I love horror. Specifically psychological horror. Tension, dread, the unknown. I don’t especially like jump-scares, and I despise over-the-top gore. To me, a monster ripping someone’s limps off isn’t nearly as scary as staring into a black void. Subtle audio cues, spooky music, these are my favorite elements of horror.
I’ve recently been playing the 2017 remake of possibly my favorite horror game of all-time: White Day: A Labyrinth Named School. The original scared me more than any other game I ever played, even to this day nothing’s given me such a spooking. The music, the ambient sounds, the ghosts: Koreans really are the masters of horror.
Americans had to jump through a few hoops to play the original Korean-only from 2001. But boy, was it worth it. Thanks to the efforts of some dedicated fans, it was well-subtitled and ran almost-perfectly. (I’ll be talking about the game in general and get into the differences between the original and remake later on)
You play as a boy who, for some reason, decides to go to school to return a lost diary to his crush AT NIGHT. He just couldn’t wait until the next day to give it to her. Well, as luck would have it, at night the school is as haunted as a school possibly can be. You meet up with some of your crush’s girlfriends and try to find out what’s going on and how you can gtfo. (Of course you’re locked in). There’s some branching dialogue options with these chicks that lead to different endings. A LOT of different endings. More on that later.
In order to unlock more of the school, which you can move around freely, you need to complete puzzles to acquire keys and important items. Some of them are pretty cryptic, (the infamous “chalkboard puzzle” tends to baffle people who can’t read Chinese– it’s still solvable if you look closely, but there’s plenty of helpful guides) but generally, they’re fun to complete and not overly difficult. There’s also a TON of collectibles, mostly in the form of interesting ghost stories. So much weird stuff goes on at this school, that some students have formed an Occult Club, and they’ve hidden all sorts of cool stuff around for you to find.
Between your puzzle-solving, you’ll encounter 2 primary obstacles.
The first, of course, are ghosts. There’s plenty of them, and they vary wildly. Some of them just spook you (I’m not a fan of jump scares, but it’s tolerable– a lot of them you can see coming, and are avoidable), some of them attack you, some of them are “bosses”. They’re a sick delight to experience, and you probably won’t even see all of them in your first playthrough. Most of them aren’t just thrown at you: encountering them is just as much a “collectible” as anything else in the game.
The second obstacle is a controversial one: possessed janitors who chase you around with baseball bats. I take it back, they’re not controversial. Everyone agrees that they’re awful.
There’s 2 janitors (CORRECTION: one of them is actually the PE teacher), and both of them are pricks. One of them limps and is easy to run away from. The other whistles like a jackass and can run much faster. They patrol every area of the school. They get in the way of your puzzle-solving constantly. Now, it’s a big school, and for long periods of time you can get some quality exploring done, but when you hear one of these jackasses coming your way, it’s time to put everything on hold.
Thank GOD they’re basically idiots. They’ll investigate a room if the door is open, or the light is on, or they hear you making a lot of noise. But if you don’t run around like a goofball, you can usually slip by them unnoticed. And if they do start chasing you, escaping them is as easy as breaking their line of site and hiding behind a desk. Even with the lights on, even pointing their flashlights directly at you, if you’re behind a desk, you’re invisible. THANK GOD.
The “janitors” might be a pain in the ass, but I don’t think they ruin the game. A lot of people think they make the game unplayable, and I agree they suck, HARD. But they shouldn’t be more than a nuisance if you try to play smart. (DISCLAIMER: I’VE ONLY PLAYED ON NORMAL DIFFICULTY SO FAR, IDK HOW MUCH MORE THEY SUCK ON HARD & HELL- but I’m gonna find out.)
The dangers you face necessitate my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE ASPECT OF SURVIVAL HORROR: Inventory management. Oh baby yesssssssssss ❤ Throughout the school, you can find healing items like soy milk (please drink in moderation lest you become a boi) and med kits and more, and you can also find coins that allow you to purchase some healing items at vending machines around the school. There’s no way for me to express exactly how much I love this. It’s all so satisfying. The sound your backpack zipper makes as you pull it down and dig through your inventory. I adore it. Even saving is done with single-use pen items.
