When Yono and the Celestial Elephants was first shown off and announced as a Switch console exclusive (the game is also available on Steam) I was immediately drawn to the visual style of the game. It’s simply the most adorable game you’ll play in a long time. What I could tell from the trailers was that it seemed heavily inspired by games like the Legend of Zelda, and having now played it it absolutely is. How does it compare to games like that, however?
In terms of gameplay you can see the heavy Zelda influence in the game, especially older Zelda’s from the SNES and Game Boy Advance era. There are three main areas in the game to explore. You’ll spend most of your time solving puzzles with things around the environment. They’ll range from things as simple as popping a balloon to drop an item to the ground to more complex moving block puzzles where you need to move one or more blocks around to activate switches, melt large chunks of ice, or raise platforms to allow you to progress. Most of the puzzles can be solved with the items in the same room as the puzzle, but occasionally a puzzle will require you to go into an adjacent room and get an item or flip a switch to progress. None of them are too long and only one or two left me really having to think about the solution to the puzzle.
Fights against the robgoblin enemies in the game is performed by having Yono charge towards them and slam into them with his head. They’ll be stunned for a second and pushed back slightly allowing you to charge into them again. There aren’t many enemies in the game to fight and the few you do have to fight can be easily dispatched as once you get that first hit on them they should be stunned for the remainder of the fight. There are a few times that there are multiple enemies on the screen at once and that takes a little bit of management to keep one from attacking you while the other is hurt. There are three “boss fights” in the game but I found those to be incredibly easy to deal with.
The focus of Yono and the Celestial Elephants is clearly on the story and this was a fun, fairly lighthearted story about race, the life of undead beings, war, and class. Most of the ‘conflict’ is resolved through conversation and wrapped up pretty easily. I can see they’re trying to go for a morality play and discuss some fairly deep subject matter. Ultimately, however, it feels like it’s being told through the lens of a Saturday morning cartoon where all the conflict between parties is wrapped up easily by just having them talk to each other.
Visually it’s simply charming. Yono is adorable as he bounces around the levels with his trunk bobbing up and down and his ears flapping. The undead beings in the world are bright and vibrant. They appear to be inspired by Day of the Dead style drawings and art. There are just a handful of different environments that you’ll visit, but they all look very different from each other. Open fields full of dandelion buds can be blown away and the seeds float through the air. Piles of leaves in the Acorn woods can also be blown around and scattered to uncover hidden secrets. The two main cities you’ll visit couldn’t be more different than each other. One is a seaside port filled with sandstone buildings with turqoise colored roofs. The other is a mechanical city filled with busy robots, train tracks and all sorts of machinery. As Yono collects money throughout his adventure it can be taken back to shops to buy new outfits. These will dress up Y
I had a lot of fun with the 4-5 hours that I played Yono and the Celestial Elephants. I absolutely loved it. I feel the game is really geared more towards a younger audience that wants to experience something like Zelda, but might find those types of games too difficult to play. Young children will have a great time watching the game and the characters interacting with each other. It’s clearly the most adorable Zelda style game that’s ever been made. Many games like to surprise you by having a very difficult or challenging experience wrapped up in a cute package. What you have here, though, is a cute game, wrapped up in a cute package and would have fit in alongside a children’s TV show. If you’re looking for a challenge you probably won’t find it here, but is that always such a bad thing?
Review copy of the game provided by the developer
Played through the full game
Total Play Time: 5 hours