Yomawari: Midnight Shadows Review – A New Pair to Scare (PS4)
Yomawari: Night Alone was localized last year as a surprisingly fun jolt of terror to get gamers ready for the Halloween season. Fast forward a year, and the sequel Yomawari: Midnight Shadows has arrived, after a much shorter localization effort of two months, most likely following decent sales of the original. Does this second entry help the burgeoning series, or should the first Yomawari have stayed a one-off game with no follow-up? Let’s see if the scares continue in our review.
For those who played last year’s Night Alone, not a whole lot has changed this time around. Controlling either Yui in red or Haru in blue, the player is tasked with exploring a new town, which is filled with all kinds of terrors the likes of which are sure to haunt the minds of children everywhere. The camera is fixed in an isometric viewpoint, and except in cutscenes stays locked on the currently playable character. The left stick moves whatever girl is currently active, and the right stick moves the flashlight. The DualShock 4’s touchpad button toggles said flashlight on or off. Triangle brings up an inventory of usable items, such as pebbles, paper airplanes, coins, and other things collected along the way, R1 and L1 sift through this inventory, and Square actually uses the item. Unfortunately, Midnight Shadows still limits movement to eight cardinal directions, which can result in some cumbersome movement. This is especially evident in boss sequences, which will no doubt be repeated several times for many gamers as they fight the controls to avoid getting killed.
In Midnight Shadows, a pair of best friends Haru and Yuri are preparing for one final event to mark the end of the summer, a fireworks show. It seems that Haru is moving away very soon, something that both girls are quite upset about. It’s a relatable story that many of us likely faced as children. Think about how sad you felt as a kid whenever you were moving far away from your very best friend, and that is the state of mind that the girls are in when we meet them. The tutorial sequence includes an ending that is so disturbing, it should not be played under any circumstances when there are younger children around, unless their parents are prepared to answer some very dark questions. The ending of the narrative also features a bittersweet payoff, which is worth the journey.
Run, Don’t Fight
Both girls are essentially defenseless, much like in the original. If a spirit is encountered, the only hope Yuri and Haru have is to outrun them and find cover. By hiding in a bush, behind a police sign, or under a cardboard box (channel that inner Solid Snake, girls!), the rest of the world will be blacked out. The entity that was giving chase will often run up to the girl, while they are represented by a shifting red smoke-like sprite. For as long as each girl spends hiding, a red pulse is sent out, which pings nearby enemies in a sonar-like fashion. Once all red blips disappear, it is relatively safe to venture out from a hiding spot, and to continue the adventure. This is another area of the game which has not changed from the first game, and is indeed a signature of the series by this point.
What is new to Midnight Shadows is a whole new category of items. Dubbed Charms, these are special items that Haru can equip before leaving her room and venturing out into the big, scary world. While some are given to her in the course of progressing the main story along, in order to complete the collection, the town must be explored in depth. This involves facing some of the area’s fiercest enemies head-on, snatching an item and then quickly disappearing into cover before Haru is “killed.” Note that term is used in quotes; death is once again almost meaningless in Midnight Shadows. If an item was collected even a fraction of a second before Haru or Yuri was touched by a baddie, it still counts as collected, and the area does not have to be revisited unless scouring for other items. While an autosave checkpoint system is in place, relying on that is a surefire way to have to repeat several sections in the event that a single enemy gets the upper hand. Much like in the original, Jinzo statues are peppered throughout the world, and using a coin to pay tribute can allow the game to be saved. At certain points later on in the story, phones (gasp! Landlines!) are placed inside buildings, and these serve the same function. There are a few lengthier sections in the game that require precision that the control scheme just does not allow, and thus a few frustrating repeats are inevitable.
Charming Little Horrors
There is still plenty to love in Midnight Shadows, despite its flaws. The wonderful, hand-drawn look to the game is all the more enjoyable on a large television, compared to on the Vita’s squint-worthy five-incher. A couple of graphics look as though they are being stretched when zoomed in on a 4K screen, but the overall aesthetics of the world do not disappoint.
Horror games usually rely on audio cues to really cement the element of terror, and developer Nippon Ichi Software once again delivers. Creaky floorboards, disembodied voices, sudden door slams, heartbeats, and even silence are effectively used to drive the point home that Haru and Yuri are on their own, save for one very brave and adorable dog. Some audio loops are obviously in use, but the looping is done cleanly. Midnight Shadows is an unnerving experience, one that those looking for a good fright will no doubt enjoy thoroughly, with either a sound system turned up or a nice pair of headphones atop their head.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is a cute-looking survival horror game, with unexpected twists and a surprisingly dark narrative. The same unintuitive control scheme seen before can hinder the experience somewhat, but gamers familiar with those issues from the original Vita release should adapt in no time. The port over to the PS4 means that taking in the hand-drawn visuals is a treat, while loading times have also been almost eliminated altogether. Coupled with unsettling audio work, the ambiance is on point for giving a few scares. Check out Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, crank up the volume, and get ready for a thriller, just in time for Halloween.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows review copy provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on review scores, please read our Review Policy.