Yomawari: Midnight Shadows Review
Disclaimer: PC Aficionado was provided with a code for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in the review are the writer’s own and are not influenced by the developer and/or publisher in any way.
Style, on top of style, on top of style. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows just simply looks, sounds, and feels spectacular. The several, distinct art styles work together fantastically. The backgrounds and ambiance are gorgeous and perfectly, artistically crafted, while characters and the UI are cartoony, blocky, and cutesy, but they very rarely clash. Rather, the well drawn, realistic backgrounds serve to make the characters pop perfectly. However, it seems as though the majority of the game’s achievements are due almost entirely to that style, which can be a bit of a let down if you were hoping for too much substance underneath.
Immediately upon opening the game, Yomawari makes it very clear that, despite the cutesy, anime art style used for its protagonists, it absolutely takes itself seriously as a horror game. The game wastes no time in telling you to play in a completely dark room, and once it actually begins, Yomawari opens with one of the most haunting images imaginable; and I think it’s a pretty good sign for a game’s plot when even the tutorial has moments I wouldn’t dare spoil.
The overarching story that Yomawari presents is more than passable. It offers several questions that I couldn’t wait to find the answer to, as well as several questions that are simply never answered. The plot is extremely serviceable, but is given in frustratingly short bursts, with too much filler in between. Though, once the game’s plot gets rolling, it rolls pretty fast, in a story that was more than enough to keep my interest all the way through.
Now, into easily the best aspect of the game: the presentation. As stated earlier, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows does almost everything right in terms of audio and visuals. Each enemy is completely visually different from the last, with many being reminiscent of classic yokai from Japanese horror stories. Ironically, despite mashing together so many art styles, Yomawari has one of the most consistent artistic directions I’ve ever seen in a game, with every moment being just as creepy as the last. However, that might be just as much of a complaint as it is a compliment.
Yes, there is indeed such a thing as “too consistent”, and I feel like Yomawari hit that point pretty hard. After all, what happens when the ordinary enemies you don’t even have to interact with are just as creepy as the bosses? What happens is that you become acclimated to the game’s “base level” of horror, and the spikes just simply don’t reach high enough to feel meaningful. The entire time, Yomawari felt like it hit a plateau, and struggled greatly to stand out in its own art style. Despite this, however, it was always fantastic to look at, even if it didn’t make for the most amazing gameplay experience.
In the way of gameplay, Yomawari is just about as basic as it comes, as far as modern games go. Movement is fairly awkward, only being able to move in eight directions, and controlling your speed with the shoulder buttons, but it isn’t hard to get used to. Aside from movement, you can pick up and throw items, hide in anything big enough to fit you, and turn your flashlight on and off. That’s… pretty much it. Being a horror game where you don’t fight back, the general gameplay loop almost completely consists of wandering around until you find the next plot device, and running and/or hiding every time something sees you. The game only occasionally branches out at all, with a few, specific enemies requiring you to run and hide in somewhat different ways, but it’s never enough to really make the gameplay feel diverse.
You wouldn’t expect a game like Yomawari to have a huge overworld, but it certainly does. The game tries its best to create a realistically designed and proportioned town, which means a lot of walking. This wouldn’t be too big of a deal if the game didn’t often leave you with very little direction, forcing you to wander completely aimlessly. This specific problem is inconsistent, as you are often told exactly where to go, but simply have to walk a great distance to get there; though other times you’re simply left to explore on your own, until you stumble upon the next plot point. This pattern feels like pointless padding, and significantly extends the length of the game, in a very boring and unfulfilling way.
The “good parts” are still interesting; at least enough to keep me playing. Though there’s too much monotony in between, which only serves to further my previously stated problem; that the game acclimates you to a base level of horror, that it rarely rises above. I feel like the important parts of the game would be much more impactful if the overworld were smaller, and had fewer, if any, monsters in it. Though, then the game would be criminally short, so what you’re left with is a game with fantastic visuals, and a passable story, but that somehow actually manages to make the concept of being murdered by ghosts boring.
Being a roughly six hour game, and having much of that time spent aimlessly wandering a town much bigger than necessary, I can’t recommend you buy Yomawari: Midnight Shadows at full price, unless you’re completely enthralled by its art style, and are a fan of similarly styled games, such as Corpse Party or A Rose in the Twilight. Nothing about the game particularly stood out as “bad” or unpleasant, though not much about it was fantastic either. You will likely have a perfectly fine experience with the game, as long as you know what you’re getting into.
- Fantastic visuals
- Interesting story
- Extremely atmospheric
- Too much padding
- Extremely little gameplay depth
- Has a hard time shocking you after the opening moments