Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is the sequel to the 2015 game Yomawari: Night Alone. The game follows two girls, Yui and Haru, as they encounter malicious spirits while watching a firework festival in the outskirts of their rural, Japanese town. After Yui goes missing; Haru is determined to find her so they can both return home. Developed and published by Nippon Ichi in Japan and published by NIS America in the west.
At it’s core, Yomawari is a survival horror series that emphasises exploration over combat. The only tools at your disposal are a flashlight and some items to distract enemies such as rocks or paper planes. The majority of the game involves exploring the town at night and avoiding the attention of the spirits as they litter the streets around you. The game itself isn’t particularly scary, even when you account for all the jump scares that it throws at you.The cutsie 2D art style mixed with the absurdist enemy design does make for an interesting experience that is worth seeing. However, Yomawari does an excellent job of keeping you on edge through the sound design and by clever use of the controller’s rumble feature. The shrill squeals of the spirits and the intrusive throb of heartbeats whenever an enemy is near provoke an involuntary physical unease. In this regard, the sound design is a bit of a double edges sword since it is effective at what it’s trying to achieve but it also means that playing Yomawari is like having a simulated hangover.
Yomawari is also pretty thin on narrative which is a shame since there is an intriguing premise to hook you in. The game is very basic, having no cutscenes or voice acting and even the dialogue that is there in the form of text at the bottom of the screen doesn’t give you much to go with. You’ll hear Haru mention how she needs to find Yui several times and Yui will state that she doesn’t know where she is and needs to find her way home almost every time the game shifts to her perspective but there are only a handful of moments where either of them are given any real character or a chance to evolve. The nature of the paranormal events is also similarly under developed and it does make the game over stay it’s welcome.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses a best friend
Despite all the criticisms I’ve made so far, I didn’t actually dislike the game. There is a charm to it that goes a long way to making you want to see more. The setting and the gameplay, while basic, are different from almost everything else i’ve played in recent years. The look of the creatures is great and the art style works well juxtaposed with the uncomfortable audio design. Yomawari is definitely worth a shot if you’re for a change of pace.