Halloween is fast approaching and what better time to turn out the lights and play a good horror to keep you awake at night. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows may do just that. As a follow up to Yamawari Night Alone, it is a Japanese survival horror with 2D sprites that introduces two new and adorable girls called Yui and Haru.
The story switches between them giving you perspective on both their situations. There is no voice acting, speech appears in coloured text boxes which match the character’s theme. The story opens in a forest which has you playing as one of the girls and learning the controls as she goes to bury her dearly departed dog.
You can move in eight different directions and can tiptoe or run, all of which feels smooth and responsive. As you press on through the winding paths and dense foliage, birds twitter, frogs croak and wind rustles the trees, bringing the forest to life. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is best experienced through a good pair of headphones because it relies very much on audio cues and soundscaping which does an excellent job of creating an atmosphere.
Even silence is used effectively and often instils a sense of loneliness and dread. Unfortunately, while the sound effects are quality they are short and loop continuously. This doesn’t spoil the experience but may occasionally cause you to want to turn the volume down in certain situations.
The world is made up of beautiful hand-painted environments and simple but gorgeous sprites, particularly the girls. Even the map is hand drawn in a childish manner and decorated with innocent drawings. It all serves to meld Childhood innocence with dark horror themes and does so successfully. Without spoiling anything, nothing can prepare you for the tutorials shocking and dark end scene.
It is most definitely not a game for children or the faint-hearted. Once the main story begins the girls are soon caught up in a nightmare and separated. Murderous spirits are everywhere and will hunt you down relentlessly, each of them ghastly and disturbing with interesting and thought-provoking designs. Each spirit type also behaves and sounds differently.
To survive you must run, tiptoe past, use an item to distract them or hide behind bushes and signs. Not all spirits are distracted by items so it’s always good to be ready to run and hide. While hiding, the rest of the screen goes dark and focuses on the hiding spot. Enemy presence then appears as a red aura which intensifies or fades depending on how far away they are. When enemies are close by the girl’s heart will begin pounding, increasing in volume and speed depending on the proximity of the threat. Stamina runs out much faster during panic mode so sometimes it is wiser to hide. You also have a flashlight at your disposal which illuminates the area in front of you, scares some spirits and reveals others. For the most part, enemies are easily avoided but when death does happen it can be frustrating.
It is likely you will die several times to humongous spirits that are lurking on blocked paths because most of these types are invisible and only show up partly in the beam of your flashlight when it’s too late. There are a lot of blocked paths and therefore a lot of trial and error. Wandering spirits may also pincer you and if that happens you’re doomed. When it happens several times over, that frustration quickly replaces the tension which is a shame.
There are also a lot of spirits in outside areas and often you won’t have walk far between encounters. After a while, this has the effect of actually dulling the sense of fear. Due to the number of spirits and chance of accidental death, you will want to save when you get the chance.
Saving your game is done by offering coins to Jizo statues and later on, by using telephones. You can also transport between Jizo statues which is useful in larger areas. It’s always worth exploring the environment and checking all the nooks and crannies because collectables are hidden everywhere, sparkling on the ground just begging to be picked up. Some are notes with creepy warnings, others are strange items or parts of a puzzle. As you find them they get recorded in the hand-drawn notebook and even if you die you won’t have to search for them again.
There are also charms you can find which increase certain stats such as your stamina or number of pebbles you can carry. The story itself never lets up with its mystery and intrigue. It’s hard to put the controller down without itching to find out what will happen next because each chapter ends on a chilling cliffhanger. You, therefore, have no choice but to continue on through Yui and Haru’s dire situations, facing horror after horror in the hope they will eventually be reunited.
Overall Yomawari: Midnight Shadows delivers a tense and unique horror with dark themes throughout. You never feel safe and the girl’s vulnerability ensures that the horror stays with you long after switching off. If you’re after a refreshing horror experience, dusted with sweetness and charm it’s well worth the download and at 1.5GB doesn’t take up too much space either. Its also under £30.
+ Enemies are varied and interesting
+ Beautiful, crisp visuals
+ Compelling story
– Repetitive sounds/soundscape
– Some deaths can frustrate and lose the element of fear
– Too many enemies in outdoor areas can dull the sense of fear and surprise
Overall Score: 8/10