Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is a survival horror game that is the sequel to Yomawari: Night Alone that originally launched in Japan in 2015. Following the success of the original game that was released on the Vita and Steam in 2016 in the West, Nippon Ichi Software is back with the highly anticipated Midnight Shadows on the PlayStation 4, Vita and Steam.
Midnight Shadows revolves around two best friends, Yui and Haru visiting a mountain clearing to watch a dazzling fireworks show on their summer vacation. As the sky darkens and night falls, a mysterious creature lunges at Yui investigating a strange noise with Haru hiding safely in the bushes. A few moments later, Yui searches for Haru and discovers a flashlight left behind at the very spot that she was maliciously attacked. Alone and terrified, the girls must brave the dark to find each other and return home safely in the midst of terrorizing monsters, paranormal phenomena and unspeakable horrors. Yui is the girl with the red bow and proud owner of two puppies while her best friend Haru is more shy and reserved and dawns a blue bow. Both of the girls share striking similarities with the difference in hair color and bow setting them apart by appearances.
The girls are equipped with a flashlight as you venture through the dark to uncover pathways and shiny objects on the ground. You can walk or tiptoe at any time to move from one point to another more discreetly with the full option to run that slowly drains the energy meter. It is dangerous to say the least with many spirits lurking about and many that will not hesitate to attack the girls on sight. Not all spirits are visible at first glance as the girl’s heartbeat will rapidly increase when an imminent threat is nearby but ease up when they are out of harm’s way. Items like rocks can be thrown to distract enemies and hiding in bushes is another tactic to avoid monsters if running away is not possible. Valuable insight can be gained from your external surroundings like newspaper, wall graffiti and billboards to provide hints and clues. Coins can be paid to tiny statues to save your progress but are limited in number so it is advised to choose the save spots carefully. The map shows you where the girls have been and their primary objective in the event you are lost and need some direction.
Aside from the outdoors where dangers are rampant, you can explore the interiors of buildings like the library and abandoned buildings. Beware as any respite you find is temporary with spirits and supernatural creatures waiting for an opportunity to attack when your back is turned and your guard down. The stories for Haru and Yui overlap as switching between the girls is necessary to progress the story that influences the pace and direction. There is a shift in perspective as certain locales are viewed from a side scrolling angle. Interacting with objects by pushing them with the hand icon and interacting when the “?” icon appears and turns to a “!” icon is precisely how the girls overcome obstacles and road barriers. Equipping charms grants Haru and Yui special bonuses like carrying more items and increased stamina. You may occasionally find collectible items that unlock side quests as a welcome deviation from the main storyline.
The atmosphere is truly haunting with the girls searching every possible lead in the darkness with much vulnerability. The library is a great resource to gather information but Haru and Yui must be cautious with unsuspecting spirits hiding in some bookshelves. Notes and graffiti left behind by residents in abandoned buildings also send chills down a person’s spine as they are rumored to be haunted with lingering noises heard from within. A quiet dam is another facility to explore by the lakeside with its low water levels and open space. Many of the spirits that threaten the girl’s safety and livelihood range from the brutal spirits, spirit dogs, empty souls, red arm spirits to human face crabs and tire wanyudos. Taking time to determine their attack patterns and weaknesses will give the girls a chance to escape and ensure their survival in the darkness.
It is worth noting that Midnight Shadows is not for the faint of heart as there are plenty of sudden surprises and frequent scares. Even if you tread carefully to avoid contact with wandering spirits as much as possible, the game will catch you off guard when you least expect it as it is normal to be running one moment and be killed instantly with a blood spattered screen. As you go through numerous trial and error attempts, you will need to memorize certain pathways that are safer than others and be on the lookout for specific spirits to outrun or outsmart them. A spike in difficulty is present after the first couple hours of gameplay that keeps you on your toes at all times. If either Haru or Yui dies, they are revived at the last save point made by the Jinzo statue.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is an engaging survival horror game that surpasses its predecessor with its colorful visuals, smooth presentation and an eerily ghostly soundtrack that leaves you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire game. The control scheme and the repetition of monsters are minor grievances that don’t hinder the experience as the release of Midnight Shadows coincides perfectly with Halloween, the spookiest time of year for haunting adventures and deep scares. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is filled with terror, suspense and surprises along the way, just be sure to give it your undivided attention for the best frightening experience.
PROS (+): Beautiful Visuals, Haunting Soundtrack, Gripping Plot
CONS (-): Repetitive Spirit Encounters, Control Scheme
SCORE – 8.0/10
This review is based on a digital copy of Yomawari: Midnight Shadows on the PlayStation 4 provided by NIS America.