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White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (PC) artwork

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (PC) review


"Literal Old School Horror"


I would genuinely love to be someone offering directions in Yeondu High School, the location in which White Day is housed. “Turn the corner by the exploded carnivorous plant," I would say, "and your destination is the room next to the one with the angry spider girl trapped in it. If you hit the bay window with the hanged body, you’ve gone too far.”

White Day takes place after hours, in a haunted schoolhouse. It's a remake of a 2001 underground cult title that initially was available only in Korea. Though it was finally brought to a wider audience with assistance from fan patches and questionable downloads, the original version never reached other territories as a stable build. I first tried my hand at the game in 2005, making it roughly halfway through before numerous bug-outs and crashes ground my progress to a halt.

So, here’s a comment I never thought I’d utter: thank goodness for mobile games and their vastly cost-inflated re-re-ports onto PCs. White Day received a recent face lift when it was updated for mobile gaming, to keep those pesky kids terrified on the move. That remake has now made its way to Western PCs, and for the first time in a totally legit and stable fashion. So it’s worth pointing out now that anyone who’s already played through the mobile version might have little interest in doing the exact same thing on a bigger screen at a tripled price point. Let’s give those dedicated few time to shuffle off. Are they gone yet? Just you and me left? Cool. Let me tell you about my love for White Day.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (PC) image

It’s a product of its era, for one thing. The lack of re-spawning health bars, coupled with finite healing items, means that a clumsy and beaten down player could find themselves stuck at various points in the game and unable to progress. There’s no real option to fall back on multiple saves, either; much like in Resident Evil’s case, you need an expendable item to make a save file. In this case, one-use felt pens allow you to scribble your progress on notice boards.

The system is frustrating to those that have come to expect deaths to be a mere triviality, but the resulting sense of vulnerability ensures a sense of proper gravitas. Do you really need to drink that soy milk to bring up your flagging health, or should you risk first taking a few more blows? Maybe the answer to that question depends on when you made your last save. Do you really want to lose an hour or so of progress because you were frugal with your felts and absorbed more baseball bat blows to the head than you could really take?

As a result of the limited resources, every chase and every scrap of danger suddenly matters. There are consequences to almost every action, because you’ve got something to actually lose from each failure. For the most part, that danger is theoretically quite mundane: you’ve broken into your school after hours to leave chocolates for your crush on the day before White Day (a day that kind of works like Valentines mk2), and the janitorial staff are not at all pleased about your intrusion. They tend to get angry. Lethally angry.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (PC) image

Getting spotted by a janitor is often the result of bad planning. Impatient players run from point A to point B and make a racket along the way, or they leave a trail of clues for homicidal caretakers to follow. Explore a classroom and leave the door open or the lights on, for instance, and they’ll know someone’s on school grounds and start searching. Though I’m not sure they have the legal right to smash your skull open with a baseball bat when they find you, that's how the janitors choose to respond to errant pupils. Getting away from them, however, is a matter of guile. Sometimes. With luck, you can occasionally manage to escape in a panicked sprint, then find a dark corner to shelter you until they go away. Perhaps you skid into a toilet cubicle and peek from under the door to see if you’ve gotten away with it, either watching your tormentors scan the room in annoyance or stalk toward your location with purpose. But you can also slam doors in their face to delay them, open other doors as you run past to trick them into thinking you’ve entered a side corridor rather than sprinted past, or leave a trail of lights on to throw them off your trail.

Things go weird quickly, once the school’s doors are locked and the lights turned out. Weirder than killer custodians, anyway. It turns out Yeondu High School is absolutely crawling with the dead. A few of them aren’t shy about letting you know this, slithering down the walls or emerging from the shadows. But White Day doesn't just want to scare you; it wants you to work for it. A lazy pupil has enough to contend with, what with being hunted by the mundane swinging surplus sports equipment and the supernatural entities that bear a grudge against the living. But an inquisitive student… his days might truly be numbered.

To find all of the ghost encounters, you need to take hints from the documents littered around the school, which tell the various urban legends that haunt the place. Do nothing, and some will still find you (the victim of a vicious industrial accident who literally lost her head isn’t keen to sit around and wait on you, for instance). Others need coaxing. They appear only in very specific circumstances.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (PC) image

There’s a medical mannequin in the science room with a dark past that you’d be completely ignorant of without a bit of detective work. It turns out an aspiring student was accidentally locked in the room overnight once, and was found dead the next morning, the victim of a massive heart attack that most children his age would never suffer. He’d also torn his fingernails out while clawing desperately at the locked door, and he scrawled "THE MANNEQUIN!” using only the bloody stumps of his fingers. You can discover how his end came about if you pay attention to his tale, if you note how the record talked about the room being closed off, in total darkness with a specific Bunsen burner being the room’s only source of light. Only, keep in mind: you’ve been warned what might happen to you, should you follow these steps.

Some discoveries (the mannequin included) are exclusive to certain modes. To see everything, you must advance through the campaign in Hard mode, which offers nastier creeps, more cunning janitors and the entire assembly of the undead looking to take revenge on the living. Ideally, White Day wants to coax you into multiple playthroughs. It allows you to reveal the stories of multiple pupils, and even replaces the main protagonist with one of them under the right circumstances. Maybe you’ll do this (I did; Ji-Hyeon Seol is best girl). But even if you tap out early, White Day is a potent reminder of a time when horror games were less about mindless action and more about base survival.

Like all the best examples of its genre, White Day conspires against you in every element. Like good horror movies, the game takes the time to get into your head, regularly perverting the normality of what should be a mundane school, ramping up the creaking of floorboards and the rattling of door handles from afar. It soaks you with slowly building Eastern crescendo that reaches a benign apex more often than not, then presents a perfectly planned monstrosity the second you drop your guard. Like the town of Silent Hill once did before it lost its way in action tropes, ham-fisted storytelling and Korn soundtracks, Yeondu High School throws at the player reflections of the evil that have soaked its walls over the years.

There are no longer any egregious bugs in White Day, no translation issues and no porting problems. There are just a bunch of pupils, trapped in a school full of things long dead that hold a series of lethal grudges.

4/5

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (September 16, 2017)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted October 03, 2017:

Nice review. You have me interested in the mobile version (cuz I'm cheap and have more free time on my phone than with my consoles).

That last paragraph used the word, "Oriental." Is there another word you could use? Also, was there anything you felt was lacking? I'm always curious with 4/5s as to why they didn't get a 5.
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EmP posted October 03, 2017:

The things you people over the pond choose to be offended by... There's not any implied slur on that word over here, but I shall happily edit it away. Thanks for the advise; I'll probably draw more view from the site's NA audience then from my humble island, so it's good new knowledge to squirrel away.

It's a very fine mobile port and that version will almost certainly work out cheaper, so that's a fair way to go about White Day. I'm confident, in a world long lacking a worthwhile Silent Hill, you'd quite enjoy this one.
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jerec posted October 03, 2017:

"You people"!? Really EmP.
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EmP posted October 03, 2017:

Come now, Jerec. You know I don't view Aussies as 'people'.

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