If you’re big into Asian horror games or horror survival, you may’ve heard the name White Day: A Labyrinth Named School here and there. It’s a game that’s haunted the gaming landscape in certain niche circles for years. But September 8, 2022 marked the first time that this Korean Horror game has been ported to the X-Box, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.
But how well has White Day aged and is it worth the $29 USD price tag?
White Day sees us take the role of your average high school boy in Korea who, very reasonably, decides to infiltrate his school at night so he can leave his crush candy.
But it seems like this high school has other plans because the moment we walk inside the doors lock behind us. Fortunately, there are three eligible bachelorettes also trapped in this nightmare to keep us company.
That’s right. This is a horror survival game with dating sim elements. Love it or hate it, the endings you get is driven by the way you interact with these three characters, and the actions you take that relate to them. Personally, I love that aspect of this game. It’s fantastic to see the choices you make matter.
It’s also our first indicator that this is a game that really, really, really wants you to replay it. There’s even a secret character you can only get by completing the game first. And it helps that this port carries with it all the DLC that was released in its earlier iterations. The DLC, of course, is just 30 different costumes thar range from sexy to ridiculous.
The base game isn’t particularly long, between 7-10 hours, depending on how thorough you are in finding the many ghost stories, collectible items, and solving the myriad of puzzles.
And my god, there are a lot of puzzles. This is a survival horror game in the truest sense. You’re unarmed and your only defense against the forces moving against you is running and solving some convoluted problem using the most random items hinted at by the variety of notes floating around. Sometimes that’s fun. It’s a nice change of pace from beating some misshapen monstrosity to death with a crowbar.
But the primary threat in White Day are the roving janitors. Brutal custodians who will beat you to a bloody pulp if they hear you running or see that a light is on. Their presence contributes wonderfully to the ambiance of the sprawling school, which is filled with discordant music and ambient noise. These feisty grandpas force you to creep through the corridors in the dark, making you the perfect prey for ghosts who only manifest when there’s no light.
But their AI is pretty keen on normal, and their constant patrol sometimes turns the tension into tedium. Though the stealth system in White Day is significantly better than the jump-in-the-closet mechanic that seems to plague most horror survival games today.
The janitor is also the key source of horror in this game, which is a little disappointing. There are moments of supernatural spooks, but these can be pretty dated and sometimes corny. There are even some old school jump scares that remind me of the early days of the internet. And not in a good way. But there are one or two that are legitimately terrifying and provide good twists to old concepts.
Getting spectral-spooked happens fairly rarely, and sometimes require certain conditions to spawn. It almost feels like a reward when you see one.
Unfortunately, like the ghosts, the characters can also feel a little one dimensional. Our character suffers from the Silent Protagonist syndrome. We don’t hear him speak, though we have dialogue prompts, and he remains painfully stoic and generic the entire game.
The girls we meet, according to a former game director, are based off the main characters of Neon Genesis Evangelion. And I can see it: you’ve got the spunky antagonistic one, the beautiful ice queen, and the morose and reluctant Mildred. But their personalities don’t seem to extend past those tired tropes. The girls also tend to act over the top, whereas our protagonist will brush off the most bizarre happenings, leading to a strange, almost comical, juxtaposition.
Honestly, you could replace the main character with a dog and I don’t think much would change. Except then you’d be a cute dog, and it’d be a better game.
The saving grace for White Day is its story, which is its driving force. Without giving anything away, I genuinely enjoyed it. The background lore you can find about the school and the ghosts you’ll meet along the way are also excellent contributors to White Day’s world and the reason why I think so many hold this game near and dear.
But if you’ve played this game on the PS4 or on the PC, the price tag isn’t worth it. You’ll only get a few skins (some of the cooler skins have actually been deleted for the PS5 which is absurdly lame) and the graphics look pretty much identical. But if you really, really like Asian survival horror… this game is worth picking up for one reason.
White Day 2: The Flower Never Lies is in the works. And it looks significantly better than White Day 1.
SUPPOSEDLY, it’s coming out in 2022, though I could find nothing concrete. I even scoured Korean sites trying to find a hint of a clue and got nothing. But the new developers, ROOTNSTUDIO, have stated that playing White Day 1 isn’t necessary to enjoy White Day 2, but those who have played it will “enjoy White Day 2 even more”.
If you’re on the fence, maybe wait to see if we ever get that official release day before picking up White Day: A Labyrinth Named School. And maybe pick up The Bridge Curse Road to Salvation to scratch that ghostly, schooly, horrory itch instead.
Ring of Pain Review: An Addictive Dungeon Crawler
Ring of Pain is a rogue-like dungeon crawler developed by Simon Boxer and Twice Different. In the game, you travel through layers of a dungeon collecting loot and killing monsters. Each layer holds a series of cards containing enemies, curses, boons, and exits. As a character, you gain equipment, spells, items, and stat increases that help you defeat your enemies (or just run away better).
Ring of Pain is a fantastic game. I received it in a charity game bundle, but it had sat untouched in my Steam library for a year. On a whim, I decided to try it out, telling myself I would play an hour or two and then review it. I ended up playing for four hours, only stopping because I had prior engagements. Every time I sat down to write this review, I instead played another couple of hours in Ring of Pain. The point of this story is not my weak will, but instead the highly addictive nature of Ring of Pain.
