Yurukill Mimics Danganronpa and Zero Escape Without Understanding Them

The mystery/shoot-em-up game lacks the cohesion of its influences.

Yurukill: The Calumniation Games Danganronpa and Zero Escape inspiration is palpable and earnest, but it lacks the connective tissue that made those games great. G.rev’s play on the death games and murder mysteries it draws from is compelling when its best ideas are on the table. However, the minutiae in between the broad strokes is where it fails to live up to the games that act as a clear springboard. In attempting to carve out its own space among the greats of mystery and escape room visual novels, it instead digs itself into holes its writing can’t pull it out of. The result is a mystery game with flashes of greatness but a full package that feels disjointed and contrived.

Set in the remote theme park of Yurukill Land, Yurukill stars five teams of two individuals: one Prisoner and one Executioner. Each prisoner claims to have been framed for a crime they didn’t commit, and is told by the enigmatic but charming hostess Binko that if they can make their way through each attraction they’ll be cleared of all charges. But they also have to appease their Executioner, who is able to activate a poisonous injection collar around their necks should they feel so compelled.

Yurukill Mimics Danganronpa and Zero Escape Without Understanding Them

Each pair is dropped off at a specific attraction that mirrors the crimes the Prisoners were imprisoned for. As I made my way through the fairly simple (sometimes tiresomely so) escape rooms, it became clear each Executioner was somehow affected by the crimes the Prisoners were accused of. It led to interesting drama, but was also the beginning of where Yurukill’s writing and mechanics fail.

Yurukill feels like it’s pulling elements from Danganronpa’s debate-driven investigation and Zero Escape’s escape rooms and switching between them at a moment’s notice. So as I unearthed clues that pointed to my character’s guilt through the escape room’s puzzles, I would enter a segment called “Maji-Kill Time,” in which the Executioner asks questions I had to rebut as I argued my innocence.

And yet, after doing multiple segments across the whole game, the answers I chose never seemed to make a difference in the flow of the conversation. It was as if I was just being handed multiple-choice questions to amp up the drama, as my Executioner’s “urge to kill” rose every time regardless of my answer. They never did activate my collar, but the game really wanted me to think that was a possibility, even though the actual writing of the conversations didn’t seem to create a believable back and forth.

Yurukill Mimics Danganronpa and Zero Escape Without Understanding Them

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This lack of clarity in its writing comes to a head at the end of each attraction. Yurukill attempts to differentiate itself from other games of its kind by making you unravel all the evidence you’ve gathered to prove your innocence in a bullet hell shoot-em-up. But watching the game try to reconcile this contrivance was the beginning of Yurukill’s downfall for me.

While Danganronpa frames its murder mystery as a mock trial between a murderer and their classmates, Yurukill creates an entire virtual reality system to fly and shoot through as the Prisoner attempts to break down an Executioner’s biases by fighting them. People can’t just talk to each other in Yurukill — they have to engage in space combat and fight through a digital manifestation of their own mental blocks.

Yurukill Mimics Danganronpa and Zero Escape Without Understanding Them

For whatever it’s worth, the shoot-em-up segments are pretty good. Each Prisoner gets a different loadout for their ship, and the enemy tactics change up often enough that they’re never boring. But Yurukill’s solid bullet hell design also falls victim to the game’s poor writing, as between waves of enemies, it asks you, often in the vaguest way possible, various questions to prove the Prisoner’s innocence.

The options I was given to advocate for myself were often described in unclear shorthand, or explanations were sprung upon in conversations that only began after I had submitted evidence through guess work. Each incorrect answer in these segments will lose you three lives in the shoot-em-up sections, so the punishment for Yurukill’s own poor writing doesn’t fit the crime of me trying to decipher what and how it wants me to say something.

Yurukill Mimics Danganronpa and Zero Escape Without Understanding Them

All of those problems aside, I never really got past the knots Yurukill tied itself into just to create this other pillar of its mystery-solving to differentiate itself from its inspiration. It would be like if Danganronpa created an entire facet of its story to make its use of bullet-based UI diegetic, rather than just presenting it as a stylistic choice. It’s hard to look at Yurukill and not make the obvious comparisons, because in looking at how well those games wove their narrative into their design, G.rev’s attempts to emulate draw attention to the ways it superficially draws from other games without the same throughlines in design and writing.

Yurukill wants to be like the games that inspired it, but in trying to push comparisons away, it invites less flattering ones in the aftermath. As it tries to climb to the heights of its influences, it caves underneath the weight of the burden it carries. What’s left is a solid shoot-em-up, a middling escape room simulator, and a mystery game that fails on the fundamentals of what the genre needs to stay compelling.

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