Sumatra: Fate of Yandi review

The Good:
  • Nice nostalgic feel in both visuals and audio
  • Intriguing story, especially once the mystery of the researchers kicks in
  • Strong characterization
  • Fun transition from the main menu to the game
The Bad:
  • Ending is disappointing in its tell-don’t-show approach
  • Dialog trees sometimes hide new options
  • Character sprites could use a bit more detail
Sumatra: Fate of Yandi review
Sumatra: Fate of Yandi review
The Good:
  • Nice nostalgic feel in both visuals and audio
  • Intriguing story, especially once the mystery of the researchers kicks in
  • Strong characterization
  • Fun transition from the main menu to the game
The Bad:
  • Ending is disappointing in its tell-don’t-show approach
  • Dialog trees sometimes hide new options
  • Character sprites could use a bit more detail
Our Verdict:

Evoking the feel of classic Sierra games but without their sudden deaths and dead ends, Sumatra: Fate of Yandi is a fun, enjoyable tale of survival in a lush rainforest, only marginally brought down by a weak ending.

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With its retro presentation and mappable environment, Cloak and Dagger Games’ Sumatra: Fate of Yandi feels like an old-school Sierra game but with the rough edges of sudden death and dead ends sanded off and a greater focus on character added on. Set in a tropical rainforest on the island of Sumatra in the fall of 2018, the titular character has to deal with acts of nature, hostile wildlife, wandering nomads, and even a conspiracy or two, which all makes for an enjoyable if somewhat easy outing.

Yandi is just trying to make a living for himself and his wife Adiratna by working for Pandang Logging, which in the past few months has come under new management that hasn’t been paying its staff. Understandably this has caused friction both at work and at home, but that’s nothing compared to what awaits Yandi as he and his brother-in-law Ramdam are sent out for a job with nicely animated rain streaming down. In short order the two are caught in a landslide and separated, with Yandi being washed down a river and stranded somewhere in the jungle. With poor reception and failing batteries for his radio, Yandi can’t call for help so he must instead brave the wilds to try to return to civilization.

Even before that, Sumatra gets off to a fun start from the get-go. An inset on one side of the main menu shows Yandi driving through the rain on his motorbike. Starting a brand new game causes the rest of the menu to fade out and Yandi’s own background scene to fade in, from which he drives into the beginning of the story. It seems like a simple thing, but the transition into the game proper is a clever little touch that really put a smile on my face.

The adventure is split up into three informal acts. Early on, Yandi must make his way through a linear stretch of forest and get past a vicious and hungry looking tiger in the aftermath of the rain storm. This section serves to introduce the basic gameplay mechanics, which is all pretty straightforward with left-click to interact and right-click to examine. You can also collect items that are stored in an inventory bar made visible by moving the cursor to the top of the screen. When an object from the inventory is selected, the mouse pointer changes to resemble it, helpfully incorporating a red dot to indicate the precise location that will actually interact with hotspots.

After finishing the initial tutorial stretch, Yandi falls into a delirium and is found by a handful of wandering nomads who take him to their temporary village. This second act forms the bulk of the game. Naturally the villagers have no way of contacting civilization, and what’s worse for Yandi, the kids here have completely worn down the batteries for his radio and the elders have taken his axe, a vital tool for getting out of the jungle. These nomads treat all trees as sacred and look on Yandi, as a logger, with distaste. In order to gain their favour, you must perform a series of tasks for various members of the tribe.

These objectives mostly amount to fetch quests: retrieve water from a stream in a jug full of holes, find a lost boy, gather various important plants and the like. However, as they are introduced specifically to raise Yandi’s standing, it all feels natural to the plot instead of just busywork. Most of the tasks are layered, which helps differentiate them from simply picking up an item and returning it. As a simple example, you’ll have to figure out how to plug the holes in that water jug before you can transport any water in it. And forget about using a different jug, as the woman who sets the goal is very particular about the leaky jug being used because she knows that it will be more difficult for Yandi.

With the village as your starting point, you’ll wander through the jungle accomplishing your assignments, where I got a really strong King’s Quest IV or Space Quest III vibe. The pixel art backgrounds have those same clean, large blocks of colour that were prevalent in the 16-colour EGA graphics of those early Sierra titles. However, Sumatra takes advantage of the full spectrum of colours so no eye-searing neon greens, yellows, or pinks here. To add more texture, a subtle film grain overlays everything, providing a faint effect that is never distracting but instead helps to liven up the scenes by making them seem more animated than they otherwise would be. Of course, other animations are also present with drifting clouds, running waterfalls, flying insects, and smooth parallax scrolling.

Despite predominantly taking place within the jungle, Sumatra has a surprising amount of variety in its locales. There are caves to explore, the nomad village to roam, rivers to ford, the high branches of a tree to climb, and some melancholy scenes of a former swath of the rainforest that has been clear cut to mourn over. Flashbacks throughout the game also provide glimpses into Yandi’s home and workplace. Even the “generic” jungle scenes are usually brightened with vibrant flora or fauna.

It’s not just the background style that is reminiscent of Sierra either. The characters do as well, displaying a simple look that lacks any real facial features like eyes or mouths. I did feel that a bit more work could have gone into the sprites, as the simple blocks of colour used to design them tended to make more than a few of them look alike. Even so, they possess a good amount of animation, especially Yandi, who has to climb, jump, swim, vine swing, and check his radio at various points.

Continuing the Sierra-esque trend, the environs surrounding the village are arranged in classic room-by-room tile fashion. Exiting the left side of one scene enters the immediate right side of the next. Leaving through the bottom enters the adjacent setting through the top. While the jungle’s not a maze, it does lend itself to mapping with pencil-and-paper, which is something I greatly enjoy and have felt is missing in a lot of modern adventures. (Ah, nostalgia for an earlier time!) If you do map the jungle, it’s helpful to jot down where different items and features are located, as many of the puzzles involve bits and pieces from all over.

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What our readers think of Sumatra: Fate of Yandi


Posted by Luhr28 on Jun 17, 2019

Not just another retro adventure


When I first saw the screenshots for Sumatra: Fate of Yandi, I knew I wanted to play it. I'm a sucker for exploring exotic locales and getting lost in remote rainforests while fending off wildlife and finding ways to stay alive. What I didn't know is that...

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