Earlier in the year, we celebrated our 100th review with a survival horror game published by PQube: Tormented Souls. Not only was it a great game, but it also ended up being one of my favourite survival horror games of all time.
Needless to say, the announcement of the ridiculously titled White Day: A Labyrinth Named School got me very excited. As a remaster of a twenty year old survival horror game [that I’d never even heard of], I was up for a good time.
Did I have one, though?
Many thanks to PQube for the review code.
ALL WHITE ON THE NIGHT
White Day opens up more like a romance novel than a horror game, as the protagonist Lee Hui-min muses over one of the girls at his school – Han So-yeong. After a brief interaction, Hui-min notices that So-yeong left her diary behind on the school bench. Rather than running after her like a normal person, our gormless heartthrob decides that the best thing to do would be to break into the school at night and leave it in her classroom.
As you can imagine, things don’t go according to plan. Hui-min is not alone, as he soon finds out after finding out that a few other girls from school (including So-yeong) are also inside for some unknown reason, in addition to another boy who promptly gets beaten to death by one of the Janitors. The caretakers here seem to take their job very seriously!
As the story progresses, you’ll find out more about the dark history of the school and find out why all this is happening. With multiple endings based on what you do and the dialogue choices you make, it’s a compelling story that encourages replayability – if only to play the game again using the ridiculous costumes that can be accessed via the extras menu.
LABYRINTH OF DEATH
Set in confines of the sizeable school, your goal is to find your fellow classmates and get the hell out of the school. As it’s nighttime, the majority of the rooms are locked, leaving you to find and obtain keys to gain access to additional areas and eventually further buildings inside the school grounds.
Rather than being a simple key-hunt, the game revolves primarily around your typical survival horror puzzles: expect yourself to rewire obtuse cabling, turning classroom lights on in a specific order to obtain a key, and solving complicated problems scribbled on blackboards, amongst other horror game tropes. There are some clever puzzles to solve in White Day, even if there aren’t many that feel like things you haven’t seen before. Thankfully most of them don’t require any ridiculous moon logic to solve – bar one that is significantly more difficult to work out if you don’t understand Korean!
On occasion there will also be timed events that require you to solve puzzles under pressure. These usually form the ‘boss battles’ of the game, and are surprisingly good set-pieces. The time limits are usually pretty generous, and the game has a handy autosave both before and after in order to minimise any potential frustration. Having an autosave at these points really helps these transform into something that could have been a real annoyance into what are undoubtedly the high points of the game.
Speaking of saving, this is typically done by making notes on the bulletin boards that are scattered everywhere around the school. You’ll need a marker pen if you want to do so, which are in limited supply, but they are also quite numerous meaning that you’ll unlikely never have to worry about saving. I’d certainly try and save as many as you can for the third building, which revolves around an open multi-storied area that can be quite hard to navigate while avoiding the patrolling Janitor, so saving after every puzzle here will really help alleviate a little of the stress involved!
As a child, Hui-min has no access to weapons, so he’ll need to run away or avoid these Janitors whenever he encounters them, On Normal difficulty and below, an eye will appear showing you if they are in the vicinity and how alert they are, so you need to take care. Janitor AI is extremely exploitable, as crouching behind an object will usually lose him if so long as he doesn’t see you do it, but it also feels somewhat more realistic and threatening when compared with the rubber-banding of something like the Xenomorph in Alien Isolation. The Janitors could easily have been a source of frustration if overused, but they’re just infrequent enough to be a threat without being a pain in the ass.
In addition to the Janitors, there are also ghosts scattered around the school. Some of them are only there to put you off or add to your GhostDex, but some of the more threatening ones will harm you unless you escape. These encounters are pretty infrequent and mainly serve to add to the lore, but they’re a welcome addition to the school’s creepy lore nevertheless.
It’s surprising how such few foes (with the main antagonist being just being an old dude with a baseball bat) can really produce so much tension, and it really is a testament to the game. Whilst the 2000 era graphics are far more unsettling, the remaster still works as an effective horror game. Whether that is down to the first person perspective or the chilling music that puts you on edge, the game succeeds at providing a unique terror-ific experience.
No doubt many people, including myself, had never even heard of White Day before this remastered release. Don’t let its obscurity cause you to miss out on this great little Korean horror title. It may have the occasional puzzle that makes you think ‘what?’, but it’ll have you scared of Janitors for the rest of your life.