Yomawari: Night Alone (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 18.10.2016

Review for Yomawari: Night Alone on PS Vita

It is Halloween season and that means one thing: it's time to get scared. What better way to do so than with a good old dose of Japanese horror? While Western horror continues to rely on jump scares and gore fests, Nippon Ichi brings real horror, a horror that relies on natural fears - like a fear of the dark. This simple sprite game sees a young girl set out into her town in the black of night, but many things lurk through the darkness, waiting for silly little girls. Welcome to the fright-fest that is Yomawari: Night Alone on PlayStation Vita.

The story opens with the named playable character out walking her dog, "Poro." Suddenly disaster strikes and the pair are separated. The young girl makes her way home, where her "big sis" decides to go find Poro. Some time passes and the big sis does not come home, so it's down to the young protagonist to head out into the darkness and find her dog (and sister) and bring them both home safely.

The story thrives on the "Show, don't tell" principle. There are seven chapters to experience, which follow the young girl as she explores more and more of her town, with each leading her one step closer to the truth surrounding the mystery. Initially, very little of the town is open to be explored, with plenty of police blockades cordoning off streets, not to mention locked gates and closed railway crossings. As the story continues, however, more interesting environments become available to be explored. The local school, the spider web filled woods, the cliffs where a local girl fell to her death - each looking hauntingly beautiful in their painted style.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Night Alone on PS Vita

The overall aim is tracking down "big sis" and Poro, but each chapter has its own objective and short story to play through, along with plenty of collectibles to hunt down. Early on, a torch is acquired and when shone over an item of interest, a small '?' appears, changing to '!' when an item can be examined or picked up. These could be items to progress further, like keys to locked doors, or just flavour items to build the world and story. There are plenty of side activities and trophies attached for tracking all of these items down.

While exploring this town, there are numerous dangers hidden in the shadows. At first, they are limited lanky figures made of pure shadow, with gaping eyes and mouths, only visible when they enter the light. As the story develops, more creatures appear - the familiar long-haired girl ghost, numerous arms reaching out from behind walls, gargantuan spiders with human faces, and so on. It's a veritable assortment of Japanese spirits.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Night Alone on PS Vita

The similarity between all of these creatures is what happens if they touch the little girl - a crimson splatter splashes across the screen before it fades to black and back to the nearest save point she goes. Each spirit has its own style of moving and type of reactions to learn, for example, there are strange rock creatures that are sensitive to light, so can be crept passed in the dark or lured away with lit matches. Then there are grotesque behemoths that rear up and charge, requiring quick reflexes to dash to the side.

There's no way to fight back against the ghouls that inhabit the town, so the goal is to spot them, then avoid them or hide quickly. Many can't be seen unless in light, keeping gamers on their toes examining the surroundings with the torch, yet, even when the spirits aren't seen, their effects can be felt. Yomawari: Night Alone uses a stamina bar that doubles as a measure of the girl's emotional state, and a red orb at its centre pulses with the girl's heart beat. This begins to thud as spirits grow closer, and slams as they get within an arm's length. The closer they are, the more stamina used to run away, and learning to manage this bar is essential early on.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Night Alone on PS Vita

The style and design of Yomawari is masterfully done, filled with little touches that build together to make a great end product. The simple chibi sprite of the character stands out starkly against the gorgeous backgrounds, while the scribbled monstrosities filled with black designs fade into the shadows. The sound design complements the atmosphere perfectly, as well, for most of the game; there is no soundtrack, just the ambient noise of the town, the chirp of cicadas, and the steps of the girl… then the low moans of some of the creatures, the clicks and creaks as they move, combined with the thumping heartbeat as they get closer. It all helps to build tension levels fantastically.

Yomawari: Night Alone is sadly somewhat short. It will take most players three-to-four hours to finish the main story, but there are also plenty of collectibles, side stories, and trophies in the "clear mode" that is unlocked after completing the main game that add a few more hours on. There is also an annoying "Play for 50 hours" trophy to waste the time of completionists out there. It has a high price tag for such a short title, though, but this is somewhat offset by the fact it's receiving a double-pack release here in the UK, along with htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Night Alone on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Yomawari: Night Alone on PlayStation Vita is a brilliantly refreshing return to the iconic Japanese horror game, and it's a real joy to see it get localised here in the UK. Horror aficionados need to pick this one up and when better than just in time for Halloween? Get some good headphones, a pitch black room, kick back, and let this special adventure take you on a journey, but don't forget to keep a torch nearby, just in case...

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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