We recently got some hands-on time to explore survival horror title Yomawari: Night Alone, a game which plays off of the elusiveness of childhood innocence in a world that is full of constant horror. After you lose your dog Poro while our for an evening walk, your elder sister goes out in search for him, but soon gets lost herself, and it’s up to you to find them again.
By venturing out into the dark, you stumble across monstrous yo-kai of various designs that all move and act differently. Once noticed, they begin to attack you and a heartbeat sensor across the bottom of the screen indicates your ability to run away. The more frightened you are, the slower you will run. The best tactic to evade them is to observe their movement patterns, and attempt to quickly slip by unnoticed.
Other ways to avoid monsters include throwing smaller items to distract them, and hiding within areas like bushes in the hopes they lose interest. If you are able to evade a monster and find a hiding spot, a red shadow drifts around the character causing her heart to beat rapidly. When the shadow moves on this indicates it is now safe to come out again, if you come out too early you will be killed. The ability to hide creates some of the most tense moments in-game, as the adrenaline rush from narrowly escaping is then followed up by suspenseful waiting for the shadow to move on before knowing it’s safe to venture out again.
One of the most appealing things about Yomawari: Night Alone is its artstyle. By combining a cartoon aesthetic for its characters with more grim details for its monsters and world, it’s able to feel both cute and scary at the same time. Light also factors as a key game mechanic, with your flashlight indicating both the direction you’re traveling and providing you with the ability to take a good look at the various monsters if you dare to point it directly at one of them.
Repetitive deaths can become frustrating, as the game rewards players for pausing to observe the monsters because rapidly darting past them will likely cause them to zero in for the kill quicker than you can get away. Save points are accessed by leaving coins at various alters as peace offerings, and are often separated with numerous creatures between them to encourage players to not get caught and be sent back all the way to the last save.
It’s said that the world of Yomawari is inspired by the hometown of one of its lead developers of Gifu, Japan. Much like Zelda was inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s childhood exploration of caves, Yomawari was inspired by the fear its creator had as a child while walking through her mountain town during the night. The game exceeds at playing tricks on your eyes like real-life shadows would, where a sudden glimpse and cracking twig causes you to whirl around and shine your light in that direction asking, “Who’s there?”
Yomawari: Night Alone released in Japan last October, and its English edition will release for PS Vita and Steam appropriately close to Halloween on October 25. This survival-horror game is one to look out for, both for its interesting aesthetic and nerve-wracking gameplay.