Just in time for Halloween, I’ve managed to scare myself with a deceptively cute looking Japanese indie game called Yomawari: Midnight Shadows from Nippon Ichi Software
The game begins, after a fairly shocking prologue that I won’t spoil, in a small town where two girls are watching fireworks for the last time before one of them moves away. They are both distraught about the idea of losing each other, but realise that now the fireworks have ended, they need to go home through the forest in the dark.
As you can imagine, things don’t quite work out and they get separated and this is where the game pushes you in to the dark forest, alone, with just a flashlight and the warning of nearby monsters, thanks to an ever increasing heatbeat as they get near. Survive, piece the story together, and try to find each other again.
Aside from the beginning and end, there is no music in the game, just the sound of the wind, the heartbeats and the terrible wailing of the monsters when you’re (too) close to them. You have no weapons, only a flashlight and a knack for hiding in objects to wait for the monsters to pass. It’s pretty frightening at times and had my heart racing, particularly as there are some monsters who will frantically chase you and others who just do their own thing, but you often don’t have much time to work out which is which.
It’s a very Japanese ghost story with a unique set of grotesque monsters that look like they’ve come from the scribbled pages of a very troubled child. Couple this with the cartoon RPG streets and buildings and they look even more other-worldly and out of place. The atmosphere this and the sound effects produce is pretty powerful.
That said, there are very few penalties for getting caught, you find yourself back at the last checkpoint, doing the same routine until you work out how to avoid or hide from the monsters. But then most players, like myself, will simply want to get to the end of the story to find out what actually happens.
I enjoyed Yomawari. Well, maybe enjoyed wasn’t the right word, I was jumping out of my seat for half the game, but it’s a great little ghost story with a slightly ambiguous storyline and a great atmosphere which might not fulfill every gamer’s needs but certainly gave me entertainment.