Yomawari: Midnight Shadows (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 01.11.2017

Review for Yomawari: Midnight Shadows on PlayStation 4

In October of 2016, Yomawari: Night Alone was released. It was a big departure from the kind of games that Nippon Ichi Software would produce, being a horror game and all - this coming from a company known for its vast catalogue of fantasy - fan-service-filled JRPGs, and strategy games. However, Yomawari enjoyed a small cult status for being a distinctive horror-adventure game that stood out thanks to its art and that it was actually scary. It was a bite-sized horror game and a year later the West has now received a sequel with Yomawari: Midnight Shadows. This time the scope is bigger, the monsters are meaner, and the stakes are higher.

Yomawari: Midnight Shadows sets a very powerful precedent when it begins and makes things very clear that the protagonist, Yui, is going to have a bad time. Much like its predecessor, Midnight Shadows begins in a very shocking and tragic way to set the mood. It's very subdued and done with very little dialogue, relying on sound design and imagery. The two main characters are innocent little girls and the atmosphere is evocative of the childhood fears that everyone had when they were growing up, making these characters relatable. This bleak and isolated tone is carried throughout the entire experience even when Yui is safe in her colourful bedroom. The safety of her own home feels like a farce or denial of the very real spirits that lurk outside her walls and stalk the neighbourhood streets.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Midnight Shadows on PlayStation 4

The graphics have not changed since the first Yomawari. This still is an overhead view with richly illustrated backgrounds and 2D sprites. Nobody would ever complain about the lush and striking art direction, but the animation is kept at the most basic functionality. Both playable characters, Haru and Yui look very similar given that they are both chibi character designs and only have colour schemes to make them stand out from each other. This also applies to the unnamed girl protagonist from Night Alone and with the extra time from the development and using mostly the same assets, one would have hoped that the range of animation and expressions would have expanded more. One aspect of Midnight Shadows that has grown substantially is the map size of the town and the inclusion of enterable locations. The graphics play it very safe without really improving on anything and only just give more of the same.

Anyone that thought the first Yomawari had perfect gameplay will be delighted that Midnight Shadows is exactly the same and is just more of it. Like before, controlling Yui or Haru is done with eight-directional movement and the girls must explore their location. The biggest change is how control between the two girls is intermittent between chapters instead of playing as just one character for the duration of the story. Yui is the most clear cut actual protagonist being how she gets a map and inventory screen that tracks all collectibles and key items. While exploring the town, Yui will find consumables, notes and various trinkets but none of them are as important as the coins that operate like an ink ribbon from the original PlayStation era Resident Evil releases.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Midnight Shadows on PlayStation 4

The coins are used as offerings to jizo statues, which are save points and fast travel spots to make getting around the large town quicker. The indoor areas that every chapter has are basically like a dungeon that has its own unique spirits that lurk in them and come with boss encounters. Indoors, there are no jizo statues; instead the girls will use phones. These pseudo-dungeons are the only real evolution for Midnight Shadows being how they allow much more freedom for the developer to create more controlled situations and really amp up the scares.

Midnight Shadows is a scary game that is compounded by a very isolated atmosphere. The whole game carries this cursed air about it - like it's haunted. The threats are palpable, which can be attributed to inspired sound design that gets emphasised by the complete lack of all music. Much like its predecessor, there is no music at all and while playing this late at night with lights off with only the sound of the neighbourhood, it is easy to get adsorbed in the atmosphere of Midnight Shadows. Crickets will chirp and the subtle buzz of electricity will wash over the breeze of the air... only for it to get cut by Yiu/Haru's pounding heartbeat that also serves as an indicator of how close they are to a spirit. The girls handle well enough and since the gameplay is so simple there really isn't anything that might offend. Thankfully, light exposes these forces that all have their own way of reacting to the light. Avoiding these spirits is the only option since they kill these girls instantly in a brutal and bloody manner. This is where Midnight Shadows begins to falter.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Midnight Shadows on PlayStation 4

There are no real consequences to dying. Respawning at the last checkpoint or save point does not mean losing any of the items or keys that were picked up. This might seem like it would be something that would prevent headaches in a game where death happens suddenly, but all it has led to is the developers getting overly cheeky with how they set up encounters and boss battles. The trial and error aspect is legendary in the later points of the story. There are some situations that become utterly immersion-breaking because it just seems like the team was setting up kaizo style traps instead of making a legitimate challenge. It is a really bad blemish on what is a fairly neat and tidy horror adventure game that plays it very safe. It may require some patience but the bittersweet ending is completely worth it. The post-game content is also interesting: the entire map gets opened up and is free to fully explore to gather up all missed collectibles and to admire all the detail and craftsmanship put into the art.

Screenshot for Yomawari: Midnight Shadows on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Yomawari: Midnight Shadows manages to be pretty scary and goes to show how restraint can be effective in crafting horror. It is too bad that the formula from the first game is so strictly adhered to and really does feel like more of the same. "If it isn't broke, why fix it?" is a very understandable philosophy but when working with such a simplistic formula like Yomawari, one can't help but wonder the potential that lies in what is essentially a horror scenario of being a night watchman. A more detailed story and much bigger world to explore is what to expect from Midnight Shadows. The first Yomawari on PlayStation Vita was released bundled with a second game when it came out, probably because of its simplistic nature. Midnight Shadows still is a simple title that relies on its scary art, but does not come with a second game and has to stand completely on its own. Thankfully, this does an amazing job of being a satisfying and fulfilling horror experience. Bring a change of trousers.

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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