SONNORI Corp (studio)
22 August 2017 (released)
29 August 2017
White Day is the chilling tale of a young school boy whose crush on a girl leads him to go into his school, late at night and drop off a small box of chocolate in her room. Why he couldn't do this during the day is beyond me. But he does and at night, there's some pretty creepy things happening at the school. Aside from other students sneaking around getting up to no good, there are horrifying ghosts and a Janitor who bashes in the brains of anyone who roams the halls at night. So apart from dealing with ghosts and a killer janitor, our young male student must impress the girls too in order to survive the night. Yeah that's a part of the game's core design.
What starts off as a simple task to deliver some chocolate becomes a game of cat and mouse as our young student tries to find an exit. Along his journey, our student will come face to face with antagonising forces of the supernatural. White Day was well received back on its original release as the concept, gameplay elements and horror themes were very compelling. In many respect they still are even in 2017 and helped influence many titles we know and love today including Outlast and Alien Isolation. However the developers have failed in realising that by not changing certain elements or improving upon the original design makes this remaster seem very dated. The mechanics are the exact same as from the 2001 version which is a problem.
While the concepts and survival horror elements in White Day are very strong it's their execution and dated design choices which hold it back drastically. The tank like controls and limited stealth mechanics are among a few issues. For instance, you have very little awareness as to where the janitor can be and often he'll see a mile away. This wouldn’t be a problem but there are very few places you can hide. You can only jump inside toilet stools and "behind" desks (not under). This was a problem as you're so limited on where you can hide and in most instances you'll experience a jump scare/hallucination which will alert him to your presence. Not to mention for a guy with a limp he moves incredibly fast with no means of players being able to distract or stop him means it's an endless and often tedious chase cycle. The limitations on hiding spots will create a staggering sense of progression and with linear paths throughout the game, this only gets worse as you’ll spend a great amount of time waiting for the patrolling janitor.
The Stealth mechanics are fine for the first hour it's intense, but after this period, it's repetitive with his slow patrolling speed and his ability to see you from down the hall make sneaking around tedious.
What I did enjoy most about White Day was the mythos or the collection of ghost stories that gathered into what made the school a terrifying place to be in. Reading the stories scattered around the school sent chills down my spine and understanding the horrors that haunted the school halls made me fear this location even more. The ghosts themselves are present throughout your journey and many of them are absolutely horrifying. But many of these ghosts resort to nothing more than a jump scare and never become vital elements in the story. Games like Silent Hill would incorporate certain ghosts or back stories into the gameplay and narrative effectively. Here, they’re just a tease at something that would’ve been nerve wrecking in the narrative rather than a scare.
The lateral elements in the game are a strong aspect for White Day as the puzzles here present a healthy challenge with a great sense of reward for completion. Resource management and exploration are also captivating for any survival horror fan, with plenty of discovery and finding critical items over the course of the campaign. These aspects of the game’s survival gameplay were enthralling and kept me invested, until one of the more flawed elements would rear its ugly head. Either the janitor, a lack of clear direction or confusing mission objective would interrupt your progression and make the journey become more of tedious chore than a chilling horror experience. There is however some neat ideas for story progression such as multiple paths and a few mission objectives that present a new form of challenge such as rescuing a student within a time limit.
The only downside was that aside from the puzzles themselves, most objectives became substandard fetch quests that didn’t differ from the last. Titles like Resident Evil made sure to change certain factors or combine elements of fetch quests to make them interesting. White Day often relies on the tired formula of find code, open door, find another code, get key and repeat.
But one of the saving graces for White Day is the replay value and there are plenty of reasons to go back. Among the multiple endings to unlock there’s also extra content to unlock such as alternative costumes. Even if some of the costumes for the students are very questionable and a little creepy.
Considering this game is 16 years old, there are plenty of interesting ideas and gameplay elements that hold up very well. But the dated mechanics and controls cripple what could’ve been a great experience. It’s not enough to simply give a game that’s nearly 20 years old a makeover without actually improving on certain aspects. This is a flawed remaster and something other developers should remember not to do. Most remasters are of games that are fairly recent or games which are timeless with if not near perfect designs, then something that could be improved and has been.
Still, it was great to be able to play a game that helped redefine a subgenre in the horror market and influence other games in the future. This is worth checking out buy bear in mind, you have to be patience with the dated controls and some broken stealth mechanics.
+ Compelling horror elements
+ Some great gameplay ideas
+ High replay value
-- Infuriating stealth mechanics
- Limited mission objectives
- Ghosts are never used to their full potential
A PS4 copy of White Day: A Labyrinth named School was provided by the publishers for the purpose of this review