Dark, Disturbing, and Tailored for the Vita
By Edwin Velez
Reviewed on Playstation Vita
Release Date: October 25th, 2016 For PS Vita and PC
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Everyone has been young and has had the fear that comes with being overly imaginative and defenseless. The things that go bump in the night tend to be just our imaginations playing on a sound or feeling, resonating that fear itself is truly all we have to fear. Yomawari takes those adolescent fears and puts a twisted, gruesome spin on it. After a night around town goes bad real quick, both your sister and dog have gone missing. The town is covered in spirits that are very real, and very dangerous, and they are most certainly no figment of the protagonist girls imagination. Yomawari might as well be called Darker Souls, because there are spirits around every corner, and they want nothing more than to kill you.
Yomawari was developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software and launched in 2015 for the Playstation Vita. This year it made its way to other markets after localization and I am all the more delighted that it did. Yomawari is a fantastic horror game that fills every bit of the Vitas screen with purpose and scares alike. It is truly portable horror at its finest. Taking cues from both the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises earlier titles, the game embodies the golden age survival horror games of the ninties, all the while remaining wholly unique. It is a refreshing experience for the genre, one that is scaled perfectly for the mobile platform. There is no combat on your end, so most of the game is spent avoiding the various horrific creatures that you will cross paths with. It adds that extra touch that keeps you on the edge of your seat and puts you in more tense moments than you can count. Be warned though, there is plenty of death to go around. While many of the creatures will simply gravitate towards you, there are many that have unique ways to kill you. This means there are unique ways to avoid them in turn. I was very impatient at the start of my game, and learned quickly that taking my time and evaluating each situation would go a long way. If you get tired of seeing your blood slashed across the screen, take a moment to look at your surroundings and approach your scenario a bit differently. Or else you will die over and over again, which can be frustrating.
While there is no weaponry so to speak, there are some usable items that will help you on your search for the two closest beings in your life. Coins, rocks, and matches are the essential three, while there are a few others in the mix as well. Each serves a specific purpose as well. While some will distract enemies or encourage animals to be friendly with you, the coin is probably the most important. The coin, much like the ink cartridges of Resident Evil fame, allow you to save. While this was neat, what was really great about the feature is that it tied into a fast travel system that I would not normally expect to find in a horror title. The Jizo statues which serve as the saving point also allow you to travel between one another, assuming you have saved at them before. There are also key items that, thankfully, don't disappear when you die before saving. The game boasts a large map that is rich in both diversity and scope. Each section feels unique, and while the story will eventually take you across most of it, from the start it feels pretty open. The details you find across it will pull you in and not let go, as does the art and sound direction for the duration of the game. Early on I fell in love with how detailed the ambient noises are, a feature that I think is crucial to immersion. From the haunting sounds the spirits makes, down to a simple clink when walking over a drain or the buzz of a nearby vending machine, Yomawari really impresses. The sound effects are equally creepy. At one point I heard a baby laugh, only to see the image of its face spread across a nearby home’s windows. Howling wind and deep groans all raise the heartbeat, and whether it is yours or that of the girl you are controlling, the tension is constantly raising.
Yomawari keeps your nerves on edge in a variety of ways. For one, your characters heart beat is audible when enemies are around. The closer they are, the faster it beats, right up until the point when you are killed. The main way to get away is to run or hide, the latter of which you can do behind signs, bushes, and other objects. Your heart will continue to beat strongly until the threat goes away, but either way the feeling of helplessness is insanely evident. Some of the ways you end up dying are oddly satisfying, because they can be these special instances that play out in a special way. These often happen while exploring or going off the beaten path to search for collectables, which really adds to the value of the overall package. Story wise, there are several chapters with some loosely specific goals that keep the narrative going. There is not much depth to the overall story, but enough to keep it mysterious and leave you questioning what is happening. One of my few gripes with the game is the lack of awareness the girl has about what is taking place early on. This is alleviated a bit later, when she openly acknowledges the spirits and the fact that they are trying to kill her. As a whole, the dialogue is a bit underwhelming but gets the job done. Most of the emotion plays off better with the girl’s body language, which is pulled off excellently considering how small of a scale the character is presented on.
Yomawari is a must have on the Vita, as far as horror titles go. Not only is it very well balanced and presented, but it manages to be scary while also being passionate. It is detailed in both brutal and beautiful ways. The open world works well with the ability to fast travel, and after the credits roll you can continue to search for collectables and secrets whenever you want. This is seldom seen in the genre, and I was glad I could play at my own pace but still be able to return to clean up anything I may have missed. For fans of the genre, Yomawari will strike many notes that are perfectly tuned. It is a highly enjoyable survival-horror title that truly respects the genre’s roots while being original in it’s own ways.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 8.5/10
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