REVIEW: White Day: A Labyrinth Named School

Monday, September 18th, 2017

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Title White Day: A Labyrinth Named School
Developer Sonnori
Publisher PQube
Release Date August 22, 2017
Genre Survival Horrror
Platform PlayStation 4
Age Rating Teen
Official Website

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a remake of an old horror game of the same name that was released all the way back in 2001. I had never heard of the original game, nor did I look at many trailers for this version.  I generally like to go into a new horror game knowing nothing. That way the element of surprise is much greater, which I feel gives me a much better horror experience overall. Now that I’ve played through White Day, did it satisfy the survival horror fan in me, or did it fail to please?

White Day starts off with our silent protagonist, Hui-min Lee, wanting to return the diary of a girl he has a crush on, named So-young. Hui-min also wants to give her White Day chocolate as a sign of his feelings. Later on, Hui-min finds himself drawn back to the school at night to give So-young her diary back, where he quickly realizes that the school he attends is a very different place at night.  The friendly janitor who works at the school is suddenly not so friendly at night, and there are even ghosts haunting the halls and classrooms.

White Day | So-young

Throughout the journey you meet a few other characters, including a mysterious girl with a bossy attitude named Seong-a Kim. The characters themselves aren’t the most well developed but they are likeable for what is here. The most fleshed out characters were So-young and Seong-a Kim, but it just felt like it wasn’t enough to really get me invested in their motivations, which is a shame because the overall story is a decent paranormal ghost story. There are plenty of times during cutscenes when Hui-min will be asked a question. Since he is a silent protagonist, you’ll be given two options for each question asked, which will help lead you to one of the game’s many endings. It also can alter how a cutscene plays out completely. The overall story is a bit of a disappointment, but it definitely has a few moments where it stands out.

One such moment is the story of the school itself. There are a lot of different notes scattered throughout the rooms you’ll explore that give plenty of detail and backstory about all the terrible things that have happened in and around the school. There are also fairly lengthy stories about some unfortunate tragedies amongst the many students that attend this school, interesting stories like how the school was once a hospital, and a concentration camp where many people were killed or committed suicide. Collecting notes that give background lore like this is always one of my favorite parts of a new horror game, and thankfully that’s one thing that White Day definitely does right.

White Day | Reflection

Unfortunately, the gameplay in White Day doesn’t do much to stand out. The game plays similarly enough to other survival horror games. You’ll explore the school’s four different buildings looking for clues and solving puzzles to help progress. During your exploration, the Janitor will be patrolling the hallways and classrooms. You’ll be forced to avoid him as best as possible, as you don’t have the means to fight back against his baseball bat. Things like running too fast, getting too close or even turning on a light in the classroom will get his attention if he’s nearby.

At first, I honestly found the Janitor to be really intimidating and the game as a whole was starting to get under my skin. I found this pretty impressive at first because I generally find myself numb to most horror game situations. Unfortunately, that tension I felt quickly turned into frustration, which persisted throughout the entire game. Getting caught by the Janitor is frustrating, and at first it seems really difficult to actually get him to lose sight of you. I quickly realized, though, that his AI is not smart at all, and that all you need to do to lose him in any circumstance is to just run into the bathroom and hide in a stall. Even if the Janitor is right behind you and sees you run into the stall, he will immediately lose track of you and go back to his patrol. There are also ghosts that appear while exploring, and coming in contact with most of them will hurt you. I find I encountered a ghost the most often when waiting around too long in one area for the Janitor to move.

White Day | Hiding From the Janitor

In the later portions of the game, the stealth just turns into a waiting game, when the area turns into a much wider open space with multiple floors. Constantly I felt like I just had to wait for him to go up high enough on a flight of stairs so I could explore, and after doing what I needed to on one floor, it was time to wait yet again for the Janitor to slowly walk around past where I needed to go. This got really old really fast and only a few hours into the game I was losing my motivation to continue pushing forward.

The puzzles themselves are decent, and for the most part are explained well enough with clues through notes you’ll find. It generally involves taking items to a certain place and making them into new items, or using one item to get another. There is one puzzle in particular that no matter how much I tried and thought, I just couldn’t figure out how you are supposed to solve without a guide. Fairly early on in the game there is a chalkboard with Chinese characters written on it, as well as a note with some numbers on it. Trying to figure out this puzzle was a nightmare for me, and I admittedly never could figure it out on my own. Apparently the puzzle has something to do with subtraction, but without being able to read what was on the chalkboard, I never would have known that. Thankfully, the puzzle solution uses the same four numbers in a different order every playthrough. Once I found those numbers, it was just a matter of trying the numbers in a different order on a padlock until it worked.

White Day | Ghost

If that puzzle wasn’t frustrating enough for me, I also encountered a game-breaking glitch later on when a cutscene would not trigger. Thanks to this, I was left unable to progress in the game at all. Reloading my save didn’t solve the issue, and I was forced to start the entire game over from the beginning. Not all of the puzzles are like that, thankfully. All of the game’s boss fights also play out as their own puzzles. One boss will have you going around the school poisoning a plant monster’s spawn to weaken its main body. Another will having you matching what’s in a mirror while also forcing you to dodge incoming projectile attacks. Each boss plays out differently, and while figuring them out isn’t too difficult, I found them more interesting than trying to sneak around the Janitor.

Visually, White Day looks good. It’s not the most atmospheric or beautiful game, but the look and feel of the school is believable and I felt the layouts were pretty memorable. The character models are also nice looking and have some nice facial detail. One of the things I liked the most about White Day visually was its very high resolution textures for everything. Almost everything in the environment that you can look at has a nice, crisp high-resolution texture with little to no pixelation when up really close. From flyers hanging on the walls to notes on desks and portraits hanging on the walls, all of it is high resolution and crystal clear.

White Day | He's Always One Step Behind You

As for the sound, White Day is very mixed. The English dub is okay; it does a serviceable job for the most part. There is also a Korean voice track for those who would prefer that. The music and ambiance unfortunately is really hit or miss. The theme that plays when the Janitor is around can get very nerve-wracking, especially if you’re just hiding in a classroom and that song starts playing, even if he’s not in the room with you. Then there is the music that plays during two boss fights in the second half where it just sounds like a woman yelling over and over. This song is so strange and just completely killed any kind of mood these moments could have had.

It’s a shame that White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is such a mixed bag for me. The story overall is decent and does a good job setting up the school itself as its own character with a lot of backstory. The gameplay, however, just felt far too frustrating far too early on, and unfortunately persisted till the very end. White Day took me about seven hours to complete, so thankfully it doesn’t last too long. It also has multiple endings, but I’m sad to say I don’t think I’ll ever be going back for them. For $29.99 there are certainly better horror games out there to play. A sequel to White Day was recently announced, so hopefully the issues I had can be built on for a much better experience.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher