Review: Yomawari: Night Alone (PlayStation Vita)
- Release Date (NA): October 25, 2016
- Release Date (EU): October 28, 2016
- Release Date (JP): October 29, 2015
- Publisher: NIS America
- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Genres: Survival Horror
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
- Also For: Computer
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
A Night Alone
Returning home in the evening after taking your dog Poro for a walk, your sister notices that the pooch is missing and takes it upon herself to search for it. However, time passes and it's getting late and there's still no sign of Poro, or your sister. Worried, you, the unnamed little protagonist girl, decide to look for them by yourself.
As you venture around town, you notice that something is terribly different about it. Numerous spirits have appeared and are lurking around the streets. Some will chase you while others will tread along their own paths. Terrified, alone and unarmed, all you can do is run. Run before they catch you up and...
Survive, for the night is dark and full of terrors
In order to carry on with your search, you'll have to stay out of reach from those night terrors. An audible heart beat warns you of nearby spirits and your heart rate rises the closer they are and will limit your ability to run for long. Your survival will then depend on exploiting basic survival skills, like hiding in bushes or behind certain signs until the creatures go past you, and often your only weapons are measly items that you find on the way, like pebbles.
The game also makes ingenious use of other collected items: use coins at shrines for quick saves, a shovel to uncover hidden items and a shovel to find hidden items as well as key items needed to progress. You'll realize pretty soon that your indispensable item is the flashlight. In the style of the good old Silent Hill series, your field of view is limited by the night, with blurred and darkened screen edges, and as such, your trusty flashlight will light up the path ahead, revealing items and also spirits that would otherwise go unseen.
While avoiding the spirits, most of the game is spent exploring different parts of the town looking for clues on the whereabouts of your loved ones. You get to explore in a "semi-open world" fashion, that is you can explore as much as the map allows you to (since road blocks and "Road Blocker" spirits often limit your way early in the game, pointing where your 'explorable' areas are). The town's map is initially uncharted but fills up as you explore in the appropriate form of a kid's doodles. After visiting different areas within the town, the protagonist will write entries down in her scrapbook, conveniently serving as a reminder of the story so far, and providing useful hints as to where to continue your search.
A Throwback To The Good Old Survival Horror Genre
A lot of survival horror game enthusiasts have been lamenting on the declining quality of games in the genre of late; clichéd scenarios, abused zombie outbreak plots and gun-packed action based "survival horror" games. Even Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami deplored that “there aren’t any real survival horror games in the world right now”.
Yomawari: Night Alone challenges this quote. Without clichéd scenarios or zombie outbreaks, or guns, you'll need the will to survive in this game to progress, very often resorting to running and hiding. It brilliantly uses the element of surprise and spontaneity to progress through the story and not some run-of-the-mill jump scares (I nearly soiled my pants within the first 5 minutes of the game, which was basically just the tutorial).
The ambient sound effects compliment the overall atmosphere of the game. But the thing is, there's nothing particularly special about it. You can hear the flickering sounds of street lamps, crickets chirping and passing cars. But it's the normality of all these things that keep you on your toes, expecting something to happen at any time. Add this to the limited field of view in a town filled with nopes, the experience becomes all the more eerie.
Praises aside, despite its "Soulsian" aspect - where you'll need to get used to dying frequently - this cycle of dying, trying again and again is one of the game's few downsides where it can become monotonous as you are sent back to the previous checkpoint, replay the same cut-scenes and travel down the same route to figure out the proper track or the right steps to take to avoid death.
Yomawari: Night Alone - You'll Never Walk Alone
It's been a while since any form of entertainment made me truly scared and I never expected it from a game that involves a cute little girl in search of her dog. Yomawari: Night Alone is a memorable game that masterfully blends emotional and survival horror themes to make for a unique experience. The deceptively cute art style merges surprisingly well with the story of the coming of age of a little girl who has to deal with the concepts of death and solitude, but also courage and responsibility.
+ Old school survival horror mechanics
+ Original and interesting plot
+ Complimenting ambient sound
- Repetitive cycles of dying and re-trying
The beautiful cartoon style make even some of the spirits look cute and it oddly fits with the quest of the little girl.
Outnumbered and poorly equipped, you'll have to find other means to survive in Yomawari: Night Alone, like those good old survival horror games
Some might argue that it might be short but however long it takes you to finish the game, it's well worth it.
out of 10
(not an average)
Yomawari: Night Alone is a throwback to good old survival horror genre, spicing it up with emotional themes and ingenious mechanics to make for a definitive must-play for fans awaiting a game that will be remembered. A must-play.