Games: Yowamari and Need For Speed: Payback
:: Yowamari: Midnight Shadows (PS4)
By: NIS America
GAMING'S fallow, post-festive lull is the perfect time to mop up some of the releases that may have passed you by during the Christmas rush.
And, while horror buffs were spoiled in 2017 with big-budget scares from Resident Evil and The Evil Within, equally effective is the micro-budgeted nightmare fuel of Yowamari.
The plot is simplicity itself: Haru is moving away and spends one last night with her pal, Yui, sneaking through a gloomy town full of restless spirits.
Being Japanese, your enemies are a macabre menagerie influenced by local folktales and urban legends, and a far cry from the usual videogame bullet fodder.
Rather than some tooled-up cop, combat isn't really an option here. With both girls entirely defenseless, the only way to survive is by secreting yourself in nooks, thickets and under boxes – the fact that the spirits are only visible when you shine a light on them simply piles on the tension.
Armed with your wits and a torch, gameplay involves avoiding the monsters at all costs, occasionally employing items such as coins for saving and pebbles to distract your foe.
Yowamari's deceptively adorable look belies some pretty hardcore horror, amped up no end by its brilliant sound design – all creaky floorboards, heartbeats and slamming doors.
With its hand-drawn Manga world, this is horror for hipsters, teasing the sweat from your palms with tense hide-and-seek gameplay that distils survival horror down to its essence.
It's a scary world out there.
:: Need for Speed Payback (Multi)
NEED for Speed has been clocking up the virtual mileage since 1994, with recent years heavily influenced by the meat-headed racing culture of the Fast and Furious movies.
Following a mixed bag of recent entries, Payback is a new sparkplug for the franchise, proving there's plenty of gas left in the tank.
Set in the Vegas-style casino town of Fortune City, its 15-hour campaign is a cheesy car crash of the series' best bits, with monodimensional characters spouting gambling metaphors over drag races, cop chases and general tuner silliness, where Speed Cards are used to grease-monkey the stats of its 70 odd rides.
Payback's vehicular soap opera of supercharged chrome takes players from sun-baked canyons and forest paths to drag racing on the strip. With a groaning garage, endless customization and enough road runner action to get you from A to B, Payback is adrenaline-stuffed petrolhead perfection and the best the series has been in years.