Making its original debut in 2001 on Windows, White Day: A Labyrinth Name School has been remade for the current generation on PS4. But why remake a game that almost nobody has heard of or knew about in the West? Read on and you shall find out.
For those very few lucky horror game fans that have managed to play the original White Day on PC, they were greeted with quite the surprise when they stepped into the grounds of Yeondu High School. Built upon a natural landscape and originally used as a hospital during World War II, many people died during its construction, including visitors and soldiers. This caused an imbalance of feng-shui and many people died under the ghoulish hands of the restless spirits of the past.
To seal these spirits and prevent any more deaths on the school grounds, a geomancer constructed amulets to represent the five elements to seal the spirits in the school for good. However, this also meant that the spirits could never go to the afterlife, thus causing them more pain.
Such an intriguing backdrop to the game and your initial start sets you up nicely for the supernatural mysticism follows. After picking up So-Young’s diary, you travel to school – at night – to give back her diary and give her some chocolates on White Day (when men give gifts to ladies who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day), only to find that you are trapped within the school and are chased by a meandering janitor that is hell bent on killing students at this hour.
Playing in the first-person view, you must sneak through the school trying not to grab the janitor’s attention, and eventually see So-Young. However, when the supernatural kicks in and you learn more about the school’s past, it becomes a battle of survival. When seeing the janitor, it’s a must to squat and walk in the opposite direction as walking (especially running) makes unwanted sounds that the nearby janitor will hear.
Sounds aren’t the only thing that the janitor hates, but he also responds to lights. As you cannot turn off the hallway lights you are out in the open to be spotted, but step into any room and you’ll be in pitch darkness. Create any light from your lighter or the room’s lights and the janitor will be on his way to hunt you down. It’s then a matter of time to do exactly what you need before he arrives. It makes you think twice whether to be daring or move along.
All of this would be rather boring and lacklustre if it wasn’t for the grinding and scraping of the janitor’s leg and baseball bat on the floor, and the torch lighting up the pathways. What really puts you in suspense is the mood of the musical score that gives extra clues as to the whereabouts of the janitor, but also keeps you in suspense of the unbeknownst spirits that linger. Hearing the air conditioning units, the rain, and the thunder outside adds to the eerie atmosphere which makes you feel on edge throughout.
The core of White Day is similar in aspects to the original Resident Evil games. In order to continue through the game, you need to solve puzzles and find keys to open up new areas. Where this differs is the way these puzzles are handled. Not only do they require the player to be more observant of their surroundings, but also read through several notes to solve the puzzles and get an understanding of the situation.
At certain points in the game you need to solve a puzzle within a time limit, at this point it’s a scramble to open up all of the rooms in the building, find all the clues, and solve the puzzle. Every playthrough and reload of the save file, however, will change the puzzle, for example, the number on a locker. This means that you can’t simply skip through an area quickly if you’ve played the game several times before.
As you start unlocking areas in the game, spirits start to awaken and haunt you throughout the game. Depending on the skill level, you will either see more or less of them. Some are jump scares, but there are some truly creepy and horrific scenes that are shown on screen. Adding to the tension of the audio, score, and the janitor, and it has become the first game that has made me scared and creeped out – and I am one of those people that laugh at horror films and horror games as they just don’t scare me one bit, not even Amnesia.
Initially, playing with audio from the TV, the experience wasn’t too impressive, the game didn’t quite grab me, but, once I plugged in my headset it was like a completely different experience. Without the stellar audio then the tension just would not be there. The headset made the audio so much clearer that the spirit encounters were much more frightening, and it also allowed for knowing the cue on when to leave your area from the janitor as you can hear him much more clearly.
Discovering the notes can lead to you uncovering and encountering spirits, which are added to a compendium where once you’ve encountered enough, you get to unlock different outfits for your characters. Completing the game can also lead to extra unlocks depending on the ending you get.
There are multiple endings to White Day depending on the actions you take, the multiple-choice conversations you have with the other students, and who survives. Every conversation you have can change the way you progress through the game, thus, every playthrough you have will be different and can eventually lead to the true ending.
Not everything is perfect, many puzzles can be rather archaic. Not as bad as those click-and-point adventure games where you need to put yourself in the shoes of the developer to wonder what they were ever thinking, but still difficult enough that if you’re not extremely observant of your surroundings, you can easily miss clues that aid towards a puzzle. This has led me to get stuck a few times until a eureka moment occurred.
The environment also feels very static, lifeless, and empty. There’s almost nothing in the corridors, the classrooms look as though no one’s been in them for decades (albeit too clean), and the rooms feel like a copy and paste more often than not. Granted, eastern schools (especially Korea and Japan) do have very clean and samey looking rooms, but they still are different in some way and look lived-in/used.
The animations of the characters aren’t particularly great either and move like they have sticks attached to their limbs rather than moving naturally. When conversing, the character’s mouths are, thankfully, in sync with the Korean voice acting (which is fantastic). The emotions are nicely shown in the body language and facial expressions, but it doesn’t feel fluid enough.
When it comes to the English voice acting, it feels off at many points. Comparing to the Korean voice acting the expressions seem different to what it showed on screen. Because of this I highly recommend playing in Korean with English subtitles.
At times, the controls can be cumbersome too. When moving quickly through rooms, sometimes you either must crouch or find the perfect spot where to trigger the door. This even happens with light switches and other triggerable objects in the world, but the doors are particularly apparent.
Despite its drawbacks, they’re so minimal that it doesn’t detract from the experience at all. White Day does exactly what it has set out to do: to create a horror experience and scare the living daylights out of you. If you’re one to scare easy and find it difficult to pick up horror games, then this will be at the top of your “how many times do I have to put the controller down to get through this game” list.
With so many similarities to Resident Evil, Amnesia, Outcast, and other modern horror games, it’s no surprise that the game has finally being translated and brought westwards. But the success of many of those recent games (including Resident Evil VII) can only be attributed to the original release of White Day in 2001. The key core mechanics of this game are clearly shown in those games yet White Day still feels fresh, if not much fresher now that it’s been brought back up to date. This is classic survival horror.