The world of White Night is an interesting one, filled with contrasting tones of white, black and grey, taking place in the 1930s. You play as a nameless man, whom after a scenic drive filled with deep thinking, crashes his car close to a nearby eerie mansion —the Vesper Mansion. Not only are the halls of the mansion shrouded in darkness, but the mysteries that lay inside are much darker. Exploring the ill lit estate with an injured leg, you are tasked with finding your way out, all the while staying out of the darkness that is riddled with violent, angry spirits.
The camera angles used in White Night are a major contributor to the game’s overall flawed system. With camera controls similar to the Fatal Frame games, White Night takes place in the third person point of view. Camera shots constantly shift back and forth as you travel to different sections of the room.
The labyrinth of rooms in the Vesper Mansion are less “explorable,” as they are “stages” to walk and act upon, only observable from limited perspectives. With this restriction of viewpoints, exploring becomes an irritating task, to say the least —especially when enemies are lurking in the dark.
There were numerous times while I traveled around the mansion that I had to get past an angry spirit to progress. As I ran past enemies (because you cannot fight them), the camera angle would switch and all of my movements would be thrown off instantly. It took me nearly a whole hour to get to one door at the other side of the dining room due to all of the chairs and rubble laying on the floor which I had to avoid, on top of staying ahead of the spirit chasing me. Reaching certain rooms in order to gain access to another one was almost made impossible due to this wonky system.
The ambiance and tone are what make up for the game’s fundamental flaws. Set in a world similar to that of a black and white comic book print, characters and objects are shaded differently when exposed to poor and total light. If your character is faced toward the light, his entire appearance changes, which is applied to the environment as well.
White Night certainly succeeds in evoking the overwhelming feeling that your character is not alone, no matter where you go. It always seems as if something is watching you, waiting to pull you into the dark at any moment. This is accomplished with triggered sound effects and toggled light exposure, illuminating and concealing hidden portions of the environment.
In order to save your game, you must rest in one of the lounge chairs scattered around the mansion. Since your character cannot survive in the darkness for very long, players must find a way to direct light towards the lounge chair. Producing electric light typically sends you into a search for a power source; which could mean following a trail of extension cords straight to a ghoul or simply flipping a light switch on the far corner of the room. When you finally rest on a lounge chair; you, the light and the chair are typically the only thing lit up in the room, which rings in that “strapped to a buoy in the middle of the ocean” feel.
Journal entries and newspaper clippings can be found scattered all around Vesper Mansion. Chronicling the recent events of the Great Depression, you begin to feel a sense of desperation as the coinciding journal entries begin to detail events related to suffrage, along with other unfortunate occurrences. The once previous owners documented issues related to religion, jazz, liquor, and hidden resentment between family members in these journals. As you read more entries and gather more truths about the sinister events that took place in the Vesper Mansion, you develop an even greater sense of fright when encountering the spirits wandering the halls.
Another unique, and sometimes unfortunate, attribute to White Night is its scare factor. This game is not terrifying. There is no blood, no gore or very much violence. When your playable character dies, either by running out of matches or being attacked by a spirit, he does not necessarily die. Rather than having a death sequence where your character falls dead to the floor, he simply starts swinging in the air with the words “WHY?” circling all around his head. Shortly after this psychotic fit of disorientation, the screen fades to black and you are asked to restart from your last save.
In addition, the enemies in White Night are not extremely terrifying. A spirit may startle you every now and then, but once you learn how far they will and will not chase after you, they become more of an annoyance than anything else. You cannot really make out the faces of these ghouls since they are completely black and surrounded in darkness, twitching and floating around the room.
The game plays very similar to Fatal Frame accompanied by a “luring enemy” system similar to that of an Alan Wake game. Unlike both of those games, you are almost completely defenseless against the ghouls of Vesper with only light at your side. In addition, not all light sources can help you fight off your enemies. Matches merely illuminate as you travel to keep you from losing your mind in the darkness, they do not serve as an attacking item. The only way to kill off spirits for certain is by using electric light or light radiating from fire which usually requires weaving around an enemy to flip switches, directing lamps or finding wood to build a fire.
There are certainly many things that White Night does well. For one, the atmosphere and story line are very interesting. Although matches were a pain in the neck to find most of the time, I enjoyed wandering the halls completing puzzles and reading depressing journal entries. Although a short indie title, White Night was ambitious and could have been more successful if it had possessed better camera functionality and A.I enemy placement. It was almost too difficult to complete even the most simplest of tasks due to the uncoordinated controls and camera functions. Will we see another low budget White Night: Part Two? Well, if those few errors are corrected, I wouldn’t mind it.
This review was based on a digital review copy of White Night for the PlayStation 4 provided by Osome Studio.