Review: Yomawari: Midnight Shadows (PlayStation 4)
PlayStation 4 1 like 1 comment
- Release Date (NA): October 24, 2017
- Release Date (EU): October 27, 2017
- Release Date (JP): August 24, 2017
- Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
- Developer: NIS
- Genres: Survival Horror
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
- Also For: Computer, PlayStation Vita
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Can you survive in the darkness and reunite with your best friend or will you be lost in the shadows?
Don't look away
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, sequel to Yomawari: Night Alone, starts simple enough; you are shown a black screen with text asking you to focus only on the game and not to look anywhere else. After agreeing to do so, it asks you again, making you promise not look away. After a brief rundown of the controls, the story unfolds quite quickly. Haru and Yui, two best friends in elementary school, go up to the mountains of their small town to watch the fireworks display for a summer festival. Soon after, darkness falls upon them as the make their journey down back into town, just each other and a flashlight. However they are separated and Haru only finds Yui's flashlight. When Haru makes it back to town, after fleeing from a monstrous spirit, she realizes the Yui never made it home. Thus your adventure in the nightmarish darkness begins as the two friends try to reunite.
Gameplay is relatively simple and straightforward. You move with the left stick and the right stick moves your flashlight. You can run, which depletes your stamina or tiptoe to move slowly and limit your sound. Whenever there is something of interest nearby, a question mark appears overhead and then an exclamation mark when you can interact, sometimes a note or graffiti, an item that might help you along the way such as a pebble or charm, or pushing boxes to get to otherwise inaccessible areas. That said, the controls aren't perfect. I wasn't a big fan of the placement of some of the controls and not being able to change them was a tad frustrating, but didn't ruin the experience.
As young girls, there isn't much you can do to defend yourself against the spirits that lurk the town at night. When you get closer to a spirit, your character's heart starts to beat faster and faster as you get closer to it. This is a fantastic touch with the DS4's vibration, slowly increasing in intensity. This is when you have choices to make; do you try and sneak past, run away and hide behind a bush or sign or make a break for it? All the spirits are unique and require a different approach. The charms all have varying effects, from increasing how much of an item you can carry to slowing down stamina loss.
There is a fair amount of tension and fear when you are exploring the town but is slightly undercut by a few things. Saving the game is done at home or at Jizo statues around town, which also serve as fast travel locations. Using a Jizo costs a coin, which can be found scattered throughout, and is reminiscent of ink ribbons in Resident Evil. However there is quite a good number of coins and I never felt like I needed to conserve them for later use, which made things slightly less tense. Death itself is simply a small bump in the journey. At my first death, I expected I would have to go back to where I was, get the items I had found and do it all over again. When I looked, I still had all items in my inventory and started back at the last spot I had saved. That really distracted from the overall atmosphere of the game as death felt like it had very little consequence.
Speaking of atmosphere, Midnight Shadows has it in spades. Wonderfully crafted and detailed environments are all over and the isometric view really suits the game. The spirits come in all sorts of varieties. Little floating flames moving down the street to writhing black blobs with mouths all over, the sprite work is phenomenal. Even the cute little protagonists fit the dark world they are exploring. At one point in the game, a floating head had attached itself to me and then I had two bloody hand prints blocking the screen, making it harder to see where and what I was going towards.
As said above, each spirit is different. Not only physically but also in behavior. Some will stay in one spot, waiting and watching, whereas another might chase you down unrelenting. The variety helps to keep things interesting and keep you on your toes as you try to survive. Each requires a different tactic and approach as you move further and further through. There is also very little music in the game, which is good because it really adds to the uneasiness of the situation. Silence is broken by leaves rustling, crickets and the sound of your own footsteps against the pavement, along with the occasional wail of a spirit or your own heartbeat. Little things like that really help to add to the fear of what is wandering in the darkness.
At the end of the night
All in all, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows delivers tension filled survival-horror while telling a story of friendship and death. The button placement and dying are irksome but don't ruin the experience completely. If you've played the first and liked it, you will not be disappointed. Newcomers should have no problem jumping in and enjoying the story and horror. With just about 8 hours of gameplay, it should keep you occupied for a few nights. Just be sure to keep your promise in the beginning.
+ Excellent art and design
+ Atmospheric and tense
+ Good story
+ Unique enemies
- Death isn't a big deal
- Annoying button placement
- Not incredibly long
Midnight Shadows excels at telling its story and features fantastic sprites and environments that help to further pull you into the world.
Apart from a few things, gameplay is pretty smooth and enjoyable. Whether hiding or exploring the darkness, it plays well and is an enjoyable experience.
After the first playthrough Midnight Shadows isn't the kind of game that will have you playing again and again consecutively, but is a great game to come back to play down the road.
out of 10
(not an average)
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is a great addition to the survival horror genre with a tense and atmospheric world coupled with a wonderful story. Fans of the original or survival horror shouldn't be disappointed.