Each year, many people exchange gifts and profess their love on 14th February, Valentine’s Day. In certain parts of Asia however, they have another romantic holiday a month later. Called White Day, tradition sees guys giving gifts to girls. So, does that mean White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is going to be some kind of dating simulator?
No, not at all. It’s actually a Korean survival horror from 2015 and a remake of a game from way back in 2001; also titled White Day: A Labyrinth Named School. Will it still hold up well and deliver a bucketful of scares all these years later?
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is set in 2001, the day before White Day. Lee Hee-Min has only recently transferred to Yeondu High School, but he’s already got a crush on one of the most popular girls, Han So-Young. After finding So-Young’s diary on a bench, Hee-Min decides to sneak into the school premises during the night in order to leave the diary and a box of candy on her desk. While attempting to pull off such a kind-hearted act, realisation soon kicks in that he’s now trapped inside the school grounds and this place is actually haunted by numerous spirits who wish him harm.
As the main protagonist, you’ll control Hee-Min throughout the hellish evening in which your primary objective is to escape without succumbing to the many threats roaming the school. For some reason, other students find themselves in school after dark too. Interactions are relatively dull though, despite featuring fully voiced characters and dialogue options. Of course, these moments are massively overshadowed by the looming threats.
Ghastly ghouls lurk in the shadows, with some merely trying to scare the heck out of you and others actively seeking to maim or kill you. There’s one hiding inside random lockers, another hanging out in the bathroom stalls, and others just waiting for their moments to strike. Most of these only trigger upon you doing certain actions, and when such encounters occur, it’s the shock factor that gets you more than anything else. While they’re generally freaky, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is dated in terms of visuals, hence not overly scary to look at.
The sheer variety in the ghosts is commendable and they’re a worthwhile foe to keep you on your toes. In stark contrast to that is the presence of janitors, who patrol the school and don’t take too kindly to intruders. If either of the possessed janitors catch sight of you, they’ll give chase, beating you to death with a bat. Given the only option is to run and hide, it’s painstakingly bad to get spotted early on because of the unfamiliar surroundings and lack of unlocked rooms. To be honest, they’re irritating and off-putting, causing a real nuisance when you just want a chance to explore freely.
Exploration is a crucial aspect as you venture down the eerie halls and check out classrooms and areas devoted to different faculties. Naturally, as a student, you’re not really equipped for anything and so any tools required to make progress must be acquired along the way. Picking up keys, items beneficial to Hee-Min’s health, and filling up a backpack with potential solutions to upcoming problems is commonplace. With multiple buildings and a number of floors, there are plenty of places to check out, but a lot of them are quite bland in truth – unless you understand Korean, in which case the untranslated posters, signage and such are mildly interesting.
Another reason you’ll want to search high and low however, is to collect the many documents dotted around. Now these are well worth your time, if you can avoid attracting the attention of the aforementioned supernatural beings and psycho janitors. You see, it’s through the documentation that you’ll learn more about the ghastly ghouls lurking here and the history of the school itself. Every new bit of information helps piece together the bigger picture, as well as a whole load of sub-stories detailing the tragic lives these spirits once had.
A handful of the spirits are actually used as bosses; you’ll need to overcome them on the journey towards freedom. Although quite odd by their very nature, the timed element to these parts really piles on the pressure as you work out what’s needed to bring them down. One that sticks in my mind is a giant foetus, which tries to grab you and causes the entire building to shake. The solution involves following a couple of clues leading you to create a clay model, before completing quick-time events.
As long as you’re invested in the goings on and paying attention to the notes you pick up, the majority of the conundrums faced are rather enjoyable to solve. There is however at least one puzzle that will baffle almost everyone, and almost forced me to throw in the towel. Essentially, if you don’t understand Chinese characters, you’ll be forced to use a guide for what is a poorly executed mathematical problem.
Should you stick with White Day: A Labyrinth Named School though, chances are you’ll have finished a playthrough within a few hours. Fortunately, there’s quite a lot of replayability due to being able to obtain various endings depending upon your conversation choices and difficulty settings. I do love the inclusion of multiple difficulties to choose from as it allows the apprehensive players to embrace the narrative and avoid a selection of ghosts that might cause suffering. On the other hand, you can really test yourself on higher difficulties with additional threats, less chances to save, and more of a reliance on items to manage health/stamina.
And last, but not least, is the effectiveness of the audio. Whether it’s the rattling of doors, the jingling of keys, or even white noise, there’s seldom a lack of slightly unnerving sounds. This won’t be an issue for horror enthusiasts, but for everyone else, it keeps the spookiness at an optimum level to ensure you never feel too comfortable.
Ultimately, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a lore-filled survival horror that’s hard to resist. It caters to a wide range of gamers thanks to a selection of difficulty settings and really lends itself well to multiple playthroughs. The jumpy moments do the trick and you’ll certainly be on edge throughout. If only the visuals weren’t so dated, then it could have provided more aesthetic scares with its grotesque ghouls. It’s also a shame that the janitors and that one errant puzzle could be a tad off-putting.
Nevertheless, you should give it a go and attempt to escape the hellish halls of White Day: A Labyrinth Named School.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is on the Xbox Store