Yomawari: The Long Night Collection (NS) - ReviewEvan Norris , posted on 23 October 2018 / 3,213 Views
With Halloween fast approaching, the release window for the horror compilation Yomawari: The Long Night Collection couldn't be better. A bundle containing Yomawari: Night Alone, which debuted on Vita, and Yomari: Midnight Shadows, previously on Vita and PS4, The Long Night Collection is a satisfactory package for fans of spooky action-adventure games. It's far from perfect—gameplay across both titles is shallow and there are a bunch of cheap, frustrating deaths throughout—but interesting stories, striking artwork, and a large assortment of collectible tokens help paper over any cracks.
The dark, tragic tales of Night Alone and Midnight Shadows are just what you'd want from ghost stories. They're uncanny, haunting, and allegorical. Both take place in quaint Japanese towns, flanked by woods, fields, industrial zones, school yards, mountains, and shopping districts. These everyday, innocuous fixtures of suburbia turn menacing at midnight, as the darkened streets and pathways fill with apparitions and demonic forces. Inspired heavily by urban myths and folk tales, Night Alone and Midnight Shadows are both solid tales of terror and treatises on Japanese cultural anxieties.
In Night Alone, the first tale, a young girl searches her town at night for her absent sister. Along the way she runs afoul of angry demons and ghostly monsters. In Midnight Shadows, the second and more captivating narrative, another young girl seeks out her best friend, who's gone mysteriously missing. Both stories share similar protagonists, locales, story beats, and themes—the idea that some ghosts and spirits are, in fact, misunderstood is visited in each chapter—and introduce a bestiary that's alternately bizarre, gory, and borderline adorable. If you crave campfire stories that traffic in tragedy and metaphor, consider The Long Night Collection.
Along with narrative structure, game design unites the two pieces of this collection, although there are small differences in gameplay that make each title feel unique—the first is looser and more open-ended, and the second shows a greater focus on explorable sub-areas. The heart of each game is the same, though: the overwhelmed and under-equipped protagonist explores several haunted locations, connected by a larger overworld map, runs or hides from ghosts, and collects usable items and special trinkets along the way. When approaching an enemy the heroine's heartbeat will accelerate, and she must either outrun (tricky, because the sprint stamina bar depletes quicker when under duress) the monster or find a nearby bush or crate in which to hide.
Overall, the gameplay is acceptable, but betrays a lot of unrealized potential. Puzzles are simple, thoughtless affairs; there aren't nearly enough cat-and-mouse stealth sequences (sprint, for all its limitations, can erase a lot of mistakes); and trial-and-error is a big factor, particularly in Midnight Shadows, which has an irritatingly high number of unpredictable, cheap deaths. There are some mechanical shifts and twists that make things interesting—enemies like Stone Face are attracted to light, so you'll need to turn off your flashlight while you tiptoe past them—but in general the gameplay in The Long Night Collection is more a delivery system for the story and scares than something valuable in and of itself.
Gameplay foibles notwithstanding, there is a reason to stray off the beaten path in each chapter and even to linger after the final credits roll: collectibles. There are dozens in the game, including things like puzzle pieces, gears, notes, and other keepsakes. Finishing each game in the collection with take approximately five hours, but discovering every forgotten trinket will take hours more.
The music in The Long Night Collection isn't anything fancy, but the sound design is excellent. The sound engineers at NIS did a terrific job across both installments, using environmental noise—chirping cicadas, the crunch of leaves underfoot, an echoing dog bark in the distance—to create a moody, atmospheric adventure. Similarly, NIS' graphical designers turned in some gorgeous artwork, especially in Midnight Shadows. The scrolling, layered backgrounds are jaw-droppingly beautiful.
In October, a month of ghosts and goblins, The Long Night Collection makes a suitably spooky debut. Its gameplay lacks depth and it fails to deliver the kind of breathless survival experience of which it's capable, but its meaningful stories, haunting environments, and ravishing art help moderate those drawbacks. Horror fans looking to embrace the darkness this Hallows' Eve, check this one out. All others: consider waiting for a price cut.
This review is based on a digital copy of Yomawari: The Long Night Collection for the NS, provided by the publisher.
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