In an age where releases like The Evil Within and Resident Evil: Revelations, are announced under the genre title "Survival Horror", one can't help but see how much these words have been misconstrued over the years. These action-heavy titles are far removed from the likes of the original Resident Evil or Silent Hill games, but cling onto the description in order to draw horror fans out from their caves.
However, when we move to the Indie sphere of gaming, we see developers who haven't forgotten what it felt like to explore the old mansions of yore. White Night nostalgically embraces a lot of roots, not only within gaming, but the glorious world of cinema too. So let's dive into this review of an unusual sight in modern gaming, a true survival horror game on the PS4, Xbox One and PC.
White Night Review on PS4, Xbox One & PC
Presentation & Story
From the outset, you are struck by the vivid art design of OSome Studio's White Night. Inspired by the Film Noir movement of the 30s and early 40s in American cinema, this indie title is drenched in shadows, intrigue and suspicion. The presentation of White Night is stunning. Though in black and white, its contrasts are deeply affecting, never failing to draw you into its dark landscape.
How your characters shadows move around the environment and dance next to candlelight never fails to impress. Thankfully, unlike The Order: 1886, White Night's beauty isn't just an external delight, but runs down deep into this survival horror's core.
Set in Boston in the 1930s, this narrative-driven third-person title plunges you into a creepy situation. The player takes control of an unfortunate man who finds himself stranded and injured in the dead of night after a shocking automobile accident. You swerve to avoid a strange woman who crosses the street unexpectedly and awake neighbouring an old mansion after colliding with a tree.
In his confused state, unsure of whether he in fact hit into the woman, the man makes his way into the dilapidated mansion in true survival horror style - with no means of defence. Armed with a pack of matches, you begin to explore this building in search for answers as dark nightmares from the past begin to reappear. You are constantly surrounded by your enemy - darkness.
White Night can leave you in complete darkness if you choose to do so. Occasionally, you'll pass by a window and some exterior light will pour through the window, illuminating a small portion of the room. But other than that, this is a dark and dank place with limited light sources. It's delightful stand in blackness, then light that match to see the flame begin to dance and the room illuminated.
In order to survive this long night, the player will have to solve puzzles based on the use of this light. Your safety hinges on the various light sources around the manor. Some will be fragile, while the most powerful will take efforts to be reached. And boy, will there be efforts!
Gameplay & Puzzles
The puzzles in White Night are delightfully challenging, as the indie title is content to give you a basic degree of information and then allow you to build upon it yourself. You'll have to discover various ways that light can interact with a room in order to proceed through the mansion. It reminded me of Alan Wake at times, though takes his flashlight abilities and expands upon its use.
On some occasions darkness is active and lethal - a mysterious presence will enlighten the night at these times. The game delights in moments of brief fright and horror, particularly as a ghostly presence begins to hover over the game. There's a great sense of tension in White Night, one that becomes a bit unbearable at times.
The desire to solve its puzzles is what pushes you on. White Night has a surprisingly well written narrative, one that pays homage to not only survival horror, but the greats of Hollywood. One can feel the presence of Humphrey Bogart and the greats of this era as the voice-over beautifully reminds us. The greats inspire everything in White Night, from the sounds, the beautiful Jazz music to the intense ambience and intrigue.
This is the first game for OSome Studio, one that serves the studio well and displays the great talents within it. The team actually rented a real-life mansion in Normandy and lived there for a week in order to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of such a place. They borrowed from its architecture and style, but mostly its sense of time and place. Their research into the mood of the 1930s shines through this game with every beam of light.
White Night is a gripping game. One that embraces classic horror video games like Alone in the Dark. It embraces is strong characters, mature storytelling, compelling environments, tension, terror and great puzzles. There's beautiful homages throughout the work to video games, Noir cinema and German expressionism. It borrows from them all, yet creates its own atmosphere and supports it with innovative gameplay.
The game is filled with poetic symbolism, from its feme-fatale and lunar imagery to its melancholy and psychological light. If you're one who enjoys a narrative driven title, that challenges you with great puzzles and adult themes, then White Night is the game for you this week. It felt a bit short for me, but its was a great experience for the time that it stuck around.
White Night is available for download on March 3rd on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
"In White Night, light draws a discontinuous line between form and substance, a road mark leading from life to death. It’s a trying journey to the heart of darkness, a journey of no return sometimes one has to accomplish in his existence."