Before the announcement of White Day: A Labyrinth Called School, I’d never even heard of the game – being a horror fan I was naturally interested in the game, but the fact that it was a remake of a game I’d never even heard of really got me intrigued. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that it started life as a horror title back in 2001 on PCs. Though it wasn’t a big game per se, it did gain enough of a cult following to receive a mobile remake back in 2016. Now, a year later, it has seen another remastered release on current hardware, bringing the remade mobile game into the limelight ahead of the release of the upcoming sequel. Find that hard to follow? Good – it’ll prepare you for what’s ahead of you in the game.
Set in a high school in Korea, White Day: A Labyrinth Called School puts you in the shoes of Lee Hui-min – a new student who can’t help but to get a crush on school beauty So-Yeong. After seeing her drop her diary on the school grounds earlier in the day, Lee Hui-Min decides to take advantage of the fact it’s the eve of ‘White Day’ (a sort of Valentine’s Day) and leave her diary at her school desk along with some chocolates – what a sweet guy, huh? After sneaking into the school after hours though, he finds himself accidentally getting locked in. Fortunately for him there are a few other students on the school grounds (including So-Yeong) so he’s got a bit of company. On the flipside, the night hours also bring out a ton of ghosts as well as the school’s deadly Janitors, so he’s also got to fight for his survival. Turns out that sometimes nice guys really DO finish last…
Whilst the basic concept of the story is simple enough, the interactions you share with other students could become a little confusing. You’re given the choice of what you want to say and do at times, though each character’s reactions don’t always make a lot of sense. It’s easy to overlook though – you’ve just got to get on board with the fact that rational thought seems to go right out of the window. It might seem all over the place at times, but the story does enough for you to slowly understand most of what is going on, even if it can become incredibly bizarre.
Impressively, there are a ton of different endings in the game depending on the actions you take, so there’s certainly plenty of replayability on offer. Whilst this is neat, the fact you’ve got to complete the game multiple times to see everything could be a little daunting. I personally found that it was good fun for one or two playthroughs, but going through over and over again just seemed like a real chore. Of course, it’s not compulsory, but it did leave me feeling like I was missing out on some of what the game had to offer.
White Day: A Labyrinth Called School plays in a similar fashion to Resident Evil 7, putting players through a first person survival horror experience that is full of cryptic puzzles that need solving, creepy classrooms full of ghosts that need exploring, and evil Janitors that need avoiding. Who needs monsters when you got Janitors, right?!
The Janitors are the main villains you’ll be facing off against in White Day: A Labyrinth Called School, with each of them clearly having a massive disliking for any student on the school grounds at night time. The punishment for getting caught by them? A severe beating with a baseball bat. I’m sure detention would’ve sufficed, but hey, each to their own…
If you encounter one of the Janitors (don’t worry, there’s only ever one in a particular area at a time), it’ll begin a chase sequence that requires you to get away as quickly as possible. I suppose the best game to compare it to would be Outlast, especially since you have no way to fight them off. Actually managing to get away isn’t always an easy task though; the Janitors’ field of vision is pretty wide, whilst the fact they’re always right on your tail means they generally see which room you’re going into. During my initial couple of hours with the game it caused a lot of frustration with the game seemingly randomly deciding if I’d escape or not, but eventually I got used to it and found that some clever door closing and crouching can stop them from pursuing you if you’re quick enough.
That doesn’t mean these chases wouldn’t still be frustrating and sometimes a little unfair though. Whilst some doors in the game are locked to begin with, the Janitors still have the freedom to go in and out of them as they please. This means you might be walking along thinking you’re safe, only for the Janitor to come out of a locked room and give you a shock. It’s not too common an occurrence, but when it does happen you won’t be able to help but be annoyed. Then there’s the fact that the Janitor will often block your path to where you need to go. White Day: A Labyrinth Called School is built around the whole concept of trying to sneak around the Janitors, but sometimes the game will leave you waiting for up to five minutes at a time for them to leave an area you need to explore. You’re just left there to twiddle your thumbs whilst you wait for them to sod off – it can make for a painfully boring experience.
