Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Picture this… You’re young, in love, and it’s the perfect day to share a gift of passion with the person you’ve been crushing on since you started your high school life. WELL TOO BAD! Because White Day takes your picture perfect dream and stabs a bloody paint brush through that canvas and laughs in your face at your poor attempt at young love. Seriously, when will teenagers learn that going into a creepy school at night is not a good idea for confessing your love? Bad stuff is just bound to happen!?
White Day: A Labyritnth Named School is a survival-horror game that was released back in 2015 by ROI Games & Gachyon Soft on mobile in Korea and got a worldwide release from PQube only a year later. It is a remake of the 2001 game of the same name that was originally released for Microsoft Windows. Packed full of jump scares, exploration, puzzle-solving and multiple endings this game will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The game even ended up getting a graphical upgrade in 2017 and is now available to play, at it’s best, on the PlayStation and PC.
You control our love-struck high school student, Lee Hui-min, who decides to sneak into the school after hours to prepare a surprise White Day gift for his crush, Han So-young. Upon entry, our teenage individual becomes trapped inside the institution by an unknown supernatural phenomenon and discovers that he’s not the only soul around. With the help of some other students playing hide-and-seek, you’ll have to traverse the school at night to find your way out while avoiding contact with a deranged janitor and other ethereal beings that are out to hurt you. Will you make it out of this hell alive or get swallowed whole by the vengeful spirits that live here?
Don’t Stop, Don’t Look Back
The key to this game is exploration. Depending on the difficulty you choose, certain things will change. Through my Normal difficulty play through I was able to check most things in the environment. From opening doors, drawers, lockers and bathroom stalls. In doing so you’ll come across items that can heal you, some that are key to storytelling or some that are significant to progressing the game. You’ll also come across black sharpie markers that are a MUST have, since they are the only way to save the game. If you don’t have them you cannot save your progress, so don’t be afraid to be thorough when searching the school.
Puzzles are also present and are my least favourite aspect of the game simply because all the hints are subtle. Some events in the game will lock you into a time based scenario where you’ll have to run around and figure out how to escape. Anything time based in any game will make me sweat buckets and I have had a few game overs because of them. White Day is on the list. BUT! I have noticed that certain elements in the game go missing when you’re trapped in these moments, such as NO JANITOR! This is super helpful when all you wanna do is run down the halls in search of your next objective.
However taking your time can also get you into trouble. At some point in the game you’ll encounter the school janitor and he’s not too happy about you being in here. If he spots you he’ll give chase and won’t stop until he looses sight of you. Your best bet is to quickly run into a dark classroom or bathroom stall and hide. DON’T FORGET TO CLOSE THE DOOR BEHIND YOU! This is super important since the janitors AI is quite observant. He’s more likely to corner you if you leave a messy trail of evidence. Meaning if you walk into a room and leave the light on and door open, he’s more likely to check why that classroom is open in the first place. Be warned though, this guy has GREAT hearing. He can hear things like doors opening/closing and you running around from two floors up. If you where investigating the bathroom early and left all the stalls open, only to run back into the same bathroom to hide from him, he’ll put two-and-two together and open the one stall that’s closed. BUSTED! Once caught he’ll beat you with his bat (Nice janitor, am I right?), but you can run away. You are faster than him, but you do have stamina and if you find that you’re running away all the time you’ll black out.
These Casper’s Aren’t That Friendly
Other than the janitor you have others to be wary about. At night this school shifts into the paranormal dimension, where ghosts run free. And trust me when I say this, they love torturing young saps like you. Many unfortunately souls have died on these school grounds over the years and their ghostly spirits are restless.
There are three types of ghost you can encounter in the game. There are those who are strictly scripted to the story-line and will appear as planned. While others can only appear under certain conditions. You’ll notice manuscripts scattered throughout the game. These are known as Ghost stories. They are key in gathering if you plan to find these ghosties. Once you have their story you may need to go to a specific area or need a certain item in order to trigger these individual scares. They aren’t easy to activate, but are scary once found.
The last type of ghost is a programmed AI that’ll stalk you throughout the game. She can appear when you least expect it. She is programmed to know your exact location at all times and will slowly inch her way towards you. The only indication she is nearby is when the music dips into a more ghastly tone. It’ll build in tempo the closer she gets to you. The only way to even catch a glimpse of her is out of the corner of your camera. If you try to look directly at her she’ll disappear, but don’t be fooled she’s still moving towards you even if you’re staring her down. If she manages to catch up to you she’ll jumpscare you. Not only does this send a sense of dread down your spine, but she can hurt you AND alert the janitor to your location. She is the thing of nightmares.
Music and Visuals
I am pleased to say that I really like the way this game looks. All the character models look great, even our ghostly neighbours. The amount of detail I see on some of these spirits could spot hearts, which means the game is doing its job.
When it comes to the music, it’s pretty minimal. But sometimes silence is killer. When all I’m getting in a game of suspense is nothing but the sound of my footsteps, only to hear the jingles of the janitors keys nearby, it sends a shiver down my spine. Ambient noises do chime in from time-to-time, especially when I’m hiding. Nothing makes me jump more then when I’m cowering from a mad man in a dark room, only to have something smack against the window nearby. Brutal, but effective. There is this one track with strings that gets me to run tail every time it starts, because it has a great way of making it sound like something is coming to murder you. It’s eerie and chilling. And if a game can make me shake in my boots then I tip my hat to you.
Crank it up to Eleven
As I mentioned earlier I started my play through on Normal Mode. It had a good balance of scares and easy dodging when it came to the Janitor. However, I would highly recommend starting this game on Hard. In Hard Mode everything is elevated. From lesser items, such as fewer healing drinks and half the amount of black marker saves, to far more aggressive and observant Janitors. You’ll also have access to all the optional ghosts in the story. You want survival horror at its best this is the level you should play on. I find it much more rewarding when I’m able to uncover all the tragic stories of the ghosts that are trapped within the building. Whereas, in Normal Mode I only have to pick from the bottom of the barrel. And if you’re a trophy hunter you’ll have to play through this difficulty in order to platinum it.
To conclude, I believe White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a must play if survival horror is your cup of tea. It has everything you’d want in a horror from challenges, scares and bone chilling suspense that’ll cause you nightmares. I find playing this game in a dark room with some friends makes the experience that more enjoyable when you have someone to throw the controller to when your nerves just can’t take it anymore. And if you want to heighten that experience the game is available on Steam with the Ultimate Edition, DLC included. I’m giving this game an 8.5 out of 10 for being spectacularly spooky.Score: 8.5 / 10