The gameplay had a good mix of strategy and luck, making it rewarding to succeed. There are also many viable strategies to pursue, which means there are many ‘correct’ ways to play the game and still see success. As someone who can get frustrated with rogue-likes, I liked how each run was relatively short but rewarding. This meant that I didn’t feel like I was sinking hours into gameplay that led nowhere. Also worth a mention is the absolutely stunning artwork that masters being atmospheric, creepy, and comical.
My biggest gripe is that I wish there was more diversity of items. I sometimes felt as if I was just getting the same boring equipment over and over again. That being said, the developers have been consistently adding new content to the game since it released. Therefore, my largest issue is being addressed.
Ring of Pain is a great game, and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy quick rogue-likes with dungeon-crawling elements. However, try another game if you get frustrated by random generation that could be impossible to surmount.
Available on Steam for $20, I would say the price point is a little steep for the diversity of content. However, it’s a must-get during a sale!(4.7 / 5)
West of Dead Review: Six-Shooting in Purgatory
West of Dead is a rogue-like horror game developed by Upstream Arcade and published by Raw Fury. In the game, you play as William Mason, a dead man trying to rid Purgatory of evil spirits. As part of the game, you travel through different areas within Purgatory, killing enemies and collecting loot. Between each area, you spend the souls you have collected to unlock more permanent upgrades that persist after you die, unlike your loot. As you progress, you can find shortcuts that allow you to skip levels entirely.
I greatly enjoyed playing West of Dead. It is fast paced without feeling overwhelming and supplies many chances for advancement within a single run. The mechanics are interesting and feel relatively smooth, especially compared to many top-down shooters in which your movement can be unclear. There is a wide diversity of abilities, weapons, and ways to play which increases the satisfaction of runs. Also worth mentioning is the game is artistically stunning. The stylized art and music do an incredible job of immersing you within the world. Not to be forgotten, the voice acting is outstanding. This should come as no surprise since Ron Perlman voices your character, William Mason.
While a great game, at times I was frustrated with the progression rate. It always felt awesome to make it to a new level, however, unlocking items could feel slow. I was often annoyed when I died at the end of a level and hadn’t been able to unlock a new item for my additional runs. Since runs usually lasted at least thirty minutes, I sometimes found myself wishing I progressed more for the amount of time and effort I was putting in. It’s worth noting this is a common feature of rogue-like games and my annoyance is more of a commentary on my own game preferences than the quality of West of Dead.
I highly recommend West of Dead, especially if you are a fan of rogue-like games or top-down shooters. It might get tedious at certain points if you want guaranteed rewards for every run, but it still delivers in progression via shortcuts and new level discovery. West of Dead is also worth playing just for the masterfully designed atmosphere and art.
Find West of Dead on Steam for $20.(4.2 / 5)
The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me (2022) Review
Personally, The Devil in Me was the installment I have been looking forward to the most. While I can’t turn down any horror game, there is something about a group of people killed off by a masked killer that just hits the right note so to speak. While this Dark Pictures anthology entry is by no means perfect, I feel like some reviews have been a tad harsh on it. Anyway, let’s check it out, shall we?
A film crew – director Charlie, his assistant Erin, cameraman Mark, technician Jamie, and Kate, the face of the show – receive an offer to visit a model house of H. H. Holmes. The team has just completed filming an episode dedicated to the notorious serial killer but is struggling budget-wise. Wary but in need of a big break, the group accepts and travels to the location, a remote island they can only access by ferry. It’s not long before they are separated and picked off by their host.
One thing I would note is that the plot doesn’t seem as branched out as some of the previous games. There are certain characters who have plot armor and some decisions are set in stone no matter what choices the player makes. In true horror slasher fashion, even if some/all characters make it out, the threat still looms, and the cycle continues. It’s debatable how much excitement it takes out of playing as some could argue even Until Dawn and The Quarry ended up having a pretty linear narrative trajectory.
In my opinion, this is where The Devil in Me falls a tad short. On one hand, it works, as slasher horror is known to have characters that fit into specific archetypes and are mainly there to get, well, slashed. On the other hand, for a game that thrives on character dynamics, they are not the most developed.
While Jamie and Kate’s rivalry is its own bearing, it does not hold that much merit as they are quite quick to bury the hatchet. Erin and Jamie’s budding romance is cute but on shaky grounds based on some gameplay decisions. In addition, I never bought Kate and Mark as exes, as while their dialogue was well written for a broken-up couple, they didn’t seem to have much chemistry (although I have to give props to Jessie Buckley as she really put it all into her voice acting).
While all of this sounds a bit harsh, I still find the group entertaining to watch in this setting and who knows, perhaps I haven’t unlocked specific interactions just yet.
This section of the feature has probably received the most divisive feedback. Developers made some changes to gameplay, such as letting the characters jog and adding inventories. Some people have remarked that these things take away from the game rather than add to it as it makes The Devil in Me more of an RPG experience and not an interactive movie that the company is known for.
For me, these changes did not affect the playthrough, although I do see where those people are coming from. It might’ve been better to save the changes for season two to show the progress the team has been making. One thing I should mention is the intro scene – while I loved the concept of it, the animation was noticeably worse than the rest of the game and should’ve been patched up in the final stages.
Even with some drawbacks, I consider The Devil in Me my personal favorite out of the four installments of season one. The atmosphere and jump scares were especially effective for me and unlike a couple of others, I genuinely found this game scary, which is the whole point (although I know what people find scary is entirely subjective). I am very much looking forward to what Supermassive Games has to offer next.
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