Developer: OSome Studio
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: March 3, 2015
ESRB: M for Mature
As the phenomenon that is â€œindie gamesâ€ continues to grow in the video game landscape it only makes sense that some big name companies have begun publishing more unique titles from small development teams. This March Activision of all people brought OSome Studio“s noir horror adventure White Night to PC as well as modern consoles. In the past, chances are this visually-arresting title would have not received such a wide reach. In any case, now that the game is out there, is it worth playing? Is there more than simply a gorgeous exterior?
Well, before we get around to answering that question let“s first explore the basics of White Night. The start is compelling - you control a character who has just survived a car crash. With no knowledge of where you are, or even who you are, the player experiences the same sort of confusion as our protagonist. As he hobbles from the wreck, gameplay features are simply explained. You can look at objects, interact with some items, and listen to a bit of mumblings from the protagonist. There are also journal entries from multiple characters spread about liberally throughout to provide backstory.
Point and click adventure gameplay permeates the entire experience. Yes, you actually move the character directly like in a Telltale game, but beyond that it“s a very slow, deliberate experience. There are puzzles to solve, items to manipulate, and loads of exposition. All of that is pretty typical, but you“ll also find action segments. After all, this is a modern horror gameâ€¦ Basically, ghosts permeate the manor you discover and are trapped within. If they spy you then they“ll float angrily toward you. Get touched by one and it“s game over! There are auto saves, as well as the ability to save your progress too (although that is tied to specific areas - literally sitting on couches - within the building). So, ghosts have the potential to be frustrating, but it could certainly be worse.
Another classic, and a much maligned, horror trope is limited supply of important items. White Night“s necessary commodity comes in the form of matches. Of course it would be too convenient for this big old house to be brightly lit in the middle of the night! Matches light the way during a large percentage of exploration and run down after a while (or must be put out in order to operate two-handed items). You“ll find more scattered around, but careful exploration means you“ll likely run out more often than you“d like. Given the game“s stark black and white art style it“s nearly impossible to explore in pitch black locations otherwise.
Then there“s the story which is forced upon players at every instance. It“s not all that interesting. Sure, it“s cool to see a period piece (set around the Great Depression) but the aspect doesn“t actually play into much. It feels more like window dressing when the core story could have easily be pushed into any timeframe. There are multiple endings, but the big reveal is pretty easy to guess beforehand. My biggest disappointment is with the writing which, at times, felt incredibly steeped in noir sensibilities. Yet, for every cool line there were multiple which sounded super odd. It“s almost as though two folks wrote the game (with no attempt to smooth them together for cohensions“ sake) or that an editor only looked over portions of text.
Despite annoyances as far as matchsticks, ghosts, and story are concerned, there“s still one aspect of White Night that exceeds 150%: Visuals! The game looks awesome with its stark art and distinct camera angles. Some of the more extreme camera angles cause issues as far as depth perception are concerned but damn they look good! It would have been cool to see every single room given equal stylized care, but that might have resulted in a more confusing play experience.
What we have with White Night is a game that is all style and some substance. Gameplay as far as puzzles are concerned works just fine. There just so happen to be some annoying aspects of classic horror games included. Sure, some can argue things like limited inventory, iffy control, and rote storytelling as integral to a truly classic horror experience, but modern games have shown new ways to achieve the same fearful effects. White Night deserves appreciation for the obvious effort put in, but five hours might be better spent with any number of excellent horror titles.
+ Lovingly stylized black and white noir atmosphere
+ Variety of puzzles to solve, most of which are logical
+ Large, creepy home to explore
- Matches and saving system are more annoying than tension-raising
- Cool camera sometimes leads to control issues
- Ghosts are totally unfair at times
Overall Score: 6 (out of 10)
If White Night“s gameplay was as stunning as the visuals then this would have been a home run for horror fans.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher