General game information
Game name: Yomawari: Night Alone
Release date: October 25, 2016
Price: US$ 19.99
Genre: Survival horror
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Yomawari: Night Alone is an isometric survival horror game set in a small town. The player controls a young girl who is trying to find her elder sister in a town haunted by otherworldly horrors that come out at night. Right from the start, the developers set the tone marvelously with a short but effective tutorial followed by a gut wrenching intro sequence which I shall not spoil because it’s a big part of the game’s charm. Once the introduction is over, gamers can explore the town, searching for the main character’s sister.
Instead of relying on cheap jump scares, developers Nippon Ichi Software went for a more classic approach to survival horror gaming. Our avatar is a defenseless little girl, so every shadow can be a horrifying creature, and we are never sure if the monsters that populate the small city are real until they catch up with us. Since the protagonist can’t fight back, she must rely on stealth and speed, taking cover in the scenery whenever possible, and learning the ghosts’ movement patterns.
The map is relatively open, letting gamers access some sections before they need to traverse them for story purposes. Later ghost encounters will require more than just sneaking or running away, and the player will have to solve puzzles and use specific items to get past some of the tougher enemy types. Running away from monsters can also alert dormant threats that were previously unseen, and hiding is a valid strategy for most encounters. If the player chooses to take cover in the scenery, the camera focuses on their hiding place and the little girl’s heart beats faster or slower, depending on the monsters’ position, something that can be incredibly useful as a threat detector.
Aside from the running and hiding mechanics and the different items, our character can also use a flashlight which will be quite useful in many situations, shining a bright ray of hope on hidden items, and serving as an early warning system for many ghost encounters. The flashlight behaves just as its real life counterpart, so players can only aim it on the direction that their character is facing.
Some sections can be particularly frustrating due to the game’s reliance on trial and error tactics, but thankfully, the developers implemented a fairly lenient checkpoint system which makes death trivial, letting gamers retry difficult parts without having to backtrack too much. As the game progresses, players will find small shrines that can be activated using coins and will let players respawn at the last one they’ve visited. The little girl’s inventory doesn’t reset when she dies, a small feature that will definitely save gamers a lot of time, as they won’t have to traverse monster infested territory to get the same objects twice. The same shrines that act as checkpoints can be used as fast travel points, something that becomes really useful in later parts of the game.
Yomawari: Night Alone is a truly beautiful game, with hand drawn environments and characters coming to life thanks to excellent animation work, and some disturbingly terrifying monster designs. To further enhance the immersion, both the ingame map and all the game menus look like they were drawn with coloring pencils, as if the little girl sketched the map on her notebook. The game’s sound design is also outstanding, featuring some audio cues that will definitely scare the life out of most players and terrifying ambient sounds that will keep gamers on their toes for the duration of the adventure.
Ultimately, Yomawari: Night Alone is an excellent survival horror title that will keep players on their toes for the duration of its four hours long campaign. Nippon Ichi Software‘s latest title goes back to the horror genre’s roots, letting go of modern traditions and bombastic set pieces, and focusing on a more personal story instead.
8/10 – Very good.