They say to never judge a book by its cover, and that is exactly what I did when I saw the Yomawari games for the first time. On their exterior, Yomawari Night Alone and Midnight Shadows look cute. I even thought to myself, “How can these games with cartoony graphics starring little girls be terrifying?” Boy, was I in for a spooky surprise or two!
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is a Survival Horror bundle of both “Night Alone” and “Midnight Shadow” into one jam-packed package exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.
Yomawari: Night Alone is not a new title by any means. It was developed by Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) and released on the PlayStation Vita on October 29th, 2015 in Japan. It would take a year, but the game would make its way to the United States as well as UK markets on the Vita and Microsoft Windows.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows was developed by the same studio and was released on August 24th, 2017 on PlayStation 4 and Vita. Late October 2017 would make the game available in the NA and EU markets, as well as Microsoft Windows.
The Yomawari games are very similar in their gameplay, which is not a bad thing, as there is no point in fixing something that’s not broken. Both adventures have a similar intro that will see your character in some form of a tragedy that ultimately leaves you alone in the darkness of the night. Equipped with just a flashlight, you will explore the town and look for clues to the whereabouts of your loved ones, all while being hunted by bloodthirsty spirits.
There is no way to fight the spirits; if they catch up to you, you’ll watch as the screen on your Nintendo Switch will turn into a disgusting Splatterhouse film. These spirits aren’t there to play hopscotch or dress up with dolls. Their focus is to make a version of you that would be comparable to dropping raw beef and cranberry sauce into a blender. It’s ugly, folks!
Your only hopes of survival are to recognise when danger is near and learn how to react quickly. Hiding in bushes or behind signs and managing your depleting stamina bar are key to your survival in a world that just wants you dead at every turn. When you’re hiding, you can see how close an enemy is with how bright the screen flashes red. You know you are in the clear when there is no more heart beating and red flashes.
As you walk around the map and encounter an area with a spirit, your heartbeat will start to pound and there is a red light on the bottom of the screen that will blink faster as you come closer to your impending doom. You’re able to sometimes distract the enemies, however, by throwing rocks. There are some points in the game where this will be your only option to get past an enemy as it’s very heavy on the stealth mechanics in place.
The games are very similar in their gameplay, but also in the driving force behind the game. You are looking for someone over the course of a single night. In “Night Alone”, you’re searching for your sister and your dog. In “Midnight Shadows”, you’re looking for your missing friend after you get separated following watching a firework show earlier that night.
You’ll find clues that will lead you to answers, but also to more questions. It’s worthwhile to check every dark nook and cranny, as the game will reward the player with different bonus items and extra events to be found. But beware: at every single turn, you stand a high probability of death. It is all worth it at the end of the game though; the stories leave you thinking after the credits have rolled.
Try not to get too frustrated when you die. Believe me, it will happen a lot. Playing either game will make you extremely upset when you get to a part that you can’t seem to pass. I am a firm believer of the idea of saving at every chance you can. Every time you die, you will go back to the last time you saved. You don’t want to take the chance of playing for a long chunk of time and an enemy jumps at you out of nowhere – that is an awful lot of time to make up for.
Thankfully, the save points, which are Jizo Statues, are located all over the map. These also act as fast travel stations. This helps a lot the more you progress in the games, especially considering that many alleys are crowded with spirits. Getting around the town isn’t as easy as it seems upon first glance either. A “point A to point B” route could look like a short, straight line on the map, but it is actually a wonky travel path much like little Billy from the Family Circus comic books – except with 100% more dead children!
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is a survival horror game that is unique because of its gorgeous, and cute, art style. It looks so innocent, but it packs the punch of a deep, depressing story mixed in with sheer horror as you never know when an enemy is going to jump out at you. Both stories follow a very similar plot with the same mechanics and emphasis on stealth – at times it feels like Yomawari 1 and 1.5 rather than 2. You’ll also find yourself becoming more and more frustrated as you continue to die over and over again.
The game is very difficult, there’s no doubt about that. However, the feeling of conquering one small spot makes it worthwhile!