Yeah, it’s kind of a strange title, but it makes sense in context. Basically, ‘White Day’ is a Korean holiday which takes place a month after Valentine’s, and is when young men try to court girls by purchasing them White Day gifts. The game opens with Lee Hui-min entering his new school late at night, so he can return a girl’s diary and leave her a White Day gift. Unfortunately, the school locks down, and he’s trapped inside with other students – some of whom may not be entirely friendly…or human. Hijinks ensue, and you’re soon left trying to escape a pretty horrific situation.
It’s entirely possible you’ve never heard of this game (I hadn’t), but it’s the second in a line of remakes for a cult classic 2001 Korean horror game. In 2015, the first remake launched on smartphones over in Korea, and talk began of a console remaster. Fast-forward a few years, and we’ve got this: a faithful adaptation which not only bolsters the graphics, but adds a selection of new content. Ten endings, alternative costumes, ghost diaries – there’s plenty to sink your teeth into.
White Day plays not too dissimilar from the latest Resident Evil. You explore the school from a first-person perspective, and must solve obtuse puzzles in order to progress through the labyrinthine hallways and stairwells. The save system even mimics this icon of survival-horror, though you’ll be picking up marker pens to save progress instead of ink ribbons. There’s also murderous janitors who patrol the halls, and will beat you down until they’re certain you’ve no chance of getting back up. Think of these like an unbeatable Resi boss you’ve got to evade – Nemesis, for example – and you’re halfway there.
Where things differ is that you can’t retaliate in White Day. It takes the Outlast route and strips you of all combat capabilities, forcing you to hide from your enemies. This works fine in a game like Outlast where the semi-open-world areas allow for evasion, but the narrow halls of the school mean that patience quickly devolves into annoyance. The janitors completely impede progress and can only be hidden from with a heaping of luck, so triggering a chase often means losing a lot of ground and running far from your objective.
Rather than just being a digital haunted maze, the game does offer some level of interaction. For example, encountering a fellow student will trigger a cutscene in which you can choose from a 2-way dialogue tree. Your choices will affect how other students perceive you (through an invisible ‘likability’ stat), and inevitably how the game concludes. It didn’t feel like I impacted the course of events hugely, but there’s distinct narrative choices made which feel more considerable than the several small-talk conversations had.
The biggest question I had going in was whether the game would be scary. It’s billed as a horror title, but the anime-esque visuals initially seem too cutesy to chill. Dead wrong. From the atmospheric, ambient noises of the school creaking to the croaking gargles of surrounding ghosts; there’s a little something to spook everybody. The horror is heightened by the fact you’re encouraged to illuminate everything with a small lighter, which bathes all of the environments in a deathly red glow. Occasionally I was more annoyed than frightened by the cheap jumpscares that come from seemingly nowhere, but once I learned you could offset these with items to calm your nerves, their impact lessened.
Coupled with the many unique ghosts lurking around are an accompanying ghost story – a collectable scroll which divulges exactly how they reached their ghoulish status. These can sometimes be more of a challenge to find than they seem worth, but they certainly add to the sense that the school is an insidious entity, akin to somewhere like The Overlook Hotel. Stumbling across a shrieking, demonic girl who clambers along the ceiling towards you is all the more unnerving when you realise she used to be like anybody else.
Like with the ghost stories, though, progression can sometimes feel like way too much hassle. That sounds silly for a puzzle-based game, but some of the trials thrown at you are so ridiculously vague that you’re often forced to read some kind of walkthrough to make any progress. Sure, that sounds like a cop-out, but there’s literally some puzzles in White Day which can’t be accomplished regularly unless you speak Korean. I understand that Korean was the original language of the game, but for an import you’d expect certain concessions for foreign audiences. It’s not game-breaking (because of aforementioned guides), but it cheapens what are usually justifiable challenges.
By the end of the game, however, I was satisfied. I would have been perhaps more so had I not needed to use a guide for some of my playthrough, though perhaps that says more about my ability than the game itself. The fact this is a remake of a 2001 game feels apparent in some design choices, but otherwise White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a more than competent survival-horror title which will happily fill up a weekend.
Review copy provided
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While it definitely shows its 2001 roots with some archaic design, White Day remains a solid horror title with masses of ghostly lore.
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