Whilst the Janitors will cause most of your problems in-game, there are also plenty of frights to be had in the form of the countless terrifying ghosts that wander the halls. Sometimes they’ll just give you a scare for a brief moment, but other times they’ll actually cause you harm – there’s one in particular that is a mixture of both, with a ghost face randomly popping up on your scream to make you sh*t your pants and lose some health at the same time. Despite nearly causing a few heart attacks, the ghosts were one of my favourite elements of White Day: A Labyrinth Called School. I’ve always been a sucker for a good ghost story, so being able to discover so many horrifying tales in-game and then witness the ghosts that star in them up close was a really nice touch. It brought on some genuinely frightening moments, which is a lot more than some of the more recently released horror games offer these days.
Whilst the encounters with the Janitors could prove annoying at times, at least the game’s puzzling elements were pretty entertaining. You’ll come across plenty of seemingly random items during your time in the school, but also plenty of small notes left by teachers and students that each give you a small clue as to what you need to do with said items. Don’t get me wrong, it could be incredibly cryptic at times, but there was a real sense of ingenuity to almost every puzzle in the game. It reminded me a lot of the classic Resident Evil games, which can only be a good thing seeing as I’ve only got fond memories of playing them.
There are also a series of boss encounters that you have to deal with which also utilise puzzle-like mechanics, forcing you to think a little if you’re going to make your way out of the school alive. Each boss was incredibly disturbing to look at too – facing off against a giant undead baby was particularly unsettling, especially when you could hear his cries echoing through the school’s hallways. Whilst they’re horrifying from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s actually the process of defeating them that stands out the most. You’ll be given small subtle clues as to what you need to do as you make your way to each boss encounter and are then given a time limit in which to beat them, demanding you use your brain quickly if you’re going to survive. Best of all, the Janitors aren’t around when you’re up against these bosses, so it’s a brief (yet somewhat stressful) moment of reprieve from their vicious baseball bat skills.
Whilst White Day: A Labyrinth Called School manages to create a creepy atmosphere through its gameplay, the actual visual style of the game is incredibly basic. It’s not that anything is particularly ugly, but rather that you can tell it’s simply a polished and up-scaled mobile game. At least the environment design is on point – I actually felt like I was exploring this high school, with the building full of different rooms that were clearly focused on the different classes students would take. It’s a really believable environment, even if it isn’t that pretty to look at.
I managed to finish my first playthrough of White Day: A Labyrinth Called School in around five hours, and that was after getting completely stumped during a lot of the game too so it could be done quicker. It at least makes playing through multiple times for the extra endings a bit more justifiable; now I know how to solve each puzzle, I think I could easily beat the game in around an hour provided the Janitors don’t completely block my path. There’s also the addition of a harder difficulty for those who like a challenge – it doesn’t only make the game tougher but also introduces extra ghosts, meaning there’s a few nasty surprises for players to find. If you beat hard mode with the best ending you also unlock an epilogue segment to play through, showing there’s plenty of extra stuff on offer in the game if you go looking for it.
Whilst it’s certainly not flawless, I actually enjoyed playing through White Day: A Labyrinth Called School. It felt like one of the old-school survival horror titles I played back in the good old days with its cryptic puzzling and eerie atmosphere, and whilst it didn’t feature any form of combat it did ensure that the showdowns with the ‘villains’ were always tense affairs – even if the game WOULD leave you frustratingly waiting for them to get out of your way at times…
I wouldn’t recommend playing through the game countless times to unlock all the endings unless you’re a real die-hard completionist, but those who give White Day: A Labyrinth Called School at least one run through should be pleasantly surprised by what it offers. It won’t reach the heights of the likes of Outlast or Resident Evil 7, but it’ll certainly give you an atmospherically enjoyable old-school horror experience.
Developer: SONNORI Corp
Release Date: 22/08/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC