Of all the games being remastered in 2017, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is by far the most niche, even when brushing shoulders with the likes of Full Throttle, Night Trap, and Voodoo Vince. You see, White Day never had much of a following beyond its country of origin. In fact, the only way to play it in English required downloading the original Korean version and finding a localisation patch. Still, despite its seemingly limited appeal, Sonnori has decided to revive its first person horror game some 15 years after it debuted.
More of a remake than a traditional remaster, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School has been out on mobile a while now with the developer and PQube now turning their attention to PlayStation and PC. Although much of the game has been completely rebuilt, it adheres to the story and setting of the 2001 original, casting players as a student who unearths a menagerie of dark secrets surrounding Yeondu High School.
Wanting to surprise his crush, Hee-Min Lee slips through the school’s entrance after dark, looking to leave a gift for his beloved to find. It only takes a few minutes before he realises something sinister is afoot. After witnessing one of the janitors beating a student to death, White Day becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse as you search for a way out.
Despite its age, the game’s approach to horror actually feels quite contemporary, similar to Slender, P.T., and Resident Evil VII. There’s an overriding focus on exploration and atmosphere as opposed to gore-soaked set piece action that genre fans may take a shine to. Each chapter is tied to a specific wing of the school complex with its own puzzles and dangers. Each one is also laden with fragments of backstory and hidden items that, when pieced together, unlock bonus gameplay scenes.
For the most part you’ll be scouring classrooms, labs, and hallways for clues that will help unlock new areas and push the story forward. While some of the puzzles are fairly basic (use item A on object B) others are quite inventive, requiring players to review their surroundings as well as the various documents they’ve collected.
That’s not to say White Day is completely devoid of any action. As mentioned before, Yeondu’s janitors are on the prowl and will attack you on sight, forcing the need to move around carefully. Stepping into their vision cone, switching on lights, or making too much noise will alert them and, once triggered, they’re annoyingly difficult to shake off. Although you can run away, shut downs, and crouch into hiding spots, it’s an awkward, unreliable tactic. Even if you do manage to evade them, it can take several minutes for janitors to lose the scent and move on to a different area.
The first hour or so of White Day is particularly punishing in this respect. With most of the classrooms and side areas locked or otherwise inaccessible, evading your pursuer is made almost impossible. It’s incredibly frustrating and will fend off all but the most patient gamers or those hell-bent on uncovering Yeondu’s mysteries.
A single playthrough should take roughly 5-6 hours though completionists will want to dive back in, hunting for ghosts and the various different endings. Of the two endings we unlocked, neither one was particularly satisfying, ending the story abruptly and forcing us to question decisions made that seemed trivial at the time. In fact, the main plot as a whole is pretty patchy with no discernible arc or meaningful character development. Luckily, the class rumours, ghost stories, and other titbits of information players salvage help create a rather grim tapestry of lore surrounding Yeondu High School, itss past, and the secret lives of its students and teachers. Seriously, if Ofcom ever caught wind of this place, they’d have a field day.
It’s by no means a gorgeous game, though Sonnori has done a good job in balancing the old White Day aesthetic with a much cleaner modern look. Environments are all rather basic though still harbour plenty of atmosphere. The character models are fine too and, when needed, can adopt an unsettling tone. That said, the running animation for janitors is laughably awkward, giving players another reason to dislike them.
White Day has plenty of problems though it’s easy to see why some may see it as a cult hit and why its creators wanted a revival. It’s a clunky, vague, and often frustrating game yet, at the same time, there’s this great setting and some clever puzzles at work. It’s just a shame that, in order to get to the good stuff, you’re almost guaranteed to face some hardship.
Version tested: PlayStation 4 Pro