The survival horror genre has had its ups and downs throughout its existence. Popularized by games in the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises, over time the genre has turned to a more action based gameplay style, more so than what fans would like. To me survival horror simply had one job: make me feel helpless and scared, and don’t hold my hand when things get rough.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School might have gone under some gamers’ radars, but it was first released on the PC in 2001 and later received a remake for iOS and Android devices in 2016. The game is true to the survival horror genre through and through, so it’s a shame this series never took off to become something more. Now, the game has been enhanced once again, but this time for the PlayStation 4 and PC. With jump scares and cryptic puzzles, survival horror fans might want to read on to see if this is the game for them. However, if you’ve played the 2016 remake, you may see too many similarities to warrant another playthrough.
The premise of White Day is as sweet as it is creepy when main protagonist Lee Hui-min happens across the lost diary of his high school crush Han So-young. In a desperate attempt to gain her attraction, he decided to give her a gift for White Day (an eastern holiday where males give gifts to girls) along with her missing diary. As simple as the premise is, I don’t think Lee had any idea just how unforgettable this night was going to be for him.
After an opening scene showing Lee walking into his school during the night and getting locked in, the game is quick to introduce its mechanics as fast as possible with a series of tutorial screens. Normally, I hate playing a game that gets constantly interrupted with prompts explaing a simple action such as press X to open a box, but White Day gets it over with within the first ten minutes of gameplay which was appreciated.
Lee later finds out there are a few other students inside the school as well, each with their own personal reasons for being there. During interactions with characters players will be able to respond to many of their questions or comments. Choices in the game do matter, but it’s difficult to tell if whether I picked the right one or not because the story will continue regardless of what I chose. Often I would pick what I thought would be the right choices, only to receive an ending that I wasn’t aiming for.
White Day is played in the first person which adds to the immersion of the game. There are many searchable objects and items to be found laying around the school that make exploring engaging and force the player to thoroughly search each room, even if there’s a chance they’ll be spotted by a guard.
Guards are played by the Janitor of the school. If you are seen he will chase you with a bat and beat the crap out of you unless you run and hide. There are no weapons in the game so your best bet is to hide behind desks or bathrooms. The Janitor is also attracted to lights being turned on and the sound of running, so using these actions during gameplay isn’t advised unless you are sure that he isn’t anywhere around.
At first the Janitor freaked me out and I was truly scared when I could hear him closing in behind me. However, after a while this gets old and he only becomes an obstacle standing in your way as you’re trying to solve a puzzle. Throughout the game, the Janitor will be your only real enemy aside from a few bosses and some ghost encounters. This is a missed opportunity because once I figured out the easiest ways to get away from the Janitor, I just did them over and over till I moved on to the next area.
White Day has some extremely cryptic puzzles that force the player to use every item at their disposal and read any and all documents found along the way. This is crucial if you wish to progress through the game, and I had a blast using my wits to progress the game. Being stuck on a puzzle in a dark and gloomy setting isn’t so bad — the game usually provides you with enough clues and resources to progress. However, there is one puzzle in particular involving a chalkboard that was just too vague and should have been given a proper explanation in order to understand how to solve it.
The area where White Day dominates most of the survival horror games I have played over the years is the sound department. The game uses sound brilliantly and forces the player to constantly be looking behind them or jumping at the sound of a crash. Using headphones during gameplay is a must, you won’t regret it, unless you scare easily.
The issues with White Day stem from the reused assets from the 2016 remake. There are many set pieces, including desks, books, wall art, and more that seem to be ripped right from the remake and upscaled to HD. That being said, the female character models look great and their facial reactions are expressed better than they were before.
Additionally, little has been changed storywise compared to the 2016 release. Puzzles are pretty much the same, along with key locations and number combinations, although passwords change during each playthrough. The main difference between the games is that characters don’t follow you around the school anymore, which is okay with me.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a great game for fans of the survival horror genre, you will feel right at home throughout the entire game. Furthermore, the game’s new HD graphics makes it easily approachable to more modern gamers who have yet to experience a true survival horror game. There’s a lot to discover about the school and characters over the game’s story that spans 3 – 6 hours and has multiple endings. However, those who have played the game before will pretty much be replaying a game that they’ve already played multiple times.
Let it be known that White Day: A Labyrinth Named School frightened me on multiple occasions and kept me feeling anxious through most of the story, like every good survival horror game should. For a game originally released in 2001, there are some truly terrifying scenes to experience, but the repetitive Janitor encounters and reused assets make the game feel frustrating and repetitive towards the final puzzles of the game.