This game is so chock-full of content that it’s overwhelming. We’re talking about collectibles on top of collectibles: Even the ENDINGS are collectibles: There’s 10 of them! And the collectibles are just plain neato. Consider collectibles in other games: they’re trash. Pointless tokens to find for no reason. In White Day, the major collectibles are short ghost stories that are not only fun to read, but you can even encounter the ghosts from these stories in the game. That’s just beautiful. I love this freaking game.
It’s not a long game. Rushing through the story, you can finish it in like, an hour. But my first playthrough took me over 6, and I still missed a ton of collectibles, and obviously there’s more endings to get.
It’s not a perfect game. I don’t like that they added some jump-scares. I thought the original was heart-shatteringly scary enough. But it’s still spooky as hell, has tons of collectibles, has interesting puzzles, has a nice, “open” kind of feel, and a lot of replay value.
This is a must-play horror game.
UPDATE: I forgot to REALLY clarify the differences between it and the original, and my (few) problems with the remake.
The original game, as far as I remember, didn’t have many jump scares at all. The remake is (kind of) full of them. The best example is the “Head Ghost”–a ghostly woman’s head that follows you. In the original game, you know she’s close by the sound scratching. If she catches you, she damages your stamina and laughs. I still vividly remember my first encounter with her. Hearing the scratching, then glimpsing her in the corner–I booked it all the way to the other side of the school and turned the game off. It was months before I could play it again.
In the remake, she’s preceded by a “chilling” kind of sound. It’s not terrible, but it’s not nearly as dread-inducing. What’s worse though is that now if she catches you, you’re subjected to a jump scare, and in that jump-scare, she’s not the blank-eyed woman, she now has a monstrous face. It sucks.
The rest of the changes to the old ghosts suck too, and for the same reasons. There’s a long-haired ghost that will drag you into the ceiling if she catches you. Originally, she was just a creepy pale girl. That was enough. Now, she has fangs like a monster. That’s my gripe with the remake. The subtle scares are now jump-scares. I don’t need a girl to have a fangs, it’s already creepy enough that she’s lifting me into the ceiling with her hair.
In the remake’s defense, as far as jump-scares go, they’re nowhere near as bad as they are in most games. Most of them you even have to go out of your way to try to trigger. It’s legitimate ghost-hunting that you’ll probably need a guide for. That’s really cool. But I do think the addition of these new ghosts could have been MUCH more coolly implemented by having them not just be events, but actually existing in-game with you, the way the Head Ghost and the Long-haired girl on the ceiling does. You could still do things to trigger them appearing, but maybe you could be treated to something more than basically a cut-scene. And to be fair, they’re not all like that. But I’m imagining one of them right now, and I can’t help but think of how much creepier it would be if they just looked at or followed you instead of outright attacking you and then disappearing. Also, ffs, most of them are monstrous, and that sucks. Maybe I’m wrong, but pale-white azn ghosts scare me more than monsters ever could.
I’d still call the White Day remake a must-play. It adds a lot to a classic masterpiece of horror, without taking too much away. I can’t call either of them the definitive way to play.
Speaking of that classic masterpiece,
it is still available–for free– on IndieDB. Thanks to Windows 10, it’s harder than ever to get running. But it does seem to still be doable, so if you want to jump through even more hoops, you can experience the classic.
As of this writing, after exhausting my mental resources, I THINK I MIGHT have just barely managed to ACCIDENTALLY get the game running properly after tinkering with it for way-too-long. Patches, additional software, scouring forums for solutions, trying different settings. It sucked, and I have no idea what I did right. The glitches might have been magic Korean wards to prevent us from playing it in the first place. Too late now.
I can’t recommend it unless you’re even more obsessed than I am.
For the convenience alone, the remake on Steam would be the way to go. And again, it’s not bad at all. It’s GREAT. But if you really want the classic, good luck and God bless.