It’s bleak. You start off by walking into the woods to bury your dog that has died. You cry every day a note reads. What happens next is shocking and caught me completely unaware.
I should probably have expected it really. As you begin the game you are told that you should have the sound up and lights off, and never look away from the screen. Despite the cutesy visuals, Midnight Shadows is anything but.
Beginning in the woods , the horrors come to life fairly quickly. Looking for your friend, the main game mechanic is established quickly. Armed with only a torch, you must navigate a wooded maze and listen out for the sound of your own heartbeat rising. At its peak, a monster appears, and from there you have a few options, depending on the monster.
This isn’t a point-and-shoot game. Pointing at a monster with your torch will garner some results based on the type of monster, so stopping them dead in their tracks for example will give you a chance to plan your escape. Angering them will simply make things a bit worse for you.
For the most part, certainly early on I found the most appropriate options were either run (of which you have a panic/exhaustion meter to show how much energy you have to sprint) or hide in a bush. Hiding confusing the ghosts and they’ll simply wander off. Later on you’ll find objects and items to use as distractions (my go-to being a rock, which you can throw).
Two things here really excel the atmosphere in Yomawari: Midnight Shadows. First is the sound design. There’s practically no music, instead silence is punctuated by the sound of your footsteps, the chirping of crickets in the night and when it comes, horrifying, piercing screams from the monsters. It’s not quite jumpscare territory but it’s in that region. The second is the design of the monsters.
Each look like something out of a Miyazaki feature. Detailed and beautifully grotesque, exaggerated features or simplistically shaped, each one is fascinating to look at. You could understand why your character is scared, but at the same time I didn’t want to avoid them as I enjoyed looking at them so much.
The story is told through two characters – Haru and Yui. You’ll skip between them which will give some clues as to where Yui is. Things you find dotted around also give some clues to how they got there, and whereas I normally shy away from reading anything in games, I did genuinely find this quite interesting.
It’s not the longest game but I did get frustrated at how game saves work. Akin to Resident Evil, saves can only be made at Shrines using coins. But there are so many coins lying about you never really need to worry about saving – you should just save at every opportunity you have. As such this mechanism comes across as a bit annoying and a hassle, whereas a quicksave would be more appropriate.
A surprising game then, certainly not what I was expecting but I would recommend Midnight Shadows to anyone looking for a slightly different horror-adventure game.
Reviewed on PS4/Vita