White Night ReviewPrice:
White Night is a stylish and spooky noir-horror game ingeniously layered with themes of light and darkness. It's a game largely designed with supreme care and attention, and I wish with all my heart that I could tell you it is great. Yet it has one major flaw that threatens to bring the whole experience crashing down, like a speakeasy band carrying its instruments down a treacherous basement staircase.
Such tortured similes are frequent fare in White Night, but we'll get to that shortly. For now let's focus on what the game does right, which is quite a lot. White Night is set during America's Great Depression, and sees you playing as a down-on-his-luck barfly who is involved in a nasty car crash. Seeking aid at a nearby mansion, he quickly realises nobody is home, and enters the foreboding edifice to use the telephone (as you do). But he becomes trapped, and finds himself battling the dark past of the house alongside his own demons.
White Night embraces cliché like a long-lost brother. The haunted mansion setup is an extremely familiar one, while your nameless protagonist looks, sounds and drinks like a noir detective, even though technically he isn't. But it's how the game brings its two genre strands together that makes it feel fresh. It happily blends the creaking floorboards and billowing curtains of Victorian gothic with the Jazz soundtrack and pessimistic monologues of thirties detective fiction. This it overlays with a striking art-style perfectly suited for both noir and horror.
If you think it looks good in stills, wait until you see it in motion. White Night's monochromatic aesthetic is brought to life with some excellent animation and devilish use of static cameras. Like the classic haunted mansion game Resident Evil, White Night places its cameras at eerie and jarring angles, lending a sense of being watched. This feeling is compounded by how these cameras twitch and rock slightly as you tiptoe about the mansion, as if behind the lens lurks some great beast preparing to pounce at any moment.
Meanwhile, the detail present in your character's animations conveys a convincing balance of vulnerability and doggedness. The way he slightly drags his injured leg as he traverses the mansion's rickety staircases, the way he strikes a match and holds the tiny flame against the treacle-like darkness. It's as if he's constantly pushing against a far greater force that could easily crush him if it wanted, just as your minuscule light is constantly surrounded by seemingly infinite black.
Light is absolutely central to White Night. You can't perform any actions while in darkness, and if you stay in the dark for too long, your fear of the inky black and what lies within it eventually becomes overwhelming. So to stay both safe and sane, you need to keep a lit match in one hand, while light switches and lamps provide little spots of sanctuary for you to save your progress and consider your next move.
In addition, many of the puzzles you encounter path revolve around light. Some objects require the use of both hands to move them, so you must find a way of illuminating the area before you can complete the task. Furthermore, Light is thematic as much as it is functional. As you light up the rooms and corridors of the mansion, so too do you illuminate the mansion's dark past, the tale of the troubled owners Henry and Margaret Vesper, their son William, and his lover Selena, a jazz singer at a local bar.