Armed with only a box of matches, how long would you last in crow-black darkness? At face value, a game built around this simple concept may not seem entertaining. However, White Night is spooky, engrossing, and a thrill to play in a genre that’s becoming increasingly infested with zombie-slayers and shooters.
You play as an unnamed detective in the 1930s on his way home from some late-night drinking. A lady of pure white runs onto the road and the man reacts with drunken latency. He hits a flagpole but the woman has vanished; did he hit her? A large mansion is the backdrop of the accident and it is here where the man searches for help.
White Night’s colour palette of black and white, plus fiery sparks of yellow and orange, make it a unique title. The heavy film noir art style complement a wonderful soundtrack littered with affecting piano solos. Even the collectibles, the most mundane of gaming accompaniments, form the layout of a 1930s newspaper and an old-fashioned camera filled with chilling photos; White Night nails the importance of continuity.
The game really begins upon entering the mansion. Finding switches and matches means light – which means survival. If you spend too long in the darkness, death soon awaits. Having ten matches gives you a sense of invincibility, but it’s when you have two or three left that your actions will begin to get reckless. Low musical notes reverberate as the player desperately tries to find a switch, match or piercing moonlight from somewhere; anywhere. It’s really tense and the player often forgets how vulnerable they are. I, for one, was a victim of ‘match overuse’ – lighting almost 150 by the end of the third chapter.
Early on, checkpoints are hard to come by. But, they are meant to be. White Night encourages players to search the entire ground floor, second floor and attic to uncover a chilling tale behind the mansion’s residents – and be rewarded with a save for your efforts. Finding more matches, manoeuvring electrical appliances to your advantage, or comfy armchairs – the latter being autosave points – is a good feeling. The learning curve isn’t steep, but plenty of obstacles block your path on the way to another checkpoint.
Narration by the unnamed man is also used to great effect. His passages are very emotive and detail his surprise, sadness and fear towards the story he finds inside the creepy hollow.
White Night does so much right to mimic the feeling of film noir, but there are a few areas that detract from its enjoyment.
When in need of in-game assistance, the player may want hints for the next plan of attack. These were needed on several occasions during the time I spent with the title, but only appeared two or three times throughout the whole game. Furthermore, when hints did appear, they carried undertones of riddles – so, they weren’t really helpful at all.
OSome Studio also chose very jarring camera angles for White Night, which continuously change when entering a new area. In this instance, it made this game tricky to play as Xbox One players will be adjusting the direction of their thumbsticks for the game’s duration. A first-person view would have worked better. But, then again, it wouldn’t have captured the feeling of isolation and reignited that fear of the dark the original set-up did.
If you don’t already fear the dark, White Night will give you a reason to. Despite some minor grievances, it is a survival horror game undoubtedly deserving of your time. Who would’ve thought that something as simple as a box of matches could make such an atmospheric and compelling game? For best results, play at night.
A faint light at the end the tunnel.