Yomawari: Night Alone and its sequel Yomawari: Midnight Shadows might be the ghostliest games ever made. That's because they each dump a small, mostly helpless child into the chaos of an exceedingly haunted town, so packed with weird spirits that there's almost always some new horror to encounter.
Reviewing 31 Yomawari Spirits!
Reviewing every spirit in each game would be an awfully large undertaking, and I'm not sure I necessarily want to spoil all of them either. Today we simply look at a mix of my favorite designs!
We have to do "Mr. Yomawari" himself, first! Sharing a name with the game's whole title, he's basically considered the "mascot" monster, but very little is ever explained about who or what he really is, except that he kidnaps children in his cloth sacks and dumps them at an old, abandoned factory. This happens several times as part of the game's story, and also as a randomly spawning hazard.
The design is quite good. He's sort of a black, segmented blob, almost leech-like, with what seems to be a white-lidded, closed eyeball for a head and multiple ropy, black limbs carrying his bags.
This was one of the first minor ghosts I ever saw from the game, and the design impressed me immediately. It's "only" a perfectly spherical, white head and an armless, two-legged stick of a body with simple, black coconut-like holes for facial features, but the slight veins or cracks visible in its thin skin and the single eyeball in one of those holes make such an effectively freaky effect! Like many other spirits in the game, these simply stand around until you get too close, then freak out and give chase.
Horrifying. A giant, pale baby painfully crawling around, and not even the way actual babies crawl around either; just dragging itself along on its belly. The disproportionately enormous head would be bad enough if it were just a normal baby's head, but the toothless mouth is stretched wide and the upper face looks "punched in" where the eyes should be. This would genuinely be one of the scariest things in the game to encounter as a real ghost.
In multiple spiritual faiths, particularly greedy people are reincarnated as starving beings incapable of filling their huge bellies. Putting a big, chompy mouth in that belly is a kind of obvious design twist, but it's still not one that I've seen all that frequently! I love how the arms and head just dangle lifelessly behind it.
One of the only insect-like spirits in either game, these beings resemble pale orbs with three large, white eyeballs, six little legs and a pair of fly wings. The eyeballs are what's really interesting, because they look more like simple lumps of the same white flesh (or chitin?) with large, black holes in them, almost more barnacle-like. A simple, strange and stylish look for a flying insectoid!
These behave like you would pretty much expect; they start barking if you get too close, then go in for the kill if you get much closer than that. The design is quite unique, however, with most of the dog consisting of just its muzzle and jaws, with only one big cyclops eye!
This is the only one we've got an animated gif for, and that's the only way to really properly show it off. It usually just looks like a humanoid figure wrapped in a black cloak, with that weird bubbling red pattern for a face...then the "cloak" opens up into those six bladed limbs with gnashing, red teeth at the center. I've never really seen a design precisely like this form! Interestingly, these spirits appear only in a library, and react to noise.
This spirit would be terrifying enough even without the giant, bloody cleaver. Its tremendous head, bigger than the rest of its entire body, honestly looks like a baseball with its bright white skin, rounded shape and red "stitches" where its eyes should be. The goofy mouth with its blocky teeth gives it the unsettling appearance of perpetually laughing like a maniac, and I like how the corners of the mouth curl so far, its head practically has a flip-open top! Again, even without the weapon, this design somehow manages to communicate something brutally violent anyway.
I just think these are really interesting! They manifest as just big, realistic clams in the street, but when they open up, the wrinkles of their inner meat look very subtly like a ghostly face, and then they release a cloud of toxic gas with ambiguous face-like holes of its own. Those toxic clouds even appear elsewhere in the game as separate spirits, too. I love just how weird and wacky the ghosts in this setting can get.
A phantasmal, bloated, waterlogged corpse is a more "ordinary" ghost concept, and one I've seen before, but I've surprisingly never seen one that floats face-down, complete with watery "ripples" around it, even as it follows you over land. That is horrid. It's even more horrid that it slowly follows you without actually looking up at you, literally just the image of a drowned, drifting corpse hovering in the air!
This huge spirit would be a pitch black silhouette if not for its many red, bloody splotches, its mis-matches pair of eyes and its human mouth, the entire being resembling an upside-down face with multiple arms and a pair of chunky, fat legs. It actually doesn't really pay any attention to you, but must be avoided due to the deadly, red vapor it breathes!
I should mention that, like Yume Nikki, a lot of these names are guesses by the fan wiki. This spirit has some things in common with the "giant" spirit; a black being with red-stained extremities and asymmetrical eyes. This one however is more of a headless torso, with boneless noodly arms and a cluster of five large eyeballs. I like that the eyes are not only arranged so haphazardly, but that one is a long, vertical Hedorah-esque eye while the rest are just bulging ocular orbs. Of course, it also has three more eyes on its back! Some of them, furthermore, can extend their arms almost across the screen.
