessing of the dark god Huitzilopochtli. It doesn’t feel good, and I suspect it may not actually be something intentionally programmed into the game, but rather some strange emergent behavior resulting from unforeseen interactions between the terrain’s chaotic collision detection and every single model’s inclination to do whatever the hell it feels like, without reference to code or man or God.
Additionally, there’s no immediately obvious practical application for wall jumping. In fact, this game suffers from a general lack of things to do. There’s just one map, no health or stated objectives, nothing to pick up or collect, and I’m pretty sure only about half the soundtrack ever plays in-game. The girl just runs, jumps, and bows. I wondered: given these constraints, could I break the game?
Nothing to see here. Just a bunch of clones doing a dance routine while floating a foot above an alleyway roof.
My aimless wandering brought me in front of a shack covered in dancing men strategically placed about a foot above the roof, lest their feet contact a piece of physics and send them flying into oblivion. I majestically mashed myself into a corner and hammered the jump button until the girl alighted next to the dancers. And then I turned around and realized what I must do.
Behold the infinite grandeur of nature.
Though it isn’t apparent from street level, the entire map is surrounded by an ocean. While I can’t say why, I can tell you this: only a select few portions of it are bounded by invisible walls. Falling outside the level is as simple as walking forward. Getting back is slightly more complicated, by which I mean it’s impossible.
I’m going ghost!
That’s the world up there. Down in the ocean, there are no walls, only curiously solid water. Unable to go back, I had to forge onward and chart this strange new world. I directed the girl into the surf and she swiftly vanished beneath the waves and poorly tuned motion blur.
I knew it! The game was an adaptation of Matthew chapter 14 all along!
The expedition didn’t last long. After a minute or so, the ocean ended. You may have noticed that it has a distinct edge a couple screenshots up: that isn’t the draw distance, but the place where the game’s creator couldn’t be bothered copy-pasting more water. My options had narrowed from run-jump-bow to run, and all I had left was to find if I could remove even that final shred of interactivity. Once I passed that aquatic threshold, I would be quite literally off the map.
Judging by her expression, this may be an act of mercy.
A few steps took the girl out of the water and into the cold clutches of gravity. There was no game here, or even the memory of a game. Like a reverse Icarus, she plunged into the chthonic sun hidden beneath the waves. At this point, I lost all control, save the ability to rotate her and to slightly zoom in the camera by pressing the crouch button. This last item didn’t change anything, as crouching had no purpose before.
The jagged bits are the water seen from below. You can see how it’s laid out in a rough grid, and also how the game wants to die.
Everything was out of my hands. There was nothing left to do but sit back and see what sort of failure state I would arrive at and when. In some games, venturing too far beyond where you’re expected to be causes the player character to respawn in a location that’s supposed to exist. Of course, most games can’t be broken as easily as choosing a direction and walking, so I ruled out that possibility right away. What happened instead is a bit more confusing.
Looking down and looking up. Note how the lighting engine has the soul of a movie poster artist and has segregated the world into cyan and orange halves.
After several minutes, both girl and city vanished from my view and the entire world was suffused in a soft orange glow. The game no longer accepted inputs, and even attempting to pause it had no effect. With no way to return to the title screen except closing the program entirely and launching a fresh instance, I was stuck. The only sign that the game hadn’t crashed was the music, which continued to obliviously chirp away, leaving me with what amounted to the world’s worst custom Winamp setup.
I’ve dealt with a lot of games that tried to fight me. Revolution 60 passive-aggressively lurched from one section to another before finally throwing itself off a cliff at the last second; Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back fought a scorched earth campaign that successfully prevented me from making any progress whatsoever. But Yohjo Simulator is the only one I can think of that just stopped. The game recognized what I was doing to it and knew, with the dim self-awareness found in some species of lesser ape and residents of St. Louis, that it was wrong.
I forced the game to shut down and thought about what I’d done.