Horror games come in all shapes and sizes but they all offers one aspect, terror and suspense. From exploring a haunted town covered with a thick fog too trying to get out of a hospital covered in monsters, the horror genre is very diverse.
After spending a few hours with the NIS America horror title Yomawari: Night Alone, I feel a great sense of horror that really stuck with me. Using basic gameplay elements alongside a strong presentation, great sense of atmosphere and some fantastic sound design, Yomawari: Night Alone has impressed me in being an enjoyable horror adventure.
You play as a little girl who is walking her dog back home and decide to toss a rock in the road you just picked up. What is the worst that could happen? Well, a car passes by and our main character closes her eyes. When she opens them, she just thought the dog ran away. After coming home, her sister learns that their dog is indeed missing so she goes out to find it. She does not come back and your quest begins.
The set up is strong, as you have a clear goal in finding your sister and dog, but you do not know what else is happening. The spiritual monsters around your home town? Reality of your dog ‘running away’? That isn’t told to you and up to interpretation on the player’s part. Being in the role of a little girl lets the game have a lot of imagination with creature designs and how she interacts with objects in the game world.
But it also makes you defenseless when facing these creatures, making exploring the town terrifying and heart pounding. The story holds a lot of promise and just get’s better over the course of the game.
Gameplay & Design
Yomawari: Night Alone is very simple on the surface, as you do not have much in terms of interacting with the world. You can press the X button to interact with specific objects or pick up items, press Square to throw/use items you find, press Select to turn on/off your flashlight and press Start to open up your map.
Running and strafing (mapped to R and L on the Vita) are major mechanics though, as your running is linked to a stamina meter. When you are near a creature, running takes up a much more of the gauge when just running around normally so you have to be mindful of how you explore. Creatures are very unique in terms of how they interact with you, as some just follow you until they can make a final strike or simply leave you alone unless you bother them.
It creates a interesting dynamic, as due to not being able to actively fight these creatures, you have to find ways to get round them. One example is a set of Eye Balls blocking your path and you have nothing early on that can push them away. But later in the game, you can get something that will push them back. I also found simply exploring to be a very atmospheric experience, as every location offers something as a reward (more coins for quick-saving, items for puzzle solving, ect) if you decided to look around.
The game’s map is very detailed, marking up every location you visit so you do not have to worry about getting lost or not knowing where to go. This is made even better through special Save Statues that offer quick saving (which does NOT mean a real save; learned this the hard way and had to re-do a full hour of gameplay) and being able to warp to the different statures you found across the map.
It makes traveling across the game world a non-issue and intuitive. Overall the gameplay here is solid and offers a great horror experience.
This is a beautiful game on the PS Vita, as the sprite work on your main character and monsters is full of detail. From how your character’s backpack sways back and forth when running, the clanking noise of your characters feet when running or the strange ways the creatures move; it creates a world that is alive.
Backgrounds you explore are also very detailed, with a lot of plant life near nature-locations, buildings having a lot of detail in design and little touches like various signs on walls creating context to some of the game’s locations.
Music greatly helps with this, as the sound design is top notch. Music is suspenseful when needed and when you hear the main character’s heart beat, you know something is nearby. The game relies on ambient music and sound throughout the experience to create a very specific mood and tone, and from the time I put into the game thus far, it succeeds in doing just that.
I really enjoyed my time so far with Yomawari: Night Alone as I feel it does a lot of things right regarding the horror genre. It is scary when it needed, the presentation is strong and the gameplay while simple does a lot to ensure you explore every part of the game world. My review on this title will be releasing this coming weekend.
This title was played on the PS Vita using a review copy provided by NIS America. My review on this game will be published on the weekend (10/22).