White Night Review (PlayStation 4)
Of all the video game consoles in all the world, White Night had to walk onto mine. Here's a game that was as beautiful to look at as it was to listen to, but beneath that glossy surface was something old, something dark, and something dangerous. I had no choice but to investigate further.
White Night, a horror-adventure game from OSome Studios, blends elements of noir films with old-school adventure gameplay and a striking visual style to create an experience that will feel altogether familiar to those old enough to remember gaming on floppy disks. Set in 1938, White Night has you playing as a trenchcoat-clad gentleman with a penchant for getting himself into trouble. You'll navigate a (seemingly) abandoned mansion, hunting for the next clue to lead you to freedom, all while battling back the ever-growing darkness.
As with the noir films from which it was inspired, White Night focuses heavily on the interplay between light and shadow. Deadly phantoms roam the mansion's black halls with impunity. While investigating the mansion you'll need to turn on as many lights as you can and keep a steady eye on your supply of matches— in addition to needing light to see, its the only thing keeping these phantoms (somewhat) at bay. These geists are brilliantly spooky beings, often presented with calculatedly jarring camera work and panic-inducing sound design. They're also a great source of frustration. Like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark before it, White Night uses preset camera positioning, meaning that your viewpoint drastically shifts as you move around and you have no control over it. These forced perspectives are often cinematically pleasing, but can lead to aggravating moments where you'll end up running into a ghost you were running away from because the camera shifted at a weird moment. Combine this with an old-school save system which only allows you to save at specific intervals and sluggish controls, expect to die cheaply and backtrack quite a bit. Also, the beginning of the game has you injured from a car crash and walking at about half-speed, making early exploration far more of a chore than it needs to be.
There's no combat here, so don't come in expecting to save yourself with fast reflexes and precision skills; mostly, you'll light matches, watch out for ghosts, and run from them. Matches are the only supply you have to manage, which makes for some decent moments when you're deep into unknown territory and running low, but the odd decision to make them randomly fail to light and subsequently cause you to get sucked up by the darkness and die doesn't really make things more tense, it makes them more annoying.
There's an interesting story to the souls both literally and metaphorically haunting the mansion, and as you progress you'll find newspaper clippings, journal entries, photographs, and more; disparate items which weave together a larger, quality narrative lacking in many games (although there are more than a few lines of dialogue which sound clever, but are actually banal or meaningless). You'll also spend a lot of damn time wandering around wondering what the hell you're supposed to be doing; White Night is very old-school in its gameplay, at times frustratingly so. If you're not a fan of the moody, meandering style of older horror games, a style that leaves it entirely up to the player to remember where to go or what to do, you'll likely feel discouraged and bored.
White Nights' visual style is striking and help sets a precise mood, but it's not without its flaws. Occasional graphical issues like close-ups on low-polygon characters or clipping graphics will pull you out of the moment, and if you're even remotely visually impaired things will just look like a muddy, black and white mess. Its sound design, on the other hand, is an unabashed success. Your heavy footsteps thud through the mansion halls, your jacket rubs against itself as you frantically search for items, and the music and ambience help create a pervasively eerie atmosphere.
White Night's distinctive visual style make it immediately identifiable; artistically, this game's a success. Its few shortcomings aren't to be overlooked, however, as its sluggish, frequently directionless, and deliberately archaic in its design. Don't come in expecting jump scares and big gore; this is a slow-burning experience with an emphasis on style and atmosphere.
This review is based on download of White Night provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.