Review: White Night (PS4)
As the days go by and more games are released, many people have come to expect certain factors in video games. Graphics, speed, innovation (or lack thereof depending on where you sit in the spectrum) and fantastic value. Now, with the rise in indie games, we’re thrown back into a time where the nuts and bolts of games far outshine the flashes and flares of massive titles. With White Night being all about light, is it able to outshine other horror games, or does its light fade into the darkness?
Light and dark mean more than just good and evil. In a game that’s purely white and black, can you truly tell what’s hiding in the shadows? A game focusing on two very basic colours isn’t unheard of, but seldom does it leave a big impact. Black is the darkness that hides secrets and white is the light that reveals them. This is essentially the focal point of the game – using light to guide you through an “unending” nightmare.
Your nightmare begins on September 3rd, 1938, when a simple drive in the night turns awry. Recollecting the current state in the United States: it’s the Great Depression; people are starving, missing, miserable and more. A hard time to be alive in the world – a time where many sought the comfort of bottle, the breath of a cigarette and the sound of slow jazz playing in the background with a belle lending her voice to brighten a bad day. Your drive turns to anguish when you think you’ve knocked over a woman and crash your car. Was that a woman? Is she alive? Am I? Where am I? These thoughts race through your mind. One thing is certain, everything is not what it seems.
Injured and in need of help, your only saving grace is a mansion on the hill. It’s dark, mysterious and spooky. The night sky is as empty as a void; lightning and thunder sets the mood. You’re crippled from the crash and hobbling over to your sanctuary. You pass a cemetery… is this place safe? Only one way to find out…
This is a survival horror game that really tests your wits, rather than your trigger finger. All you have in your arsenal are matches and the courage needed to face the ghosts that haunt the mansion. Yes, there is a ghost – well, copies of one ghost. White Night takes you back to the very essence of survival, giving you just enough to survive and nothing more. The entire game is blackness, only when you strike your match will you be able to the see your surroundings. As you may guess, light is the main source of power. It’s also the only source of additional colour – almost as if to say light brings life in the world. There are three forms of light: matches, for you to see; electrical lamps or lights, for you to exorcise the ghosts; and the light of an apparition named Selena, who acts as your guide.
There’re plenty of matches to go around, but when you’re in a pickle, or just jumpy, running out of matches can take a toll on your nerves. It’s even worse when you strike a dud match. You literally cannot do anything without illumination. The real problems come when finding switches for lamps and lights – with the darkness of the game and awkward camera angles, it’s occasionally very difficult to locate switches on your first attempt. This makes the game a little frustrating, especially when you’re running low on matches.
Keeping a low profile is also the key to survival, and that means you need be quiet and occasionally hide in the darkness. Getting caught by the creepy ghost is one shot kill, so if she sees you, move like a bat out of hell.
The movement controls and inventory system are both very simple and easy to navigate. The main problem I do have is the lack of a decent map system. By the time you actually get a map of the area, you’re already accustomed to it, so it renders it a little useless. What is put to good use are all the books, papers and letters scattered around the house. These little tidbits tie together the story of the game. A lot is left unsaid, and the very bones are given as the game unravels, so it’s vital that you collect and read these pieces of information.
At the start it will just seem like you’re stuck in a shitty situation, but you quickly realise the twisted history of the mansion’s residents, the serial killer operating in the area and the disappearances of many women, and how the state of the country lead to it all. I’ve always liked reading additional information, but the pieces in these notes are a lot more than just back story, so if you do play White Night, read everything.
The style of the game is meant to be close to the Noir of the 1920’s and 30’s, and it accomplishes it in some regards. The music is wonderful and fits the melancholic mood wonderfully. The black and white, which many might shy away from, is actually a work of amazing art. The sharpness of the white against the depth of the black fuddles with your mind and constantly reminds you that without light you are vulnerable.
A section that failed is the script, while I found the overall story very good, a lot of what Mr Hero said, sounded too forced. A bit like the retrospective soliloquy’s in Sin City. Many parts of the game contains that stunning art deco & jazzy vibe, but the blocky characters really brought the game down a few notches. It’s not as recognisible from afar, but when you have close ups, the characters look almost alien, especially Selena.
What’s scarier than the visuals is the actual scare factor. While it’s nowhere near as frightening as Outlast, White Night manages to master jump scares. A lot of this has to do with the sound though. When the ghost notices you, she lets out a sharp, loud shriek. This is quickly followed by erratic running and frantic music playing in the background. The sound and motion play on your nerves. Couple that with the constant monochromatic colour scheme and you’ve got a good formula.
Other than playing a minor pyromaniac, you’re meant to solve puzzles in order to progress deeper into the bowels of the mansion. The puzzles themselves aren’t particularly difficult, but finding everything you need for them is a little tricky. The camera is probably the biggest gripe I have with the game. The darkness I can counter with light, but I can’t do anything about fixed camera angles. In order to see everything in the room, you need to find a specific camera angle sweet spot, and some are really hard to find. I struggled with a puzzle for about 15 minutes all because I wasn’t left enough on the screen for the angle to change – it’s that damn annoying.
Aside from the few issues I’ve mentioned in the post, the game is rather enjoyable. The mix of ghost story and murder mystery, with a hint of fantasy in noir styled game is interesting. There’s not a whole lot left to do once you’ve beaten the game, but you can go back to collect any missed books or notes. Also, there are some interesting trophies to collect, so it’s worth playing a second time. It’s not a very long game, but what gave it some extra time was all the wasted time I spent looking for switches and puzzle elements thanks to that damn camera.
White Night lightens up a lot and shines brighter than I thought it would. It’s not as scary as other horror games, but its story and style makes up for it.