White Night Review: It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn

March 11th, 2015 -

Have you ever seen a game and decided you needed to play it based on the art direction? I’ve bought several games based on this over the years, and when I first saw OSome Studio’s White Night last year, I fell in love. Now that it’s out, I can verify if it’s all style and no substance, or if it plays as great as it looks.

White Night_Launch Screenshot_3

White Night takes a lot of inspiration from Hitchcock and noir films, and it takes the player back a ways to a time when fixed cameras were commonplace. The game takes place around Boston in the 1930s, with a very pulp filled narrative and soundtrack. The story starts with a detective (you) driving down a dark road, crashing at the sight of a “girl” in the middle of it. It’s here that you are introduced to one of the main characters of the game: the Vesper Mansion. While stumbling about the area, you are introduced to some mechanics of the game – walking, looking at things, and using light to solve puzzles. After finding the key to the mansion, you’re introduced to a few more mechanics, such as using matches for light, running, and avoiding/fighting ghosts.

For the most part, the game focuses on telling a story. And it does a great job of it, using the atmosphere to its advantage. With the stark contrast between black and white, it’s hard not to pick out details, and because of that, there are times you aren’t sure if you saw something move in the dark (or light) or not. And let me state now – you aren’t safe in the dark. The longer you stay in it, the more distraught you become, though you have a while to find matches lying around in this state if you happen to find yourself going insane (reminiscent of Amnesia). Also, if in the dark and a ghost happens to grab hold of you… well, you’ll be heading back to the last checkpoint. Do note though, only electric light is capable of protecting you from ghosts – a match will only let you see it better. Also, no amount of light will keep you safe from what the darkness holds later on.

White Night_Launch Screenshot_2

The game is labeled survival horror, though the amount of surviving is pretty minimalistic. Sure, there are ghosts, but the game is much more of a puzzle/story centric game than survival horror. There is an abundance of matches (unless you are really, really bad at puzzle solving), and as stated, killing ghosts involves electric light, so it’s not like you are conserving matches as you would be with ammo in Silent Hill. The hardest part of surviving ghosts is seeing where you are going due to the darkness and the fixed cameras. And those two things are the main hindrances of the game in general. Obviously the darkness mechanic is important to the story telling and serves as a metaphor, but combined with the fixed cameras, it can become a nuisance navigating the mansion. Rooms mesh together, and you’ll unknowingly walk into a connected room without realizing. While this may have been the intention (I doubt it), it is more disorienting than anything.

The puzzles are solved in a fairly similar manner throughout. You’ll explore a room, find an object that requires both hands, which means you must find a light source other than your match because you can’t interact with objects in the dark (other than matches). So explore, interact, read, avoid/kill ghost, and move on to next puzzle. Fairly simple, but it works well. Avoiding ghosts can be quite the task, and you’ll find them in bizarre places – as well as in weird positions (perhaps it’s how they died?). Also, while matches are in abundance, it’s worth noting that if you’re low on matches, there’s a chance you have duds. No case of matches is absolute, and that’s equally true here.

White Night_Launch Screenshot_4

White Night is ultimately a great experience, with one of the best horror stories I’ve been a part of in quite a while. The narrative is great, the aesthetics are wonderful, and the background you uncover is simply haunting. There are issues with navigation, but overall I’d say this is a night you wouldn’t want to sleep through.

BUY

Pros

  • Art Style
  • Story
  • The Horror Elements

Cons

  • Navigating
  • Unforgiving Ghosts

White Night was created by OSome Studio and published by Activision. The game was made available on PC/Mac and PS4 on March 3, 2015, and X1 March 6th for $14.99. The PS4 copy reviewed was provided for us. If you’d like to see more of White Night, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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