Why anyone would put themselves through this, I will never understand. I have never been at home by myself thinking; man, I sure wish I were scared right now. If being tense and scared is your cup of tea, go ahead and have a look at White Day: A Labyrinth Named School.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a Korean survival-horror game originally developed and published by the studio Sonnori back in 2001. It was remade for mobile phones in 2015 and for Windows and Playstation 4 in 2017.
The reason you find yourself in this super creepy school building at night is not very important. The fact of the matter is that you are in a school at night, and it is filled with ghosts and the janitors from hell. The game rushes to put you in this setting early on and thus it gusts you through a quick introduction and sets you on your path. Basically you want to deliver the notebook of your crush back to her so you enter into this haunted school at night. While in school you find out a few other students have also entered the premises. As you wander around exploring, the ghastly story starts to unfold. There are a bunch of ghosts for you to encounter and to be scared by, but the most terrifying part of this game is without a doubt the janitor. Especially the first one as I was accustomed to his company when being introduced to his baseball cap wearing co-worker.
The janitor is introduced early on as you observe him beating a fellow student to death with his baseball bat. That sure sets the mood and tell you what will happen if you are caught.
The story is there to give you a reason for exploring this haunted school and to be a victim of the terrifying atmosphere. You are given tidbits of the story mainly through different notes that you can pick up. However, I assume you mainly play a game like this for the ambience and thrills and not for the story, and that is where the focus of this game is. There is a story surrounding the experience if you take part of all the documents you can find, but my main take-away was the setting.
You can probably clear the game in four to six hours, which is enough for this game to not overstay its welcome.
You play as the main character Lee Hui-min through first person perspective. There are no weapons in your arsenal. You are very underpowered and have no means of fighting. Your weapon of choice is legging it out in order to find a good spot to hide out in while the ever-looming threat wanders on. You utilize items to regain your health after getting a beating by the janitor or an encounter with the supernatural.
There are different difficulty levels for you to choose from. The lower difficulties offer you some hints through text messages in your phone, and this is recommended if you are not well versed in these types of games. The game can definitely put up a challenge so don’t feel bad for choosing a lower level of difficulty.
You explore the school in different sections where you find clues and solve puzzles to advance. The puzzles vary in their level of difficulty and I must say that some of the puzzles really had me scratching my head trying to find the solution. The puzzle solving and exploring would probably have been a lot easier if the game didn’t make sure to put you in a state of anxiousness with the ever present threat of the janitor or a jump scare waiting to happen. Being tense and stressed while playing definitely adds to the difficulty of advancing.
The gameplay mechanics were mostly fine, but frustrating on a few occasions. If I wanted to open a door I had to look exactly on the handle and if I wanted to pick up an item from the floor, I had to look directly at it. This was a minor inconvenience unless I was in a hurry trying to outrun the janitor. On those occasions it was truly frustrating.
Art style and sound
This game truly shines when it comes to ambiance and tensio. The tension is mainly built through the excellent sound design and mixing. An eerie setting combined with the ghosts and the threat of the janitor is enough to keep you on edge. When a tree branch hits the building, a floorboard cracks or a phone starts ringing, you are sure to have your heartbeat raised. For the first few minutes of exploring I was so anxious fearing that the janitor was coming to get me. I heard his footsteps wherever I went and couldn’t shake him. Later than I care to admit, I figured out that the footsteps that had been haunting me, were my own. That is what a game like this does to you. Thankfully, after learning the pattern of the janitor, his terror did let off and he became more of an annoyance than anything else.
This being an older game does show in the visuals department. Don’t expect a cutting edge graphical achievement, as this is a game that originally came out in 2001. It hasn’t gotten the glow up of say a Final Fantasy VII Remake, but that is not something that is required to deliver the frightening setting for this game.
Who is this game for
If you are a fan of the survival-horror genre, you will surely find enjoyment in this game. If you are not a fan of the horror genre in general, I doubt you will have a good time with White Day: A Labyrinth Named School. You will however loose an hour or two of sleep, which is always nice.
Good for fans of horror. The sound design and sound mixing in this game stands out while the visuals do show signs of aging. It is in large thanks to the different choices in the sound department that this game manages to deliver its unnerving atmosphere.
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