Yomawari: Night Alone (Vita) - Ramblin' Review
Yomawari: Night Alone is an interesting take on the survival horror genre. While it isn't the first game to make you explore a poorly lit area with no means of defending yourself, it does seem to be one of the few that puts you in a nightmare world that is all too familiar, and charges you with traversing this dangerous world as a very young, but very determined little girl.
We start the game by reaching the end of our nightly walk with our dog. This brief journey home is a convenient means of teaching us the basics of the game. Hold R to run, hold L to tiptoe, interact with items using "X", and pull up an inventory using the triangle button. Dpad and left analog stick moves your character around, and Start pulls up the map. The map will become more useful later on, as it is has a few already marked areas of interest.
So, on the way home, amidst the tutorial for using items that you have in your inventory, I threw my newly found rock into the road, and my dog chased after it, only to get run over by a truck(!). My defeated little girl skulks back home, dragging her empty dog leash behind her. Upon arrival, her sister asks where the dog is...and tells you that she will go to search for your dog. I agreed by accident, knowing full well that my dog was dead, but I doubt that there would have been an option to stop her. I was actually surprised that sending my dog it's death didn't end the game immediately.
Anyhow, your sister leaves, and you wait around in your yard for a few moments. With growing concern, you venture out into the neighborhood to find your sister. Possibly because you know that the only way she will find poor Poro is by finding any remnants of the creature along the side of the road.
This is where the real game begins. As you venture outside of the safe area of your front yard, you will begin to encounter roadblocks, creepy signs that indicate that witnesses are wanted, and worst of all...death. Death comes a lot, and while it is actually at the hands of shadow creatures that blink into and out of visible reality, it usually seems that death comes from nothing. They are much more difficult to see, and therefore avoid, before you get the flashlight, which illuminates them as long as you're facing them.
The game works its magic by not really giving you any clues or hints as to where to go, what to do, or how to achieve your goal. You can check things for usable objects (vending machines for coins, garbage bags for rocks, etc), and you can run or tiptoe. There is no way to engage any shadow monsters in combat, so you will be running, hiding, and tiptoeing around or away from them...if you happen to see that they are near.
One thing to keep in mind, and it isn't fully explained like the other basics were, is that you have a stamina gauge that comes up when you begin to run...only it's not a stamina gauge- it's a heartbeat meter. I had to look that one up, and primarily did so because it was inconsistent. If you start to run when there is nothing around you, then you have a gauge that is almost the width of the screen. If you start to run after spotting a shadow creature, your gauge is much smaller, and as it shrinks, your running gets slower. This is because you're so terrified, that it is more difficult for you to react. At least, that's my theory behind the dev's reasoning for making you go slower as you become more scared?
Anyways, after you initially find your sister, she asks you to close your eyes, and tells you that everything will be ok. When you close your eyes, she is gone. However, you do find her flashlight on the ground by where you find her. Turning the flashlight on reveals a large spidery shadow monster that is ready to give chase. If it gets you, you're dead. Almost everything is a one hit kill in this game, which means that you will see the blood soaked death screen, a lot.
After you escape this monster, you navigate your way back home, finding a shrine that allows you to quick save for one coin. Then you make it home and are able to save and kind of calm down.
Upon exiting the house, you notice that you now have more streets that you are allowed to explore, and the journey continues from there. I'll leave you off at that point in this review so as not to spoil any more of the game.
Knowing the intro to the story doesn't take much away from the game, though. While I was initially frustrated to the point of just giving up on the game and playing something else for review, I decided to keep playing, and I'm glad that I did. The game isn't very long, maybe 3 hours, but exploring the neighborhood to discover your best route is pretty entertaining, and the constant lingering fear that a shadow creature might pop out at any moment and set back most of your progress makes the game very tense. You'll also feel genuine relief when you manage to get away from your shadow assailants on instances where you had previously failed multiple times.
So, while this isn't a game for the more action oriented, it is a fun and beautiful distraction from many other games that are light on action. It's also a bit bloody, and many people will be put off by the death of the dog at the beginning, but it's worth checking out. I'm really looking forward to the sequel.
Another cool bonus to picking this up, is that it contains both this game and the previously reviewed
htoL:NiQ on one cart. This is the cheaper option for playing htoL:NiQ, but obviously won't satisfy the more hardcore collectors. It is perfect for those of us that just want to play, however.
Remember to come back tomorrow, as we begin wrapping up the last few days of October and this month's series.
Day 26 - Violett < 31 Days of Halloween > Day 28 - Kid Dracula