Yeah, yeah, everybody makes their lists about scary, creepy, or flat-out weird games to play each October and we’re not about to buck the trend. But we’re going to assume you’re a retro gamer who’s read enough to know the big franchises everybody else writes about. Because if you’ve picked up a controller in the last fifteen years, you know about Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Dino Crisis. You’ve played Sweet Home‘s NES translation, you’ve watched an Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem long play on YouTube, and if some scarf-wearing hipster starts harping on Fatal Frame again, you will stuff his camera where the flash won’t illuminate. Where does one go from there? Well, we’ve got some ideas with which to season your braincase if you care to join us.
White Day: A Laybrinth Named School – PC: Say what you will about Korea, make all the jokes about their online gaming addictions, WoW gold farming operations, and kids who died rather than stop playing marathon sessions of StarCraft, just get all your stereotypical thoughts out of the way up front. All done? Good. Because anyone familiar with Asian cinema knows Koreans are freaking demigods when it comes to producing stuff that could scare the legs off a tarantula. The western world doesn’t see much software coming out of Korea, but gamers are a notoriously nosy bunch, and when we start hearing rumors about terrifying PC games coming from some country that isn’t named Japan, we start digging. Usually we’re rewarded for our efforts. Sometimes though…sometimes things should just be left buried because there aren’t words to describe what they’ll do to you if you install them. White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a prime example.
In Korea, Valentine’s Day is marked by girls giving chocolates to boys as a sign of affection. One month later, on March 14th, any boy who received a gift on Valentine’s Day is expected to reciprocate with a gift of his own, usually white chocolate, white cake, or some other confectionery treat. This sets the back story for White Day, wherein the protagonist (named by the player) decides to visit his school after-hours to plant chocolates for the girl he likes, but also to return a diary she accidentally left on a bench the day before. Since there will be students there decorating for the next day’s festivities, this isn’t as outlandish a plan as it might sound. But this is a Korean horror game, so you know at some point he’s going to wish he’d just stayed home.
White Day is pulse-poundingly terrifying. There’s always been something intrinsically spooky about schools after dark, a theme which has been explored by the likes of Silent Hill already. But this game ratchets that tension up to nigh-unbearable levels. Within the first ten minutes, you’ll wind up locked in the building, harassed by a bloodthirsty custodial worker, and then hounded by ghosts because the developers decided they hadn’t taken a large enough dump on your raw nerves. Should you try to defend yourself from menaces either supernatural or ordinary, you’ll quickly be reminded you’re a school boy and you must have left your rocket launcher in your underwear drawer–your only recourse to surviving the evening is to run like the devil himself is after you. Which, considering this is a Korean game, is not a stretch in the least. And just in case you didn’t think running from a crazy, flashlight-carrying, bat-wielding janitor was bad enough, your character’s pulse rate affects your vision. As your pulse rate goes up, you acquire ‘tunnel vision’, begin seeing double, and the screen jerks around making it harder to interact with your surroundings. Outside of Eternal Darkness, this is the most brutal depiction of “fear” I’ve ever seen in a video game…mainly because it’s the most realistic. When was the last time you saw a game implement a ‘vasoconstriction’ graphics filter when you were seconds away from shame-walking to the bathroom?
Choices you make while sneaking about, solving puzzles, and assisting other students who’ve been locked inside with you determine which of the game’s eight endings you receive, only some of which result in you surviving the night.
The game never received an official release outside of Korea, but since that’s never stopped the Internet for more than a few minutes, the full game patched to English is just a Google search away for those curious few who had absolutely no intention of sleeping until the first of November.