The Pipeline: Yomawari: Night Alone Makes Me Wonder About Japanese Horror | Buzz Blog

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Pipeline: Yomawari: Night Alone Makes Me Wonder About Japanese Horror

A look into NIS America's latest title before Halloween.

Posted By on October 28, 2016, 10:03 AM

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We've still got some days left on the October calendar for spooky games, and there's always been something about the way Japan does horror that's both unique and disturbing. I mean, this is the country that made the horror film House, where a women gets joyfully eaten alive and decapitated into pieces by a living piano. And if you've never seen that insanity of '70s filmmaking, here's a link you can enjoy. When it comes to their brand of creepy creations, there's always something to enjoy and something to groan over—which is how I kinda felt after playing the NIS America release of Yomawari: Night Alone.

click to enlarge A broken bridge over a ditch? There's no way I could skip over that. - NIS AMERICA
  • NIS America
  • A broken bridge over a ditch? There's no way I could skip over that.

The game puts you in the life of a young redheaded girl, in what clearly looks like a Japanese setting at night. After losing your dog to what we'll call "unfortunate circumstances," you head home to tell your mom an absolute lie about what happened, leading her to go off to find the dog. After some time passes, you decide to wander off on your own to find her in the city, and you'll come across many spooky monsters along the way. While the goals are not clearly laid out, it's obvious your mission is to find the dog and your mom, while both avoiding and defeating the monsters along the way.

click to enlarge I know you're there, you farted in the corn. - NIS AMERICA
  • NIS America
  • I know you're there, you farted in the corn.

Yomawari: Night Alone has a lovely aesthetic where you can only see a certain amount around you without lighting, leaving it up to you to navigate through the city and other areas of town with a crayon drawn map and your own memory of where everything is. You have the option to walk, sprint or tip-toe around to be either quick or stealthy, but everything you do makes noise when you move. As ghosts, monsters and other unearthly spirits draw near, your heart will start to beat louder, giving you a sort of Geiger counter to evil, almost like the radio from Silent Hill 2. You'll gain a flashlight along the way—which will help you vanquish enemies, as they can't exist in the pure light—and a shovel later to dig up areas where it looks like something has been buried. You'll also be able to hide in bushes and other areas that will give you the ability to get away from multiple enemies at once.

click to enlarge I once heard a young girl spent the night in a graveyard to get better at the violin. - NIS AMERICA
  • NIS America
  • I once heard a young girl spent the night in a graveyard to get better at the violin.

Design-wise, the game is very beautiful looking, as you'll be maneuvering around in a diagonal form for a lot of it, seeing the world in a type of 3D perspective that adds depth and shadow. It will definitely put you on edge frequently, as you're caught off guard by enemies and will need to think quickly in order to escape. A lot of the game mechanics is based on your patience, as there will be several scenarios you just won't be able to escape, forcing you to hide and wait it out. It's a cool concept to base the strategy around, but it can become tedious as you wait for your heartbeat to die down and plan an escape. The flashlight does not guarantee your safety either, as some enemies will have an advantage in the darkened areas you're not looking at, and even a quick glance won't save you in time. All too often, you'll be caught and need to start over at inconvenient spots.

click to enlarge My flashlight will protect me! Take that! - NIS AMERICA
  • NIS America
  • My flashlight will protect me! Take that!

What the game truly lacks is perspective. Without getting into spoilers, the reasoning behind going out at night with the dog and letting your mom take care of it is very thinly established, and leaves few clues as to what you're exactly trying to accomplish other than finding your family. What purpose do the monsters have? What purpose do you have being out there defeating them? Do either of those things get explained to you before you beat the game? It seems like the simplest of reasons to kick off a game and get you exploring, but it feels lacking, because I don't truly know if I'm accomplishing anything in the process. Do I wander around and kill nothing, or will I need to kill everything to vanquish what's around me? Give me some kind of direction so I don't feel totally blind.

click to enlarge Looks like I found Tokyo's rartely seen Red Light District. - NIS AMERICA
  • NIS America
  • Looks like I found Tokyo's rartely seen Red Light District.

In the end, Yomawari: Night Alone is a decent spooky game, probably not best for younger kids, but definitely one for at least teenagers that will shock them as they play. There are some untidy pieces to it that I wish were cleaned up or given a little bit of rationale that aren't really revealed at the start, but many gamers will take that as a challenge and damn the consequences as a learning experience. It is not a bad game by any means; if fact, I would recommend this to a lot of people who are looking for something simple and spooky to play. It just feels like there's something missing at the start that I can't quite pin my finger to, and it's the kind of feeling I know many others would have and turn it off after an hour. Either way, the game is at least worth a try.

click to enlarge 3_star.jpg

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