Don’t let the way it looks fool you – this is a serious horror game and a pretty good one at that.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is probably the scariest and most adorable game I’ve ever played. It does an amazing job of having a cutesy look while maintaining a terrifying atmosphere that could rival games like The Evil Within 2 in the moment. There was a game before it all, Yomawari: Night Alone which I hear is also pretty good, so I might have to check that out at a later time.
The story is about two young girls who get separated after encountering some kind of spirit. The whole goal of the game is to reunite these two. You alternate between these characters the whole game. There’s a whole lot of other creepy stuff going around and it’s great – and that’s basically the premise of the game.
The game as a whole is a survival horror game with limited saves and no combat; which makes sense since you’re essentially playing as 6th graders. You explore the town avoiding the ghosts and demons that can kill you. There isn’t really a penalty for dying since saves are plentiful and almost no progress is lost upon death. The two main things you do against the ghosts is hide from them and use your flashlight on them. There’s a huge variety of enemies in this game and they all have different properties when it comes to them interacting with your flashlight. Some can only be seen if you flash a light on them, and some will stay in place like a Boo in Super Mario Bros. I really like this mechanic as it forces you to suck it up and at least see what the light does to each monster rather than just run away. There are also collectible items scattered around the game which give you special properties called “charms”. You’re gonna have to explore a lot if you wanna collect all of ’em and and you get a couple just by progressing through the campaign. The game is extremely tense, because while you have a fairly long stamina bar, it can be drained in seconds if your heart rate is high and it only gets that way when you’re near an enemy. And you’re gonna need your stamina bar since almost every enemy is faster than you.
The gameplay does have its faults though. I mentioned earlier that deaths are basically meaningless since it just puts you back to your save or a checkpoint with pretty much no penalty. So it’s a pretty straightforward experience with minimal challenge – and worse yet, after the fourth time you die for the same reason, tedium sets in and it starts to feel like a chore.
My favorite part about this game is the visual style. I believe it was used mainly to initially subvert expectations (see Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and it nailed it. The cutesy look of almost everything contrasts so well with the absolutely terrifying ghost design. The closest thing I can think of how these enemies look is an horror anthology anime called Yami Shibai which uses a sort of similar style when it comes to its monsters. Nothing looks out of place though which is kind of amazing since the look of some things differs so much. The backgrounds of the game also have a ton of variety, ranging from extremely pretty to dreary and spooky.
The main opinion I’ve formed about this game is that it succeeds as a horror game. And I honestly think that this has been the scariest game I’ve played all year (the others being Resident Evil 7, The Evil Within 2 and White Day). It mostly has to do with the designs of the enemies and clever ways the game leads you in and gets you with something completely unexpected. It’s only about 5 hours long but it’s definitely a densely packed experience.
To sum it up, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is a really good, scary, short experience with only a little bit of jankiness and a few things it can work on to be better. But even as it is, it’s just a really good time, another great game for some good ol’ Halloween fun.
I give Yomawari: Midnight Shadows a 7.5 out of 10.