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Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie
Developer: SONNORI Corp
Publisher: PQube Limited, SONNORI Corp
Release Date: Aug 23, 2017
Edited by KnightAvenger
The idea of a horror game where running for your survival is an explored genre but, often times, does not get enough credit, as many of these games are usually suspenseful in a different way than more traditional horror game styles. Thus, when a Korean horror game comes out on PC that promises a premise of survival by not being seen, I wanted to see what hides behind those blood-stained curtains: White Day: A Labyrinth Named School. White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a Korean, action, adventure, survival horror game developed by SONNORI Corp, later released by PQube Limited and SONNORI Corp that, while the player is put in a situation where the survival is in your own hands and requires quick reactions, does put some unneeded pressures on the player.
Hearing that metal grate shut behind you, the story of White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is not as big as it may first appear but does contain clues for the player to piece together the bloody past. We, the player, play as Hee-Min Lee, a new transfer student who has a crush on Han So-Young, who has left her diary on a bench at the school, and on the eve of an event known as White Day, a month after Valentine’s Day where the boy leaves gifts for the girl they have affection towards, Hee-Min Lee attempts to sneak into the school to leave his gift for her in her classroom. However, things quickly go south, as, after he gets through the door, a metal gate drops down, locking him into the building and forcing him to explore around the school, finding a way into her classroom to leave her gift and escape the school before midnight hits. There is more to the school than Hee-Min Lee knows, though, as by meeting fellow students, who are also in the school at this time, he learns that the school was built around a hospital and there are stories of hauntings at the school due to trapped souls, alongside a crazy but unforgiving janitor. I will end the synopsis here, as the story from here progresses through a series of notes more than a linear plot, so it’s more wide open as the player progresses while hunting around the school. It is worth noting that White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a remake of a game made back in 2001, with this version being a more up-to-date version of the 2015 mobile version, so the story being kept simple has a good reason.
Like all good stories, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School, as a story, does have its flaws, the biggest one I found just being how open-ended the story can be. The story is small, which is something I appreciated, as it let me discover all these small facts and story bits as I was exploring, but it left a hole in terms of the overall story where, if you just rushed through the game, you would miss a lot of story content, as it wasn’t fed to you. My other flaw was simply the lack of character development for Hee-Min Lee. In the story, Hee-Min Lee has no voice in the cutscenes, so, as you progress through the game, the use of the in-game cutscenes with character chats on the sides does try to show you how much he grows as a character. This doesn’t work very effectively, though, as you definitely see the other characters get more scared and almost accepting of these souls trying to follow them, whereas, with Hee-Min Lee, it becomes a task of just surviving.
Running for your life, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School sticks to the simple concept of hiding and progressing without trying to be caught, but it does have a few mechanics I feel need explaining. The first mechanic is the inventory system; similar to that of the old Resident Evil games, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School uses a limited inventory system where picking up an item at the right time to solve the correct puzzle becomes key to your progression and survival in the game. Then there are the puzzles, something that can range from simple to hard. These puzzles can vary by the difficulty that you’re playing as well as by the items required to solve them that you must locate and pick up around the school itself. These puzzles were, sometimes, a fun challenge but, other times, not so much, as the answer would be something very obscure, such as key blending, which becomes a major requirement of the game as you progress. The last mechanic I want to talk about is the key blending and deblending. In the game, you can take keys you find around the school and blend them together in a key machine in select rooms to get access to keys that can unlock certain doors and areas. You can, later, deblend the keys on the same machine to break them back apart and use them with other keys. This became, honestly, one of the more frustrating mechanics I had to deal with, as it was a puzzle but one that was required of you to essentially master to really progress. My only real complaint was the janitors and ghost, where they can, sometimes, be unforgiving if caught and are trying to escape. They have patched this some since the game’s release, so it is not nearly as bad now, but you can see some situations where that difficulty does show.
Sneaking around the dark world before you, the presentation of White Day: A Labyrinth Named School has this detailed but grim visual art style as well as a more traditional musical selection with an interesting twist. Visually, I was impressed with White Day: A Labyrinth Named School, as it is made with or uses the Unity engine, which tends to have some mixed results in terms of visuals, but here, they are crisp and very pretty to look at. Background-wise, they focus on a dark and eerie sort of style, using darkness to play off of white or lighter shaded walls, requiring the player to turn on a light to see more of the detailed surroundings. Character-wise, the art is well done, as the models are designed well and detailed enough that each person definitely looks different from each other, minus the janitors to some degree. I did want to bring up one point, though-the use of DLC costumes. In the game, you can buy costumes not available in the base game through DLCs, which is fine, as I felt it did spice up the characters’ looks, but when your game is focused on a school, seeing someone in a bikini is the last thing I would expect. This took away the scare factor for me, as it felt out of place and more like it was thrown in for some fan service.
Prepare to have your senses played upon, as the music in White Day: A Labyrinth Named School, focuses far and away from what you might expect of traditional horror game music. Musically, I loved the use of the Japanese ping sounds used to create tension, alongside the creepy but beautiful vocal work included to add just another level of subtle creepiness. These two sound designs have really set this game apart for me as a gamer because it would be quiet and then, all of the sudden, the pings begin, putting you on edge in those dark and empty hallways. The sound effects are top notch as well, being pieces designed to add to the tension when needed and just deliver a feeling like you were actually there. The voice acting is also well done here; those who have voices give the lines well and, surprisingly, made you feel like they were in the moment when recording it.
Overall, I found White Day: A Labyrinth Named School to be a throwback to horror games of old like Fatal Frame, with its simple but effective story, puzzles and challenges, and eerie setting, even with the few issues I had with its story and gameplay. The simple and open but effective story, focus on survival-based gameplay, challenges and puzzles, plenty of unlockables via in-game, the use of a dark and eerie visual style, the simple but tension-filled music and excellent voice acting make for plenty of genuine horror-filled moments.
- A simple story that is open and is told effectively
- The focus on survival-based gameplay
- Welcoming puzzles and challenges
- A hefty amount of unlockables in-game
- A welcoming dark but eerie visual style
- Simple but tension-filled music
- Excellent voice acting throughout the game
- Story can feel too open-ended
- Janitors and ghost can feel unfair at times
- Some puzzles can get repetitive
DarkLunarDude gives White Day: A Labyrinth Named School a Drastik Measure 8.1 out of 10.0 (81)
For the price of $29.99 (USD) on Steam, I can highly recommend White Day: A Labyrinth Named School to any horror game fan, as the amount of content to find and challenge the game offers with multiple difficulties leave many hours of gameplay to be had.