White Day: A Labyrinth Named School Review – A Mixed Experience
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Developer: ROI Games
Release: 22nd August 2017 (EU) / 25th August 2017 (NA)
I love Horror, be it movies or games, everything that gets my blood racing in fear is worth its time. Sadly, most of modern Horror games decided to rely on Jumpscares and cheap chases, a formula so overused and often leading to terror mistaken as horror, I can´t stand games like Outlast. So, with the release of White Day and the overall mixed feedback, I wanted to check it out by myself, to see, if this remake of a korean horror classic from 2001 really is that scary.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School plays on the name giving White Day, where boys usually gift something to their crush, in order to show their love. Naturally, the protagonist Hee-Min Lee wants to do the same for his crush So-Young Han. Sadly, when he enters his school at night, to leave a present in her classroom, he quickly finds himself in a true horror adventure. Trapped with two other girls and So-Young in a haunted school and chased by the janitor, we somehow have to find a way out and maybe even uncover the reason for all this.
Frankly, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School´s story isn´t anything too interesting, new or innovative, it´s from 2001 after all. While it starts out strong, setting-up the different characters and atmosphere, the story quickly looses its grip. In the middle and end part, the plot simply gets lost. Nothing is too special to make us care about the characters, outcome or reasoning behind all this, despite the fact the actual solutions is quite good. By presenting us with endings, that are as unsatisfying as the pacing and story telling itself, we never get involved enough to care.
Speaking of endings, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School actually has quite a few of them, influenced by the different dialogue choices we make in conversations with the girls. Overall, the different choices were probably the best thing about the plot itself, giving an extra layer of immersion to the world. The fact the remake also adds a new side campaign, once you completed the game on hard along a ton of other things, is great in theory but will be unseen by many, because of all the frustrating conditions that need to be completed first. At the end, after completing the game on hard and a lot more, the new short story expansion might be a neat addition, yet not worth the asked time.
In contrast to the not that well aged plot, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School itself is still very pleasant to look at, mostly due to the excellent job ROI Games did with the remake. Surely, it´s not comparable to recent graphic monsters but the unique korean-like graphic style, good-looking character models and neat effects, can create an own style for this korean horror game. Mixed with the fantastic sound design, slightly comparable to Hellblade´s, the atmoshpere quickly dragged me in. Considering how smooth it ran and how few bugs I encountered, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a throughout great remake.
Gameplay-wise, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is very straight forward, offering an open adventure gameplay. During the game we will unlock more and more of the school, allowing us to explore and find more stuff. Since nearly all puzzles are mainly solved by having the right item at the right time, exploration is a very vital point of our experience. Especially because we barely have any clues about our way or objective on higher difficulties.
Yet, later on, said exploration often evolved into quite a headache. Everyone who ever visited a school will know, how similar each floor, room and door looks, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is no exception. Once we unlocked more floors, it gets harder to distinguish each one of them, resulting in confusion or a lost way. Additionally, some puzzles are randomized as well, meaning we can´t simply look them up in a guide, forcing us to wander in these ever the same looking hallways from time to time.
Generally speaking, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School loves optional and random content. The janitor is constantly chasing us, similar to Outlast, meaning we have to move slowly and carefully, which can be quite a hassle when we lost our way again. While this mechanic isn´t something new anymore and functions like in every other horror game, the clear highlights are the ghosts. Even though they might be nothing more than simple jumpscares, the fact not much is scripted, means we “stumble” upon them and even miss some.
Compared to the soon boring getting janitor, due to its constant presence, the ghosts manage to stay fresh, scary and powerful throughout the game. Particularly the fact, how a lot of the elements can simply be missed makes White Day: A Labyrinth Named School a very powerful experience, we never know what will happen next, because the game doesn´t know either. Unfortunately, it´s core horror “mechanic” is too overused nowadays to function properly, dragging down the whole game.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School was surely one of the most advanced horror games when it came out back in 2001, having a lot mechanics in common with later games of this genre. However, what becomes clear in this remake, is the lack of innovation and truly powerful, unique moments. The genre simply moved too fast in the last years, a Silent Hill 2 or even Resident Evil 7 just works far better.
Still, who searches for a decent horror game with a unique setting, a great atmosphere and doesn´t get sick of being chased by the same person for hours, will surely find pleasure in White Day: A Labyrinth Named School.
[A Review Code was provided by PQube]