THERE’S SOMEONE ELSE HERE…..
When it comes to graphics these days it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. With video games reaching an artistic and graphical peak, offerings that don’t reach the standards of gamers often get overlooked and brushed aside. However, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. A remake of a 2001 horror survival cult classic in its homeland of South Korea, developed by ROI Games/Sonnori and published by Arc System Works in Japan and PQube in Europe, White Day is absolutely ripe with tense atmosphere, challenging puzzles and a location, plot and a style of gameplay that leaves the player feeling extremely helpless, and despite its somewhat ropey graphics I still found myself instantly engrossed by its macabre style and carrying on through the dark corridors of the school even if the chills up my spine were at an powerful level.
Set in Korea, we meet a young high school student by the name of Hee-Min Lee, who is sneaking into his school late at night to leave his crushes lost diary as well as a gift for White Day, a Korean tradition that takes place one month after Valentine’s Day which sees men giving women chocolates in return for the gifts they received on Valentine’s Day. Upon his arrival, he finds himself trapped inside with a handful of other students and in a desperate attempt to escape starts to become anguished by apparitions along with possessed members of the school’s faculty. Soldiering his way through Hee-Min also learns about paranormal goings on that the grounds has experienced in the past.
The first thing you may notice about White Day is it isn’t exactly at the peak of graphical technology at least by today’s standards, however it has still come a long way from the 2001 version. Character models don’t seem all that organic with little emotion and expression in their faces, and movements don’t seem fluid, but in a first-person style this isn’t really the be all and end all. Despite this, the dev team does a decent job with making the most out of the darkness that is so prominent throughout the game, not knowing what’s ahead or what or who is around each and every corner thanks to an exhilarating atmosphere makes the school itself a kind of antagonist, you yourself truly feel trapped as you weave in and out of the corridors, classrooms and offices of the high school even if circling around the same corridors time and time again does get tiring at some points, you do receive a lighter towards the beginning but it does little in lighting your way with only a short distance revealing itself but it gives you feeling salvation as you use it . But where White Day truthfully achieves its highest of highs is the fantastic audio work, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times what makes an amazing horror game are sounds, music and voice work that get into the layers head and makes their skin crawl, and this surprisingly pays off really well throughout the game making it a satisfyingly unnerving experience. So many times, during my time with this game was I genuinely shaken by sounds off in the distance, the culturally accurate soundtrack which at times comes seemingly at of nowhere powerfully and the sounds of footsteps which gives you the impactful feeling that you are no longer alone.
When it comes to gameplay, White Day comes through in a rewarding, easy to pick up style, the first person perceptive really cranks up the immersion and personally how I feel every good horror games story should be told in. In spite of this playing through White Day for extended periods can get a little long winded sometimes with its menu heavy interface and sluggish point and click sections. White Day’s mechanics remind me of the horror titles I played growing up and is really a sign of the times of when the original was produced. It’s heavy emphasis on item collecting in order to progress brings me back to the days of the original Silent Hill and having to have felt tip pens in your inventory in order to save something I’ve not experienced since playing Resident Evil back in the day and though it is something so simple it brings an extra dose of pressure to the game, especially if you have none in your backpack, the fear of getting dying as you are making some serious leeway and having to start all over again is itself horrifying, the desperate search for those blasted pens can sometimes be more of a priority than surviving. And speaking of survival the possessed janitor that constantly searches for you is an unsettling presence to say the least. You have no idea how cautiously you will sneak around each corner in fear of this creepy bugger catching a glimpse of you. Seeing his flashlight dimly meandering at the other end of the corridor sends your mind into a tactical frenzy as you look for hiding places and ways to get around without being spotted, and when he does spot you, the heavy footsteps and that door of your ‘secure’ hiding spot puts you in a roller-coaster like panic and the fact that there is no way to defend yourself in this game only adds to the solitude and hopelessness you feel trapped in this labyrinth. You will also find yourself faced with some intriguing and head scratching puzzles that are a welcome break from the horror survival aspects and get your brain working in a different way from the rest of the gameplay.