It’s a prototypical horror-movie setup: a car crash in the middle of nowhere leaves our protagonist stranded outside of an abandoned mansion…or, you’d think it was abandoned, perhaps even hope it was. Protagonist, injured after his wreck, has no choice but to go in to the house to try and find help. Once he enters, the door locks behind him and the real nightmare begins.
The main attraction of White Night is its high-contrast black-and-white visual style, creating a stark, defined line between light and darkness. Matchsticks and candles provide much of the game’s lighting, creating small circles of illumination. There’s no gradient of lighting; either objects are lit, or they’re not. Only the murderous ghosts show up in pallets of gray, shadowy apparitions you generally only see in the dark when paying close attention.
To kill these frights, you’ll need electric light: though there’s still power running through much of the house, there are generally barriers to turning on the lights: puzzles which can be as simple as finding a light switch or plugging in a cord. As the game carries on, count on simple solutions arriving less and less frequently, and expect the specters to try to keep you from lighting rooms at all costs.
What makes White Night so damned scary is how effectively it combines story with atmosphere. Even playing the game in broad daylight I found myself being sucked in to the stylistic night, pouring over pages of lost journals and gasping when stalked by ghosts. But I think the reason I really bought in to the world was because of the attention paid to the backstory conveyed through the journals and cutscenes. When it comes to story, only the in-game narration of actions feels like a weak link; a plethora of linking verbs (as, is, are, was, were, etc…) weaken the prose. But this problem almost disappears whenever you’re not listening to Protagonist talk; each of the journals sounds like its written from its own voice, its own perspective, each with its own weight and secrets.
White Night takes place in Great Depression-era Boston, Massachusetts, a time when government banned alcohol, businesses collapsed alongside the stock market, and jazz music, considered new and rebellious music, thrived in speakeasies. White Night is a story about all of these things, taking you through the lives of the the house’s former inhabitants through discarded journals spread around the premises. Inside the house, Protagonist finds ghostly apparitions…including an almost angelic spirit, Serena. But among the angel are demons, frightening horrors who can drive Protagonist insane with a simple touch. Protagonist, using a matchbook, lamps, and other light sources, must stave off the madness while delving deeper and deeper in to what becomes an obsession with Serena and her life.
White Night stays compelling because of its attention to story and fantastic scare potential. Even though a couple of bizarre puzzles can slow progress, White Night continues to impress as it gets more and more bizarre, making for a great nighttime or daytime thriller/horror experience.