Yomawari: Lost in the Dark
Yomawari Lost In The Dark is the newest addition to the Yomawari series, a trilogy of horror games that involve the supernatural and children solving mysteries. The first two games were released on the Switch in a compilation known as The Long Night Collection in 2018. All three games follow a similar premise, but seeing as Lost In The Dark is my first exposure to the series, I can only speak on my experience with this title. It was definitely an experience, to say the least.
If the main website for the game states that it has jumpscares, that's a sign...
If the warning screens when you boot the game are worded in such a way that tells you it's going to scare you without a doubt, that's another sign. There's something absolutely metal about "If you look away from the game we are not responsible for what you may see." It's as if NIS is confident that not only will you feel uncomfortable, but this is no Disgaea. This is your chance to back out now, but if you choose to play you'll be treated to one of the most messed up openings a T-Rated horror game can give you.
After several loud knocking noises and the chance to customize your protagonist, the game pans out to a bathroom stall, with the protagonist reluctantly emerging from it. As you walk through the halls, all of the students are laughing at you, teasing you behind your back. Some even throw balled-up paper in your direction but you have resilience. You take that paper ball and toss it in the waste bin, taking your morning in stride. Then someone throws a volleyball at your head and you fall in the waste bin anyway, causing an uproar.
It doesn't stop there. As you get to your classroom, your desk is scribbled with insane levels of bullying. "Yuzu go to Hell, idiot!" is written all over your chair and desks, along with death threats. Where are the teachers, first of all? Second of all, there's a moment when you pick up a chair and my first thought went to the Higurashi anime. There's an iconic scene where a blue-haired girl named Rika picks up a chair and throws it at Satoko, the short-haired girl who has been bullying the former for a while now.
Unfortunately, that doesn't happen and it gets worse as the kids force you to eat a maggot. There is no option to refuse as that is "conveniently" greyed out. Having enough of the bullying you run to the school rooftop to escape. Before the protagonist can act on terrible implications that I won't spell out in this post, the player is transported to a forest where spirits roam.
You pick up a flashlight and roam about, crossing a bridge until a pebble is thrown at you. What's the purpose of this pebble? It's dirty and according to the item description, you are unsure why you picked it up until a giant closed eyeball appears and---WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON!?
Turns out the spirit that threw the pebble gouged your eyes out and now you have to travel through the forest blind. This teaches an important lesson in not picking up items from strangers. Especially when you're in a strange world unlike your own. It's sick, yet a cool way of introducing Yomawari Lost In The Dark's core mechanic---your senses. There's a guide who helps you via the ringing of a bell and you have to follow the ringing in order to reach the next area.
You can't see anything surrounding you except the protagonist herself. The ambient sounds of spirits ring in your ears as well as distant sounds and the like. Eventually, you meet an older girl who does nothing to help you understand the situation you're in besides telling you there's a curse inflicted on you. If you don't break it by 6 AM you...die I guess? Something terrible happens but before you have a chance to do anything about it she leaves. You're given a note to walk past the gate with your eyes closed and the instruction to "keep moving forward."
The spirits ultimately leave you alone so long as you don't make eye contact. If the ghost sees you, it's instant death. Even with your eyes closed, you're not safe as the spirits turn into this violent red mist. Touch the mist and you're dead. Your movement is impaired as your eyes are closed so you have to decide whether it's best to run, hide, or sneak while avoiding eye contact. I had to restart this section several times because if you stop to turn around for whatever reason you will die from not moving forward.
The entire "invisible death" trope is cool when executed properly and in Yomawari, it's beautifully done. It may be the soft innocent art design or the Japanese supernatural subplot like Ikai. I think the 2D top-down works well in this game's favor. It made me care for the protagonist but the sudden grotesque appearance of the monsters also sent a jolt up my spine. There's a mission to get home but of course, the route home is plagued with all kinds of unwelcome spirits.
Yomawari Lost In The Dark takes familiar environments like schools, neighborhoods, and forests while placing horrific spirits to avoid. It's definitely more on the horror end of the spirit-fighting side of things, but it's a good kind of scare. The kind of spiciness that doesn't slash your throat in pieces but is hot enough to wake you up. Consider giving this one a try for Halloween.
Yomawari Lost In The Dark is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch