Yomawari – Midnight Shadows review (Vita)

Yomawari – Midnight Shadows is the sequel to last year’s Yomawari – Night Alone. Besides a Vita (and PC) release, the sequel also gets a PS4 version. For this review, we played the game on Sony’s handheld.

When Night Alone came out last year, it was a pleasant surprise for Vita owners with its mix of pleasing visuals, a tense atmosphere and a dark story. Midnight Shadows is very much the same kind of experience, and if you didn’t like Night Alone then this one will probably not sway you either. On the other hand, if you enjoyed Yomawari last year then you’ll most definitely want to pick this one up as well.

In Midnight Shadows, you follow the story of two young girls (Haru and Yui) – one wearing blue and the other wearing red, who happen to be best friends. They’re about to wrap up their summer by climbing up to a vantage point to see the town’s fireworks display, when suddenly everything becomes covered in darkness. Unnerved, they head back home, but an attack sees them separated and lost. What follows is gameplay that is similar to Night Alone – non-violent, with an emphasis on hiding, running away and solving the odd puzzle here and there.

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Staying safe from harm is your primary objective, but you’ll find notes during your travels that help you uncover what has happened and which sinister forces are at work here. You’re also trying to reconnect Haru and Yui, but exploration is difficult because you’re essentially not armed with anything but a flashlight and (sometimes) the means to distract bad guys. Your flashlight can also help you find hidden items, but you’ll want to use it sparingly since it can also give your position away.

In your inventory, most of your items will be used to lure a monster away from where you want to go – tossing something that will get his attention while you make a break for it. At other times, you’ll need items to get past certain points in the game or to save your game (for which you use up coins), but inventory management never becomes overly complex – you mostly just stick to the actual stealth-based gameplay.

Moving around might take some getting used to for players who never played old arcade games with an eight-way joystick before – moving around isn’t done with 360 degrees of freedom here. For me personally, it felt very “retro” and I wasn’t bothered, but I could see people appreciating (and probably preferring) an alternate control scheme that allows for more freedom of movement. This is especially true during tense situations where pulling off a few quick moves can save you, but for the most part Midnight Shadows is a game where atmosphere is far more important than quick-paced action.

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You’ll spend the majority of the game exploring and hiding, and the stealth system works quite well. You can make use of bushes and signs to hide under and behind, or even crawl under a few empty boxes you can find lying around. When you hide from a ghost or monster, they’ll keep searching for you for a little while – and they might find you if you weren’t far enough out of sight when you hid. This creates tense moments while you wait and see if the coast is going to become clear again, and combining your hiding efforts with a distraction can be critical to your chances of survival.

Like Night Alone, Midnight Shadows is a wonderful game to look at – though very similar and some will criticize the lack of chances in this area. In a game that relies so much on darkness though, it’s hard to create a novel new look – and it’s worth pointing out that the game takes places inside a new town, so you’re not running around familiar buildings or alleys. The game also introduces a series of charms you can collect and equip – which is something that will appeal especially to completionists.

One last thing worth mentioning is the excellent audio that the game has. Playing with headphones, the game is very atmospheric in crafting an audio environment that constantly suggests that there’s danger lurking in the shadows, which is exactly what you want in a game like this. I would imagine that this doesn’t come across as well on a big screen, so if you’re playing the PS4 (or PS TV) version then I’d suggest wearing headphones to enhance your experience.

Yomawari – Midnight Shadows doesn’t innovate, but rather builds on the strong foundations of Night Alone. Fans of that game will definitely want to pick this one up as well.

Score: 8.0/10

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