When it comes to horror in video games, most people think of either first person shooter games such as Doom, or third person survival horror games like Resident Evil. Now Indie developer Nippon Ichi Software is changing all that with the Yomawari series.
The Yomawari series is currently comprised of two games, Night Alone and Midnight Shadows, both of which are now available as a bundle pack titled Yomawari: The Long Night Collection for the Nintendo Switch.
Night Alone tells the story of a young girl whose sister goes missing on a dark night. Armed with only a flashlight she sets off in search of her sister, only to find the town has been over run by a variety of supernatural spirits and creatures.
Midnight Shadow tells the story of two girls Yui and Haru who attend a fireworks festival together but get separated. The story switches between the two as they try and find one another.
Unlike most survival horror games, the Yomawari games use an overhead perspective similar to that seen in many of the older Legend of Zelda games.
There are no weapons and no health bar. If a spirit touches you, it’s instant death and a return to the last save point. Your options are to either run away, hide or distract a spirit with an item.
Both games involve a significant amount of problem solving and exploration. A typical chapter will involve you having to find keys and other useful items hidden around the city whilst evading the supernatural creatures.
What really sells the Yomawari night collection is the sound design.
You would think that stripping a game of music would be the worst decision possible, yet in this instance it not only works but it amplifies the suspense and tension.
The focus is instead placed on the typical sounds you would expect to hear whilst walking out at night, whether it’s the buzz from a convenience store, a light flickering, or a stray dog. Or one of the multitude of other sounds you’ll come across.
This technique works because it is guaranteed to stir up memories of when we ourselves have had to walk through a creepy neighbourhood at night.
The most notable sound effect however, is that of your own heart beat, which serves as a warning sign as to how close you are to a spirit. The closer they get to you the more anxious the protagonist becomes and the faster her heart beats.
The only negative I can really throw at these two games is that there are a couple of challenging sections which required multiple attempts to get past. At times it felt that evading the ghosts was more a fluke then a learning process. This problem was compounded by the fact that at a certain point it devalued the tension and jump scares.
Speaking of jump scares…
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is bound to make you jump out of your seat at least a couple of times. Because most of the spirits are obscured by the dark, it’s easy for them to take you by surprise.
It becomes increasingly unnerving each time you encounter a new type of spirit because they each have their own behaviour patterns that you will need to learn. Some spirits will chase you, others teleport in front of you, and some will just leave you alone entirely.
Overall, Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is definitely recommended. It’s a solid addition for anyone looking for a simple title to play on a rainy night. Whilst it might not be as polished as Mario Odyssey, it is certainly far more original and unique. You’d be hard pressed to find a game with a similar feel.