I still fondly remember playing the first Yomawari game on the PlayStation Vita, so when NIS America announced a new game in the series I couldn’t wait to play it. Out now for PC, Switch and the PlayStation 4, here are our thoughts on the PS4 version of Yomawari: Lost in the Dark.
Even six years after playing Night Alone on the Vita, the mixture of cute Ghibli-like characters amidst a terrifying setting remains as unique and effective as ever. It’s no surprise that Yomawari: Lost in the Dark doesn’t break with this trend, but you do get to go through a character creation tool before you dive into the story, giving you a chance to personalize the experience somewhat. You then get thrown into the narrative to find your character, Yuzu, being bullied at school.
A few story beats later, you find yourself in a forest where you run into a woman who tells you that you need to fulfill your promise or you’ll be cursed to walk the night forever. The only problem…. you have no idea what led you to this predicament as you’ve lost your memories. You now have to find and trigger them before it’s 6am, which is when the curse becomes permanent.
The curse is the central plot element in Yomawari: Lost in the Dark, but on your journey you’ll play through a series of ghost stories. You can take these on in a nonlinear fashion, as they get triggered by finding objects that have specters attached to them. Starting one of these ghost stories will point you in a certain direction in order to find the right locations and retrieve memories, but other than that you’re encouraged to explore and find your own way.
Yomawari: Lost in the Dark is a horror game, but not one that relies on combat. Instead, dealing with spirits feels more like a puzzle where you have to figure out how to defeat them. Some are scared of (flash)lights and others can be neutralized by something as innocent as closing your eyes – which is an actual mechanic here. When you fail you can just restart within the scenario you were playing, giving you a chance to learn and quickly progress, often step-by-step as the game is generally rewarding and rarely frustrating in its challenges.
Where the game really shines is in its audiovisual delivery – just like its predecessors did. The visual style is gorgeous, but the audio is even more impressive. This is a game where you’ll want to turn the speakers up or play with a good pair of headphones. While never bombastic, the audio is full of subtle little cues that help paint an atmosphere of dread that visuals alone can’t quite capture.
If you listen carefully, you can hear where your enemies are coming from, and how close they are – and the sound of your own footsteps will make you want to reconsider which surfaces you set foot on. There’s almost always a layer of ambient sound present as well, from the sound of the wind to eerie whispers. It can be creepy, but when you suddenly hear absolutely nothing that’s probably even scarier. As with any good scary game, this is one to play with the lights turned down and the sound turned up.