When you think of survival horror, what comes to mind? Grotesque monsters and beasts succumbing to whatever weapons you can salvage? Maybe you prefer all sorts of things jumping out at you at every turn to keep your heart racing. Or perhaps you enjoy the chill constantly running up and down your spine as you traverse through eerily quiet areas. Survival horror has drastically changed over the years, swapping tense and methodical gameplay for more action packed and "in your face" games. It's said to be a dying genre as titles over the years have become increasingly more fast paced and shooter friendly. However, one title that recently emerged from the shadows has attempted to alter our perception of the changing genre and remind us of where it all began. This game is White Night
, a tragic tale of a family that takes place in the world's creepiest mansion.
"That house doesn't look very scary." Think again.
What immediately strikes you as the game begins is the art style. After navigating through the menu which perfectly sets the tone of what's to come, you are given something that looks like it's come straight out of film noir. Black and white are the main colours you'll be seeing in White Night
, but the game still manages to look beautiful regardless. It oozes character because of this, and it signals the start of what will be a unique and interesting journey.
The year is 1938 and you play as a nameless character in the midst of the great depression in Boston. Upon crashing your car you arrive at the gates of the Vesper household and here, the tension continues to rise as you begin to uncover what happened to this family. Your character (let's call him "the man") occasionally narrates over the action and there are some cutscenes, but apart from this, you are left to find out the rest of the back story for yourself. This is where the game shines as there are numerous collectibles scattered throughout the mansion that tell more of the family's history. Tons of collectibles are usually bad, but in this case, finding another diary entry or letter is rather exciting. Simply by looking around this menacing house, it is obvious that something is wrong, but uncovering another piece of the puzzle is genuinely fascinating. Instead of being spoon-fed the majority of the story, you figure it out for yourself and it is a surprisingly deep and engaging one.
Giant and scary gates...what could go wrong?
Instead of racing through a house of sheer terror with a fully loaded machine gun, White Night
takes a subtler approach. While exploring the Vesper mansion, you will be examining all sorts of items and solving a variety of puzzles so you can progress further. Just like the original Silent Hill
games, you may stumble across keys that unlock an area on the other side of the mansion or find a light bulb that needs to be placed on the correct stand in another room. It's natural to feel slightly perplexed as you wander the grounds trying to decipher the task that is asked of you, but being rewarded with a sweet piano tune when you find the solution makes it all worth it. It reminds us of what survival horror originated as, and it most definitely works.
As you delve further and further into the bowels of this ominous abode, you will constantly be threatened by the same enemy, darkness. Throughout the game you will have a pack of matches with you but you can only have up to twelve at once. Each match only lasts a short time and some of them don't even manage to spark, so you will need to be efficient in your exploration unless you want to be encased in pure darkness and get the game over screen. Keeping well stocked is key, and fortunately the mansion has supplies scattered all over. While it can be daunting when you get down to your last few matches, it'll be rare when you have only one left. There is never too much worry that you'll run out as the game is pretty generous with how many you can find.
Obviously the door I need to go through has a heavy cupboard blocking it
While battling against the darkness of the night, you will eventually come across ghosts. These evil apparitions are nasty creatures because if they catch you, it's game over. Their chilling audio cues immediately alert you to their presence, or if you're vigilant enough, you can spot their static haze creeping around in the distance. As well as your matches, you will sometimes be able to switch on lights and ignite fires. Ghosts that are caught in any light that isn't from the man's matches immediately become toast. It never gets old watching them scream as the light engulfs them, and you feel much safer when you can freely explore a room without keeping an eye out for these devious specters.
Ghosts have both positive and negative effects on the game. For a survival horror title, they do exactly what they should do. A sudden feeling of unease washes over you when you realise one is with you and their bone chilling scream, along with the horrific piano tune as they spot you helps to add to that sense of urgency when you run like mad to escape their clutches. However, the game will occasionally force you to creep past many of them at a time without any way of killing them, and it quickly gets frustrating when you can't make it past them. They can be genuinely scary, but when you see three or four at once and they keep catching you, they rapidly become more of a nuisance.
To accompany the ghosts and darkness, White Night
's soundtrack has been wonderfully crafted and it supports the film noir style of the game. A mixture of piano and string instruments mirror the almost malicious nature of the mansion, and when the music starts to pick up, you feel like you should actually start to run although a ghost may not be around. Without any instrumental music, the sound of the man's shoes still keeps you on edge. You almost never feel safe, and rightly so.
"It's behind you!"
You have minimal amounts of light, ghosts are regularly hunting you and puzzles are always trying to hinder your progress, so obviously a save point would be very welcome. The game does have a few auto-saves at key moments and when chapters finish, but when not relying on those, you will have to physically make your way to a save point. These points aren't all that common and they are in the form of armchairs that you rest at. If that's not enough, you will need to have a strong source of light shining on the chair to be able to actually use it. That means your matches aren't of much help here. You may have discovered one of these chairs, but you will then be required to find a working light switch or light a nearby candle. This element adds to the atmosphere and causes you to be even more cautious when exploring the Vesper family's dark secrets.White Night
has thirty-three achievements, all of which aren't overly hard if you persevere. If you explore the mansion as much as you possibly can, you will acquire most of them. Although there are a lot of collectible achievements, you will be wanting to find them (as previously mentioned) so they shouldn't be off-putting. The ones to note, though, are the time sensitive ones. In classic horror fashion, you will need to play the game at midnight
and also complete it in one real-life night of play
. The game is also host to a very unusual achievement, where you must complete it when the moon is full in real life
. This means following a lunar calendar or manipulating your console's time to one of those monthly days when it happens. All in all, a creative, yet not overwhelming list.
A fireplace, a.k.a. one of your closest friends
The survival horror genre has struggled to find a place in recent years, but titles such as The Evil Within
have attempted to breathe new life into it. With White Night
, OSome Studio has managed to invigorate the genre by taking us back to the methodical and tense gameplay that kept us on edge so many times in the past. When playing the game for subsequent playthroughs, you will undeniably blaze through it, but hasn't that always been the case with survival horror games? The art style is beautifully unique, the gameplay is simple yet highly enjoyable and the soundtrack is superb. The reason you'll want to stay inside this mansion, though, is because of the history behind it. A compelling story is waiting to be unearthed and the more you learn, the deeper you'll want to go. The ID@Xbox lineup continues to get stronger and its latest addition is unquestionably worth checking out.
- Surprisingly deep story
- Unique art style
- Well crafted soundtrack
- Ghosts can become annoying to deal with
- Can be completed extremely quickly on subsequent playthroughs
The reviewer spent approximately thirteen hours exploring the mansion, using many packs of matches and being hunted down by too many ghosts to count. Along the way he earned 30 of the game's 33 achievements. A copy of the game was provided courtesy of the developer.