Yomawari Lost in the Dark (Also stylized as Yomawari: Lost in the Dark) is an adorable survival horror game by NIS that dropped just in time for the Halloween season. Unfortunately, we had some review key mix ups and were not able to get out the review in time for the spooky holiday, but there is always a time and place to get creeped out, especially with a game as bizarrely adorable as Yomawari Lost in the Dark.
So is this chapter of the atmospheric horror series a worthy addition to the series? Or does Yomawari Lost in the Dark fall flat on its face? Let’s find out!
It must be said right out of the gate that Yomawari Lost in the Dark is a Japanese game, because there are some important cultural events happening throughout that may be difficult for many westerners to understand. A lot of the horror elements here are real-life scenarios, where isolation, collective bullying, and certain pressures are major problems that do exist in Japan from very early years onward.
Yomawari Lost in the Dark begins with your avatar, automatically named Yuzu, waking up in a bathroom stall alone and scared. It proceeds to show how lonely she is at school and how cruel her classmates are to her. It even closes the opening segment by implying that she jumps off the building, which is incredibly heartbreaking. Yuzu then wakes up in the middle of a snow fallen wooded area confused as to how she got there with a desire to return to school.
Things quickly turn into an amnesia situation, as Yuzu is cursed and cannot remember much of anything. The progression of the story rests mainly on figuring things out, recovering her memories, and lifting the curse en route to a happy ending. The story is a solid one that touches on some heavy themes that truly haunt Japanese society and others as well. Since spirits, ghouls, and ghosts are the monsters Japanese fear the most, Yomawari Lost in the Dark depends strongly on these entities to spook, as well as some other methods we will get to later.
Yomawari Lost in the Dark is not your standard horror game. Like its predecessors, Lost in the Dark plays pretty casually but puts the player in some horrific scenarios that tend to haunt and creep by the use of strong visual and audio queues. This is not necessarily a “hard” game to play, but it may be a tough one for certain people to get through. For example, if you suffer from panic attacks, high anxiety, or conditions similar, this may not be a great title for you to play, as it toys with those feelings for the sake of the story and gameplay.
Yuzu attempts to recover her memories by getting through some hairy scenarios which require her to follow some very distinct directions, including the following of bells sounds, avoiding intense heart beats, and… oh, yeah… covering her eyes to avoid being eaten by those spirits, ghouls, and ghosts that tend to haunt her (And your) dreams. There are some truly fantastic mechanics here that create a unique experience unlike other horror games on the Nintendo Switch, and that does make Yomawari Lost in the Dark and its prequels special.
There are a lot of moments in the game where things come to a halt for the sake of the story. I do not mind when this happens occasionally, but here, I found that those breaks from gameplay happened more frequently than desired. These stops are not always for scares, either, as most of the time they are simply to point things out or give you a moment to see your surroundings. There are some educational moments where you do get to learn more about Japanese culture, but since this is a Japanese game, they are not so much educational stops but ones where it is just pointing something out in its native setting.
Progression in Yomawari Lost in the Dark is done by collecting important items to retrieve memories. Finding these takes some time, and watching the memories attached to them help lead you to other clues along the way. This and the saving system are typical Japanese horror game elements, and they are fine, but I did find it to be a bit dated in some ways. The save system is just archaic, where you pay a coin at a Jizo statue to save (Or at your bed for free), and it feels like the game would be better without it. Also, the tethered progression system is a lot of going from point A to B to A to C to B to D to A, etc, and that does get tiring after a while.
Thankfully, the visuals in Yomawai Lost in the Dark are incredible. Although it is deceptively cute because of the chibi-style graphics, the use of light and dark is expertly done, and the intense moments where your eyes are closed and the pulsating red blurs indicate where the ghouls are is perfect. There are so many beautiful visuals here, especially all of the intricate details of a Japanese residential area, that it is hard not to feel like you are genuinely in the location yourself, despite the chibi character designs.
Even better than the visuals and art style, the sound in this game is terrifying. When I mentioned those pulsating visuals, it is the heavy heartbeat sounds that give those visuals even more intensity. Since Yomawari Lost in the Dark does not have a proper soundtrack, it relies heavily on its natural and unnatural sounds, which is why the game recommends the use of headphones (And I do, too). This unique combination makes for a haunting experience unlike any other, as the game does not depend on combat at all. Instead, this is horror purely by its interesting choice of visuals and its insanely good sound design.
Yomawari Lost in the Dark is a strange one to review, because this is a stellar horror experience, but it is not a traditional horror game. This does not rely on gore or mutilation to terrify its players. Instead, it uses at-times disturbing visuals, intense sounds, and shocking moments to keep you on the edge of your seat all the way through. The fact that it also gives you so much freedom in how you complete the game is wonderful.
Sure, some of the gameplay decisions are a bit dated, like the wild goose chase progression system and the save system, but if you can look past those, this is a title that has the potential to give you nightmares.
It may not be Halloween season anymore, but if you are a fan of horror games and are looking for something outside of the norm, Yomawari Lost in the Dark is a fantastic one that does not depend so heavily on traditional horror elements. It does something completely its own, and it terrifies just fine.
Dark yet captivating story
Cute yet haunting visuals
Brilliant and terrifying sound design
Authentic Japanese horror experience
Gameplay loops can get tedious, and save system is old
Stops in gameplay can get annoying
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.