Written by Twisted Ideas
White Night came to our attention with its unique film noir horror theme. This indie horror game looks to have more console penetration as where most of the most interesting horror games from indies mainly live on PC. Does this artsy horror game stand up to the horror games heavy hitters on the PC?
Developer: OSome Studio
Platforms: Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
What is it about?
White Night is about a man who is run off the road avoiding hitting this ghostly figure. He crashes and is injured and his only shelter is a mysterious mansion. Once he enters he is locked in only to be greeted by ghosts. There is one ghost in particular who seems to be guiding him through this house and family that was torn apart by illness, the great depression and lust.
How does it play?
White Night is a survival horror game with an emphasis on exploration and puzzles. You are trapped in a dark mansion where light is limited but is your only protection from the ghosts and the dark. Rooms do have lamps but the light switches are hidden in the dark. You primarily use matches to guide your way in the dark before they burn out. Matches are limited and have a chance to break before lighting. You cannot survive in the dark without a light too long so you have to make every match count.
White Night is narrative heavy and much like classic survival horror games there are several newspapers, diaries and letters giving the story and setting context.
There is no direct combat against the ghosts. The only way a ghost can leave is by turning on an electrical light in their presence. Ghosts are intended to block your path and kill you in a single touch. You have to avoid them until you find a way to remove them or move around them.
The only way to save is by resting on chairs. However, chairs can only be used if illuminated by a light. The game’s puzzles may require you to do some searching in order to use a saving chair. Also there will be some puzzles that require two hands to perform. This will require you to have a light in the area freeing up your hand that holds the match.
How does it look?
White Night is a callback to film noir and black and white horror films of the early 20th century. It uses much stronger blanks and whites with very little greys like Sin City and Mad World and the only other colors are the oranges and yellow of fire. The stylized look of the game keeps your character’s appearance mostly in the shadow. When you see the character’s faces, they aren’t too detailed making them look rather silly. The environments are very well detailed so you can tell what everything in the house is when light is shines on it.
How does it sound?
The game makes great use of ambient sounds to create an eerie atmosphere. The loud foot steps, the rain and thunder and sound of the fire give a sense of uneasiness when you explore the mansion. When you are near a ghost the controller will vibrate and a single loud and repeating note will play, instilling urgency.
Music plays a big part of the game. The ghostly figure that guides you through the mansion was a jazz singer and her songs occasionally play, even as the opening theme. Classical music is a part of the story and you will hear Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” in the game and the sounds of violins and pianos and as background music occasionally.
What do I think?
White Night is builds an incredible atmosphere but isn’t as overtly scary like other horror games try to be. There aren’t jump scares and the screaming of the ghosts about as scary as the game will get; However, the sense of uneasiness and urgency is what will make this game scary for some people. The mechanic of the matches is great because it creates panic. When you are low on matches without a clear goal and if a match breaks then the tension in you will rise. The limited light obscures just enough to make what you can’t see even scarier in you mind. The developers could have made the game scarier more overtly scary or even added combat but that would distract from the idea of how scary this world is.
There are gameplay mechanics and controls that need to change. The game uses mostly fixed cameras that you cannot control. This is a staple of classic survival horror genres but the full 3D controls are not. Say what you will about tank controls but no matter what the camera does holding up will always make you move forward. The full 3D controls become a hassle when the camera changes because the direction you were holding for forward is now different. This causes problems especially while running away from ghosts.
There is an immersion breaking mechanic when you need both hands free to interact with certain objects. These “puzzles” requires an external light source in order to complete. While that does make sense because you can’t really use both hands while holding using a match, there are certain things where one hand is sufficient. A chair blocking a door is the most jarring example. This is something that can be moved with one hand or even just kicking it. Another thing is that there are candles you can light but you cannot carry it with you, even temporarily. That would make a lot of things simpler for you.
My biggest gripe about the game is the wandering ghosts. They are very frustrating because the ghosts are already difficult to see and combine that with the fact that you can turn a corner or enter a hallway only to be killed by something you could avoid it’s not a fun time. Whenever you’re killed by a ghost you return to the previous save meaning you can lose a lot of progress because of something out of your control. If you could survive a hit from a ghost it would be fine and make the fact that a death doesn’t really look like you’re dying it would have made more sense.
The wandering ghosts have an element of randomness. They don’t start in a fixed position creating the problems mentioned above. When you’re dealing with ghosts which are hard to see and the stationary ones that you have to maneuver around the randomly wandering ghosts can make progression very difficult or tedious. There is a part in the game where you have to move from one corner of the house to the second floor, avoiding several ghosts. There are times they can start very close to you and it’s difficult to lure them to create a clear path.
Should you get it?
White Night isn’t the scariest indie horror game out there but it is one with a great sense of style, atmosphere and story. If being on console means that more players can experience White Night that is great. You might have to deal with some frustrating mechanics and controls but the game is so well crafted that you can push through until the end with this one.