Horror games come in all shapes and sizes. While many recent titles have geared more towards an action-oriented design, others stay a bit more in touch with their roots. Just in time for Halloween, NIS America is releasing their own Horror/Survival title, Yomawari: Night Alone. Armed with little more than a flashlight, Yomawari: Night Alone promises to challenge players to face the bump in the night.
But is Yomawari: Night Alone truly nightmare fuel, or is it just another unfulfilled dream?
Simply put, Yomawari: Night Alone is about a girl, her sister, and their dog; however the game is anything but simple. The story begins with the young protagonist, who will now be referred to as Me, taking her dog, Poro, out for a walk. Something in the night seems to upset Poro, but realizing the late hour, his human deems it best to head on home. Problems arise during the journey home, however, resulting in Poro’ supposed running away. Upon the party of one returning home, Me’s sister takes notice. Deciding to seek out Poro herself, she sets out leaving the player behind. After waiting for some time, the task falls upon the player to bring them both home.
Unlike a majority of mainstream horror games, Yomawari: Night Alone is not a dialogue-heavy game. While the lack of dialogue might demerit some games a Story section of its review, it only strengthens its merit here. Little is told about the sisters and the town in which they live. Clues concerning current events can be found on signs and graffiti throughout the streets, not unlike Alan Wake. Yomawari tells just enough story to foreshadow events and build tension. What makes Yomawari truly terrifying is that it is all played through the eyes of an innocent little girl. Expect the unexpected as things are often different than they appear. The more light shed on the game’s world, the darker it becomes.
Much like its spiritual predecessor, htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, the design of Yomawari: Night Alone is its most misleading element. At first glance, Yomawari: Night Alone looks something like a children’s book. Arguably the game’s most important design is that of its protagonist, Me. As with Mion before her, Me is portrayed by a simple yet cute design. Despite her lack of characterization through a majority of the game, her innocent appearance is more than enough to make the player protective of their new little sister. It makes it that much worse when things begin to turn.
Unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t take very long for things to escalate in Yomawari: Night Alone. Aside from the picture book designs of Me, and her little dog too, the game looks straight out of a nightmare. Each abomination looks worse than the last as they remind players of their greatest childhood fears. From moving shadows to Hanako-san herself, there is no shortage of horrific sights. These are the types of psychological horrors that’d make Puella Magi Madoka Magica blush. In a similar manner, the contrasting of the innocent characters with the dark designs result in something truly spectacular.
In terms of gameplay, Yomawari: Night Alone sticks with the basics. Throughout the course of the game, the player will take direct control of Me. Interestingly, the game only features a total of three controls. The first is free movement through the use of the control stick. As Me doesn’t have many ways to protect herself, the movement is easily the most important aspect of the game. In addition to her normal walking speed, Me may also sneak around or run, whichever seems best in a given situation. Aside from movement, Me may also use her flashlight to identify enemies and throw items to combat them. While Me really has no way to actually harm those that hunt her, the items she throws may distract just long enough for her to escape.
The game plays more like a traditional Horror Survival as opposed to the fast-paced action of many recent titles. With limited resources and even less guidance, it is up to the player to adapt to the dark world they enter. Rather than being divided into multiple levels, Yomawari: Night Alone in its entirety takes place in a single town map. While the player may go almost anywhere they’d like, changing spawn points for enemies often result in players to run to their next goal, even if unintentionally. The game creates the illusion of an open world while always bringing players exactly where the game wants them, resulting in a perfectly immersive world.
There it is, a rare perfect score! In most occasions, a perfect score in sound would be given to a game with an unforgettable soundtrack. Interestingly what earns Yomawari: Night Alone this perfect score is quite the opposite. Rather than using a soundtrack throughout the game, Yomawari: Night Alone instead opts to focus on ambient sounds. Much of the game’s world is eerily quiet, which makes each of the game’s sound effects that much more noticeable. Each step Me takes echoes throughout the game as she marches towards death’s door. When combined with the cries of monsters and objects blowing in the wind, Yomawari creates a tension so thick it’d take a butter knife to cut.
Overall, Yomawari: Night Alone is one of the best NIS games yet. When considering their library, that’s saying quite a lot. The game creates a wonderfully dark town for the player to explore. It challenges the player without ever being too hard and creates tension without ever having to rely on jump scares. Yomawari: Night Alone is the perfect companion for this Halloween night.
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Yomawari: Night Alone 9.3 coins out of 10!