Yomawari: The Long Night Collection Review – Spooky, frustrating ghosts

Platform:
Switch
Released:
November 7, 2018
Publisher:
NIS America
Developer:
Nippon Ichi Software

Review

With a cute, minimalistic art style, at first glance Yomawari’s looks are quite deceiving. A young girl walking her dog seems innocent enough, but within moments the tone shifts and it’s clear that this is a horror experience that is designed to shock you and leave you feeling scared and alone. Yomawari: The Long Night Collection now on Switch includes two titles previously released on PS Vita, PS4 and PC – Night Alone and Midnight Shadows.

Yomawari aims to bring your childhood fears to life, using creepy horrific creatures straight out of Japanese folklore and bringing them into the dark, lifeless towns you’ll explore in each title. The story and concept of both is essentially the same, with the main character a young girl trying to find someone lost in the night. What instantly grabbed me about each game is the distinct lack of soundtrack. No music fills the space at all, allowing for those bumps in the night to truly stand out.

Core gameplay revolves around quietly exploring the area, avoiding nasty creatures and solving the odd puzzle. If seen by an enemy, you have no way of defending yourself other than hiding in the environment like a bush and waiting for them to move on from your location. This is indicated by a strong heartbeat and red pulse on the screen that lets you know how close to you they are.

It’s effectively spooky, as the pulsing gets more intense and you hope that they won’t find you. You have no other visual indication of where they end up once leaving your position as well, so when you come out of hiding it’s spooky not knowing exactly where they’ve gone. In terms of mechanics, that’s pretty much all there is to it. You might find it lacking, with most of the puzzles revolving around combining found items with specific locations.

Despite its simplicity, it does have some moments that resonated. One particularly harassing ghost with long hair straight out of The Ring and a scream that will literally kill you spent a good chunk of time following me around. After threatening me for a while, I stumbled across the tragic way they had died, turning my frustration into a moment of melancholy.

With two games in the package, a unique art style and smart use of audio, Yomawari: The Long Night Collection seems like an enticing horror prospect, but in long sessions with the game the cracks begin to show. Having no way to defend yourself in a horror game isn’t a new idea, but in Yomawari there is no room for error. If an attacking creature hits you (and they definitely will), it’s instant death. Screen goes to splat, respawn at the last save point.

The first time this happens, it’s a shock. The loud noise is impactful and your shocked back to a previous area. But then it happens again. Nasties sometimes come out of seemingly nowhere, killing you before you even knew they existed. Then some rush at you with such speed that it’s almost impossible to avoid. Quickly, fear turns to frustration, as checkpoints aren’t frequent and repeating the same parts over and over is incredibly annoying.

The Bottom Line

Yomawari: The Long Night Collection does well to build tension and tells the odd short horror story with good effect, but some questionable choices with the gameplay prevents me from recommending it wholeheartedly. One-hit kills are frustrating, checkpoints few and far between and often times you’re left wandering the dark, not knowing where to go and with no real indication of what you’re doing wrong.

That might be by design, but terror quickly becomes tedious when you have to repeat areas ad nauseam. Much like the dark corners in the game itself, Yomawari is worth a look, but make sure to approach with caution.