Yomawari: Night Alone Review (2016)

Yomawari: Night Alone Review (2016)

English Title Yomawari: Night Alone
Japanese Title Yomawari
Kana Title 夜廻
Director Shiro Uno
Release Date 2016
Developer Nippon Ichi Software

With its unique brand of cute horror, the beautiful Yomawari: Night Alone is a surprising addition to the survival horror genre. Through a top down perspective reminiscent of Corpse Party rather than Silent Hill, Yomawari isn’t the expected throwback to survival horror games of Playstation 1 and 2 era. Part of NIS’s ‘Office Indies’ program, a scheme in which employees are encouraged to pitch unique game ideas, Yomawari is a game that for better and worse, tosses out conventional modern game design.

Yomawari follows the story of a young girl in her quest to find her lost dog, Poro.  Whilst out on a walk Poro is suddenly torn from his leash by a passing truck, covering the road in front of the girl with blood. Running home to tell her sister of Poro’s disappearance, her sibling also goes missing as a strange darkness overtakes the town. The girl takes off in search of her loved ones, but soon finds that monsters live in the darkness as she uncovers tragedies and restless spirits about the town.

Despite the radically different point of view, it’s surprising how many touches of classic survival horror game design shows up in Yomawari. The first of these appears in the form of the game’s save points. See, to auto save you use consumable items that harken back to Resident Evil’s ink ribbons. Yomawari’s save currency can be found in abundance when compared to RE’s ink ribbons, but the game cleverly uses it’s ‘jizo statues’ as checkpoints, rejecting modern gaming’s reliance on auto-saves. Death in Yomawari matters as much as it frustrates.

The game also has a great illusion of freedom, with most areas of the town readily accessible from the very beginning. There isn’t much to do in the first two chapters of the game, but as the story progresses various side missions unlock which tell the story of the numerous yokai and tragic figures around the town. In classic survival horror fashion, attempting to undertake these missions too early without the required charm, crank or key will have you running in circles in frustration. Thankfully Yomawari does a good job at leading you through the main story somewhat linearly, finding enough of the side quest items found along the way ensuring you’ll have plenty to do in the post-game.

Keeping in tune with its young protagonist, Yomawari is a mostly combat free affair. While items are available to the player to deter the game’s many yokai, the majority of the game is built around running and hiding. Sounds easy enough, but with its unique stamina meter which radically shortens as the girl panics, running away can be much harder than expected. The system works brilliantly at first, bringing a great deal of tension by putting you in the shoes of this little girl. Eventually however the game’s limited mechanics begin to give way to frustration.

yomawari-house

Yomawari isn’t a hard game, it just never takes the time to tell the player anything. You’re given items to ward away spirits in the game, but they work on barely any of them. Worse still, picking the wrong item will cause you to die pretty much instantly. If you run in the wrong direction you’ll die. If you’ve expelled your stamina not knowing a mini boss is coming up you’ll die. For most of its duration Yomiwari is a game of trial and error, and with the constant deaths the scare factor begins to fade away to frustration. Its obtuseness doesn’t ruin the game, but it does diminish the atmosphere that the game’s art and sound worked so hard to build up.

Another unfortunate aspect of Yomawari (at least in the Steam version of the game) is the shockingly low resolution assets. The game was obviously designed for Vita and ported to PC in a hurry in response to Vita’s dwindling user base. The game looks fine for the most part, but upon hiding behind objects, the assets fill the screen pixelated beyond belief. I’m sure it looks fantastic on Vita, but for such a beautiful game to be marred by needlessly ugly textures is a shame. The game’s Vita roots also show in its episodic approach to storytelling, with each chapter lasting roughly twenty minutes to half an hour. Favoring bite size story telling isn’t exactly a bad thing (in fact I quite enjoyed it), but the preferred place to play Yomawari is clear.

On the whole, Yomawari is a recommended purchase to fans of survival horror or those looking for some kawaii to go with their kowai. With a unique perspective and beautiful art style it’s quite the unique horror experience that will surely appeal to horror anime fans. Held back by an unfair difficulty curve and unexplained mechanics it isn’t quite the game it could have been, but as Japanese horror games on the PC go, it’s one of the best.


 

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Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 40 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Editor review

Rating
3.5/5

3.5

Average
3.5
Summary

On the whole, Yomawari is a recommended purchase to fans of survival horror or those looking for some kawaii to go with their kowai. With a unique perspective and beautiful art style it’s quite the unique horror experience that will surely appeal to horror anime fans. Held back by an unfair difficulty curve and unexplained mechanics it isn’t quite the game it could have been, but as Japanese horror games on the PC go, it’s one of the best.