Developed by Nippon Ichi Software Inc, Yomawari: Night Alone is a horror adventure game originally released in Japan on Playstation Vita in October 2015. The game was later released in English for Vita and Steam in October 2016 and has also been released this month for the Nintendo Switch along with its sequel, Midnight Shadows. I decided now would be the perfect time to finally get into my Steam version with Hallowe’en just around the corner.
The game drops you straight into a cutscene of the main character taking her dog for a walk. Here you will learn the basic controls to get you started before it throws you right in at the deep end. I typically like to know what I’m doing when getting into a game, but leaving you in the dark (literally) really contributed to the horror element, particularly as the visuals for this game portray the characters to be rather cute.
The plot is fairly simple. You play as a young girl who goes in search of her older sister who is looking for their dog after sundown. Whilst wandering the streets, you will come across various spirits and monsters associated with Japanese folklore. During the first level, they will seem pretty docile, but don’t let this fool you, the game is just getting started!
The first couple of chapters gave a strong introduction to the game. Being left to fend for yourself heightened the sense of loneliness and learning from your experiences was a key factor, particularly when it came to the enemies.
After the first introductory chapter, I was intrigued and really wanted to get stuck in which was probably a good thing due the odd saving functions. The saving points (Jizo Statues) you come across will create a checkpoint when offering it a coin. This will only save your game for that current session and act as a checkpoint for if you die. You need to be in your house in order to save the game properly.
You are placed back at your house at the end of each chapter and you can also fast travel back here at any time, but you’ll have to start the chapter progress again when you return. By offering the Jizo Statue a coin, you may also pick any other unlocked statues to fast travel to which will also temporarily set your checkpoint. One positive thing about this save feature is that you get to keep all of the items you find after you die even without checkpoint saving.
Although you have free roam of the area, some sections will be blocked off until later which gives you an idea of where you should be headed for the story to progress. The story can be done at your own pace so you can explore the surrounding area as you please. You can always return to these places between story chapters or wait until the sandbox mode is unlocked when the game has been completed. The screenshot shows the map of the starting area, but there’s plenty more to explore!
The gameplay and controls were fairly simple. There’s no attack option, although you can hide behind bushes and signs to lose the interest of some enemies. Running is also an option, but only for as long as the stamina bar allows you to. While close enough to enemies for the heartbeat indicator to trigger, your stamina amount decreases which sometimes makes it difficult to escape.
The biggest problem I had with Yomawari: Night Alone was the cheap deaths that were often sprung upon you. It seemed as though the majority of these deaths were unavoidable until you learned not to travel in that specific direction or alert the attention of a certain enemy. This took away the element of fear as I found myself repeating sections over and over which became boring and tedious after a while. Why would I be scared to die when there are no consequences?
I had a soft spot for the visuals and the art style of the game. I loved the juxtaposition of the cute characters alongside the terrors that lurk in the dark along with the creativity of the enemies. The sound design was decent although the heartbeat signifying nearby enemies did get irritating due to it being so frequent. Unfortunately there was no indication to distinguish when the game dropped you in a cutscene. The flow of the game was good, but I found myself trying to move when my character remained still during a cutscene since it seemed like it was over.
Yomawari: Night Alone had great potential, but as much as I wanted to like this game, I just couldn’t overlook the irritation of unavoidable deaths. I’m pleased that I finished the story, but I’ve heard there are quite a few randomly generated events that happen which I have not personally experienced. I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this game to finish off the achievements, but I might give Yomawari: Midnight Shadows a go in the future if I can get it on sale. I’m interested to see if they made any changes or if they stuck with the original idea.
Have you played Yomawari: Night Alone? If so, let me know what you think in the comments below!