RED ARMED SPIRIT
I like this one, because it's just a really big, floating head completely hidden by its long, wet, scraggly black hair. In fact, it could very well be nothing at all but hair, except you can see glimpses of some sort of reddish tissue here and there. Nasty! Even nastier that it also hangs out in a sewer at one point.
I find this one cool because it looks like the black shadow of a small lamp post, rather than an obvious "creature," with two simple, glowing white slits for eyes that don't quite line up with one another. These aren't actually dangerous at all, either, except that if they see you, they'll suddenly teleport to block your path, which is dangerous if you happen to be fleeing something else.
While the hair clot ghost isn't exclusive to the sewer, this giant arm and hand emerges solely from sewage water, implying that someone must have died a pretty heinous death. Despite only being an arm and hand, its slimy grey-black skin, wrinkly flesh and boneless, flattened shape are all very nice, making the arm look almost like an enormous leech or flatworm!
There are a number of haunted objects that all pretty much behave the same, but this one's pretty special. I mean, it's an entire rusty mailbox getting dragged around by three chalky white, veiny arms with one too many elbow joints. Wicked!
I love this design. It's a sort of stretched out, fleshy cone split completely down the middle by a red-lipped maw, its tiny squareish teeth almost looking like a giant zipper, and it's got a big creepy red-rimmed eyeballs on either side of the mouth. Once more, a creature's eyes aren't even symmetrically aligned, either! Perhaps this "face" is connected to a full body, but we only ever see it rise up out of the ground. A delightfully twisted visage made even better by its titanic scale.
You oughta know already that Hanako is a famous Urban Legend, Japan's equivalent to "bloody mary," but said to emerge from a school toilet. This makes this particular Hanako marvelously dreadful, as her entire face appears to have been carved out into what is now a gory, tooth-lined vortex, like the mouth of a lamprey! You don't want anything associated with toilets to have anything in common with a lamprey! Oh, no!
This giant, ghostly bird has SUCH a cool design! I mean, it's mostly just a giant, ghostly bird with flaming yellow eyeballs, but the oversized beak is lined with lots and lots of teeny, tiny little teeth, and when it opens that beak, it has a whole second set of bigger, more human-like teeth and gums in its throat. That is an AWESOME look for a bird monster of any sort!
I so wish there were clearer images of this I could share. Guarding an ordinary looking pond, this ghost manifests as a giant, flying blue jellyfish with a screaming, ghostly skull face imprinted on its bell, pale blue "eye sockets" staring skyward in a splendidly ghastly fashion. It attacks by stabbing its tentacles directly into its victims, too! I wonder if it actually "stings" though? Does it have ghost venom? Does being a ghost basically mean it can reach in and directly sting your internal organs??
Big, big fan of weird, messed-up, undead fish, so of course one of my favorites in the game is this huge, floating goldfish roughly ten feet long, and a mostly lifelike fancy goldfish except for the single huge eyeball where its face ought to be. I appreciate that the eyeball is not embedded in any way, either. There's no surrounding lid, no flesh whatsoever, just a big round humanlike eyeball sticking out right where the goldfish's head ought to begin. Any deeper in its flesh, and it would be far too conventional of a single eye. Far less unsettling.
Yes, there's a whole other giant, ghostly dead fish in these games, and it actually manages to be even better. This one is a more pale, bloated, kind of rotten looking fish with glazed-over eyes and a tubular mouth, but it floats belly-up, as dead fish do, and then it has what appears to be the tail of a seahorse for a back fin, almost like you've got a seahorse with a gigantically oversized, upside-down fish corpse for a head. I just love everything about this. I even love that they're an unaggressive, passive floater, but you still die if you come into contact with them.
From the second game, this large ghost has a pretty wild design to it, like a big smoky orb of black hair with knobbly limbs, deer antlers and that screaming, distorted face, almost like a messed up noh mask made of skin.
Appearing in early previews and a great deal of screenshots, I feel like these are one of the most iconic ghosts of both games. They don't do much other than stand or walk around, taking up the entire road as their name implies, but what a design! A huge mound of grey hair ringed with bright red spider-like legs, and then they put these crazed human eyes and an unsettlingly delighted looking mouth right on top of the whole thing.
Another incredibly unique design, a gigantic hand emerging from a red fog with a crooked-toothed mouth in the center and several entire arms among its fingers, carrying an absurdly massive pair of scissors! He seems to be the "main villain" of the second game, but SPOILERS, he's actually just an angry, forgotten god who really wants an offering. This offering must be humanoid in shape, but anything humanoid can qualify. People, dolls, statues, at one point even a robot action figure and at one point a collection of roads that happen to form a human-like shape. Eventually, Mr. Kotowari actually even comes to the main character's rescue at a crucial moment, and finally leaves behind a pair of scissors you must use against the real villain.
