Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a tale of charm and beauty told through the trunk of the titular Yono, the Celestial Elephant who falls to the world from the sky and instantly begins to search for adventure. The world in which this adventure takes place is vibrant and interesting, detailing a civilisation that deifies elephants as a species but also takes on a darker tone as you delve further into the story. Filled with thought provoking puzzles, engaging characters and striking environments, Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a game that might just look like a cute caper, but has the ability to draw you in and keep you wanting more.
The gameplay offers an adventure in almost child-like wonder as you explore the world from the perspective of Yono, and learn about life among humans which he has never experienced. The sense of wonder is also mixed with curiosity as you discover what makes elephants so special for the people you encounter and what it means for them to have Yono arrive. As he is still quite a young elephant Yono must learn how people live their lives and occasionally lend a helping trunk. From Monks to Bonewights, undead people who also inhabit the world, there is plenty of personality to be found.
The simplicity of the adventure offered by Yono and the Celestial Elephants is something that will benefit both younger and older gamers. From puzzles that involve sliding boxes onto pressure buttons to later situations that require you to find water and spray it on a wheel to turn platforms and explore hidden areas, the offerings of adventure will appeal to a broad audience and ensure that no one is overwhelmed by complex mechanics or suffer through difficult enemy encounters. Keeping things simple in this way creates a relaxed environment where you can take your time and really traverse the world at your own pace.
The combat is also straightforward and while it doesn’t offer a challenging battle system laden with different types of attacks and combinations that can sometimes lead to confusion in games, it plays to an authentic feeling of controlling an elephant by letting you headbutt your way through enemies and triumphantly blow your trunk as a victory march. While it certainly doesn’t sound so impressive just reading about it, there is actually a feeling of satisfaction gained from charging at an enemy and knocking it out of the way. Combine this with one of the spike pits you can come across in the dungeon areas and it makes for a fun activity.
Of course, the smaller things that are a part of Yono and the Celestial Elephants really add to the experience of playing the game, from picking up animals to wear on your head, blowing air at pinwheels to make them spin and a personal favourite, the in game fast travel system which puts you in a little train cart. These details just provide even more charm to an already adorable adventure. Of course, another thing that provides extra fun is being able to customise Yono. Each town or village area has an equivalent to a barber shop where you can buy a new skin and really make the personality of the young protagonist shine through. Want to see what a checkered elephant looks like with a hedgehog on his head while you run past spike traps? Wonder no more.
There is something else that occurs in this game as well that transforms it from the cute little experience to something that could possibly be more sinister. As you learn about the missing princess from a very anxious queen, you also learn of the plight of the inhabitants of Freehaven, the robotic race called The Mekani. These robots are intelligent and enterprising as you learn of how they evolved to be able to think and build for themselves.
Soon you uncover that the monarchy of Knightingale Kingdom are responsible for limiting available resources being traded with Freehaven and thus stagnating their production and halting the Mekani from advancing further. This darker undertone might seem like another part of the story to flesh out the game, but it actually goes deeper, teaching the audience what can happen in a kingdom filled with strife, and what consequences might befall those helping out the ones in need. It certainly adds a layer of versatility to Yono and the Celestial Elephants that you might not fully appreciate in the beginning.
Ultimately, Yono and the Celestial Elephants is a wonderful adventure and a pleasure to play. Be prepared to fall in love with Yono as he learns, grows and ultimately, discovers the destiny of a Celestial Elephant. This is a game that is not to be overlooked by anyone who enjoys adventure, puzzles and a truly unique story. I would rate this game a 9/10 and highly recommend it to all.
In order to write this review I received a review copy from the game’s creator Niklas Hallin. This had no impact on my review or my opinions. If you like what Niklas has created, or enjoyed reading about this game, please follow him on Twitter @HallinNiklas as he created this game from start to finish on his own.