Don’t go down to the woods tonight.
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection brings two isometric Japanese survival horror games in one neat Nintendo Switch package. With hints of Silent Hill, settle in to experience two sobering, dark stories – told over the course of one dark night per game. Both Yomawari games succeed in bringing unsettling creepiness right to the palm of your hands, but neither offering is free from faults.
Nippon Ichi Software is the team behind these two tales, both centred around loss and sharing similar motifs that make this a collection you’ll want to play in sequence, one right after the other. The first game, Yomawari: Night Alone, tells the story of a young girl searching for her lost sister through her quiet little Japanese town. The sequel, Midnight Shadows, follows Haru, searching for her missing best friend Yui, after a night watching fireworks from the mountains. Both Night Alone and its sequel, Midnight Shadows, have shocking openings which set a drastic and emotional tone for the rest of their respective stories.
In towns filled with spirits and apparitions, both young girl protagonists are fragile and have to run from conflict – or avoid it altogether. These spirits are grotesque and, in a morbid sense, beautifully designed – imagine the denizens of Spirited Away if they were all restless spectres haunting a town with murderous intent.
Each protagonist has a stamina meter which depletes as you run. The closer you get to a spirit, the shorter the meter becomes, so the less you can run. At first, this creates tension well, especially when you haven’t encountered many ghosts. However, your main encounters with enemies involve them chasing you. You escape by running, but too many times a spirit will just follow you until you run out of stamina, then it’s instant death. Tension can sometimes turn to annoyance.
By far the main drawback for this collection is the plethora of cheap deaths. Night Alone and Midnight Shadows each have chapters where you’ll replay sections over and over, getting frustrated with death after death. While both games play very well, the design of some chapters leaves a lot to be desired. There are too many chase sequences and not enough puzzles, and that’s to the collection’s detriment.
You can hide in bushes, underneath A-boards, and various other items until enemies disappear, and you also have a few tools at your disposal. Pebbles can distract some spirits and, in Midnight Shadows, you have paper airplanes, too. I used pebbles twice throughout both games – save for story moments when I needed to – and I never figured out the point of the paper planes. The presence of useless items doesn’t really matter; they don’t make or break anything. What truly matters throughout The Long Night Collection is the atmosphere.
Drawing on Japanese folklore and emotive themes, the unnerving atmosphere of Night Alone and Midnight Shadows is consistent and effective. Throughout their traumatic nights, each character encounters numerous stronger spirits, most with their own tragic backstory, and each in desperate need of cleansing and release. They haunt you throughout a chapter until you solve the source of their afterlife torment. Through these redemptive arcs, your character learns more and more about death, loss, and the fates which might await the person they’re searching for.
Midnight Shadows definitely makes improvements on Night Alone, both in terms of story and mechanics. In Midnight Shadows, you spend short off-chapters in control of your missing best friend, Yui. This split narrative adds a lot more depth to the motivations and fears of each character.
The sequel takes the strong groundwork of Night Alone and builds on it well. You unlock different ‘charms’ after each chapter which provide gameplay benefits – I chose the ‘run a little longer’ charm and never let go – it’s just a slight shame that it carries over the same faults.
Graphically both games look great, especially in handheld mode. The scrolling backgrounds in Midnight Shadows are especially sublime. It’s said a lot, but this collection is ‘perfect for the Switch’. You can finish a chapter in sitting – a lunch break, say – and the sleep functionality bypasses the finicky save system. You collect coins to spend at various Jizo statue save points, but these are not hard saves; lose battery or close the game before saving at home, or at the end of a chapter, and you lose your progress. However, keep your console on sleep mode while the game’s running: problem solved.
Playing on the Switch also made the horror feel more immediate. I’d recommend not playing in docked mode, or you’d lose a lot of the atmosphere. Instead, do as the game suggests: turn the lights off and don’t avert your attention from the screen.
The story of Night Alone took me around five hours, and seven for Midnight Shadows, but each game has a free roam mode which unlocks after the credits. This is so you can explore the town and find the long list of collectibles. There are also a lot of secret side quests and events to find – I only stumbled on a few over both games – if you want to experience every single thing on offer.
Midnight Shadows, while telling a stronger story, does feel longer than it is, and a bit stretched by the end. You can say this about a lot of games, but it wouldn’t have lost anything if its sewer chapter had been cut entirely. Nevertheless, both stories are disturbing and horrific. Each game has a few notable scares, but a heavy reliance on chase events numbs you to them after a while. The bad ending of Midnight Shadows is worth seeing just to see how far it goes, and the oppressive darkness and feeling of isolation and desperation permeates each from start to finish.
In the run-up to Halloween, The Long Night Collection is a great survival horror experience with two gripping narratives that don’t pull any punches. While some of the horror turns to repeat frustration in places, the moments of satisfaction and relief when you escape a certain spirit or setting (creepy haunted manor, I’m looking at you) are more than worth it.