The horror genre is perhaps something I’m not best equipped to review as most horror movies don’t scare me or, in fact, have the adverse effect and make me laugh at how ridiculous they can be. I prefer my horrors with an abundance of comedy like the ‘Evil Dead’ series or something more psychological like ‘The Shining.’ Having said that I did try to bluster my way through ‘Outlast’ last year, and whilst frivolity and bravado got me so far, I often found myself stepping away from some of the more ‘intense’ moments. Ok I occasionally pee’d my pants.
This eventually brings me to OSome Studio’s White Night, a film/jazz noir horror indie title set in an abandoned old house, where our snappy dressed dark brooding unnamed hero must roam the dark halls and uncover the rather sinister story behind the ghostly goings on. The beautiful Selena is a ghost who is also trapped in the house, much like yourself. She is surrounded by evil spirits but helps guide you to unravel the mystery of her death to help both you and her escape.
The first noticeable thing about White Night is the art style. Most indie games love to indulge in a diverse and often ‘unrealistic’ art style to stand out from the crowd. White Night adopts a comic book approach best associated with Frank Miller’s Sin City series, much like Sega’s Madworld also embraced Frank Miller’s composition. Skimming through certain critics reviews some were opposed to the art work. With only two colours on the palette, them being black and white, many felt the choice in some way hindered the game. I will admit besides the games’ premise, what largely drew me to this title, was the art style. For those who felt that the art style was somewhat erroneous, I’d say they lack imagination. The art style is amazing and really encapsulates the mystery, tension and noir styling’s.
At the start of the game our character crashes into a tree and, like any normal person, seeks refuge in a big scary abandoned house, to which he finds himself trapped with a host of ghosts and ghouls. For some reason instead of taking a chair and smashing the nearest window, we are forced to explore the house armed with nothing but a box of matches. The main characters narration attempts to add a silky noir atmosphere to the game, but sometimes falls short and comes across as an amusing cliché. However, you could chalk that up to the game being overtly set in the 1930’s.
White Night has much in common with a point and click adventure, in where players must interact with various objects and interlock them with other items to solve puzzles and further progress throughout the levels. How White Night differs is the use of light. Your box of matches, which are in limited supply, are all you have to help guide through the dark corridors of this haunted house. Without light you can literally see nothing and if you were hoping to just interact blindly in the dark collecting objects by cheating and turning the brightness up on your TV, guess again. Spending too long in the dark will see your character succumb to overwhelming nightmares and end the game. This effect also means that the ghosts are incredibly difficult to see, as they appear to gamers as dust particles – that is until you are up close and personal.
White Night’s use of puzzles are exemplary, bolstered by its use of light or lack of it. Some puzzles can only be solved in the light and as with any haunted house, light is in short supply. For the purposes of horror, the two colour palette intensifies White Night. Players will often find it hard to see what is in front of them, coupled with some choice placed camera angles, you may often be surprised to find that the room you are investigating may be occupied by something other than yourself. As mentioned before, having a limited supply of matches also means that puzzles need to be solved in rapid time. Creating light will often draw the ghostly sentries to your location, preventing you from exploring the mansion fully. As a substantial amount of light will disperse the ghosts, players will have to find a way to restore power to many of the lights dotted around the house, but be warned retracing your steps can often lead to locked doors and illuminated rooms suddenly turning dark.
White Night may not be as terrifying as Outlast, but its use of cinematic angles, man’s fear of the dark and the fact your main character is relatively powerless makes the game tense, exciting and at times unnerving. The puzzles and lack of hints mean that gamers will be wandering around aimlessly in the dark fearing what lies around the corner. The mystery of Selena’s death is enriched by all the wonderful collectibles such as photos, diary entries and newspaper clippings hidden around the house. What White Night lacks in pure terror it makes up for with beautiful art work, mystery and wonderful narrative. I throughly enjoyed White Night but may be a little too scared to venture back in.