In popular culture, the Gasha-dokuro is a giant, ghostly skeleton said to be comprised of many, many people who died all at once. I say "in popular culture" because this lore was only added in the 80's, rather than by actual, ancient yokai mythology, though I guess the 80's is now long enough ago to feel ancient to some of you...
Anyway, I love that this particular specimen also features long, dirty hair, and there's a reason for that, because...
...Instead of human souls, this Gashadokuro is made up of RAT spirits! Before fusing together into a humanoid skeleton, the regular-sized ghostly mice can fuse together into these giant, menacing rats with ribcage-like bodies!
The main antagonist of the first game is also a being that was once worshipped, and none too happy about that past tense. Its minions are giant, crawling hands with eyeballs on their wrists, but its central form is a giant, angry face made up entirely of greyish, naked bodies. I like how realistically detailed they are, but then they've got those cartoony coconut-like ghost heads. Fun! So many butts in this picture though. I mean, decent butts, but still, lot of butts. This guy's even got a butt for a nose. It's also interesting how the spirits left "eye socket," or at least the gap between all those naked giants, is crammed full of many eyeballs instead of just one, like the other side. The spirit, at one point, actually takes a person's eye, so its collection of eyes, even those of its hand minions, may very well be stolen from living sacrifices.
THE MOUNTAIN GOD
This villainous spirit of the second game almost feels like a reinvention of the Mountain God, having a similar origin story. It appears almost to be a bizarre humanoid, but on careful inspection, it's actually spider shaped! The "abdomen" is a colossal, upside-down human head, while multiple chitinous limbs, giant human hands and a second chattering head emerge from the larger head's mouth. This second face is covered, from the mouth up at least, by a pair of interlocking hands that are in turn covered in oversized eyes, and then it has those even larger hands to either side of this face, with eyeballs in their palms, but why has one of them seemingly stabbed its own eye out with its own thumb!? Grisly!
Shockingly, this being is revealed to be the same voice that speaks to you tutorial-style throughout the game, and has helped you solve puzzles and avoid danger for the most part...but follow its advice all the way through, and you'll ultimately kill yourself. That is not a twist I've ever seen in a game before.
This spirit appears in both games, and it has such a fascinating concept to it! "Pieces" of Mr. Raw Head are encountered throughout as minor spirits, appearing as hovering eyeballs that can transform into chomping mouths. The source of these, the true Mr. Raw Head, is like an elephantine ball of swirling, noodly black sinews dotted with even more eyeballs, and able to reach out with long, similarly sinewy limbs ending in claws. "Mr. Raw Head" is such a cool, cryptic name for something so abstract, which also feels like kind of an homage to Backbeard from Gegege no Kitaro.
MR. RAW HEAD
We're ending on the centipede, because it's literally just a gorgeously drawn and colored centipede that has to be hundreds, maybe thousands of feet in length, just about the most menacing predatory form a supernatural entity could ever really take, and in Japanese folklore, a monster powerful enough to terrify even dragons.
...And yet, after only a brief misunderstanding, this venomous arthrogod is one of your most dependable friends. The centipede is in fact a mighty, benevolent guardian spirit that will help you several times across both games, can take the form of a relatively "normal" centipede (still quite a bit longer than any real species) to lead you out of danger and can even teleport you through telephone booths.
As a design, it's mostly just an actual centipede, but instead of an actual centipede's multiple, tiny eyes, it has those two sorrowful looking black crevices beneath a pair of stony-looking chunky "eyelids," very much like some traditional oni masks. It's also just SUPERB looking artwork, isn't it? So lovingly colored, shaded, highlighted and textured, you can really tell how important this creature was to the creator and the principles of this game.
The very, very best part of this review is actually just how incomplete it is. With only around 30 monsters reviewed here, it covers only a little over a quarter of the different ghosts in the world of Yomawari thus far. You've already seen that it features ghosts in the form of cadavers, body parts, animals, objects, abstract shapes and otherworldly monsters, and it explores all of these themes several dozen different ways.
There are even spirits that manifest as only effects, events and sounds! Many are enemies and obstacles, but many are also humble NPC's or incorporated into puzzles. I don't think I've ever encountered a horror game with this many different creature designs, and that really does my heart so good. The rest of you horror creators have no excuse; you march right back to that Silent Hill homage of yours and populate it with at least sixty more flesh demons, or you're GROUNDED!!!
(And speaking of ghosts, I should probably plug my new fiction novel again, which is also about lots, and lots, and lots of ghosts!)
MORE HALLOWEEN FEATURES: