I’d had White Day: A Labyrinth Named School downloaded on my PS5 for a while, waiting for the “right” time to start playing it. That time came around the middle of last week, when I said to myself, “Ryan, you ought to play that spooky ghost game that you bought a few months ago.” And so I took my own advice and started playing it.
At first blush, White Day is exactly the kind of video game that I long for: a Korean horror adventure, where you explore a haunted school while solving obtuse puzzles in an attempt to find out what is going on and also escape with your life. There are nine(?) different endings, tons of collectibles, and even a little pokédex for all of the ghosts that you encounter during your night of terror. And all of these things, I greatly appreciate about this game. It’s kind of why I bought it, after all.
But there are two things that made me say “No more. This is no fun and I quit.” about halfway through.
Problem number one, and the biggest by far, is the janitor. An AI-driven stalker, much like those seen in games that I adore like Haunting Ground or Resident Evil 7, White Day’s janitor is nothing more than an unending source of frustration and tedium. Throughout the game, he will be roaming the halls of the school (very, very slowly), and if he catches you, he will chase you down and beat you to death with a baseball bat. Quite literally, your only defense is to hide. If he’s chasing you, you have to try to run away and duck behind a desk or into a bathroom stall without him seeing you, and then stay there until he decides to give up and wander away. Quite often, he ends up hanging around for minutes at a time.
Lacking any sort of way to fight back or even distract him, this means that all you can do to get past him is to tuck into a corner until he’s wandered by. And that’s a long, sucky waiting game, because there’s no way to be sure he’s passed without opening a door and peeking out into the hallway. Of course, doing that while he’s still too close will result in alerting him and force you to run away or just eat the bat and reload your save. The level design doesn’t help much, consisting mostly of long, narrow hallways that force you to go back and forth between multiple floors via single stairwell. And wouldn’t you know it, but the janitor is almost always hanging around that stairwell, usually on the floor that you’re trying to get to. It’s like the game is programmed to be as miserable as possible.
I guarantee that I spent at least half of my playtime either waiting in a dark room for the janitor to wander by, or being chased repeatedly into a bathroom stall and subsequently hoping he would go away so I could actually play the damn game. It’s horrible and no fun.
Oh, oh! And there’s a ghost that is constantly following you (even through walls and floors, obvi), so if you sit in one place too long you get jumpscared which alerts the janitor and ruins everything you worked so hard for. This game!
Considering that I liked pretty much everything else that White Day was offering up to that point, I looked into the possibility of just playing in very easy mode instead (I started on normal), which (supposedly) makes the janitor significantly dumber. Only it’s also one of those games that takes more and more away from you the lower you climb down the difficulty ladder.
To punish you for not wanting to deal with the janitor anymore, playing White Day on very easy or easy removes not only a bunch of the possible endings, but a whole extra scenario and worst of all – all of the ghosts. Like, what in the flying frig is the point of playing a horror game with all the horror removed!?
I tried so hard to push through to at least one ending, but it’s just too frustrating and tedious that even I had to throw in the towel. I’m sorry White Day developers, but your game kind of sucks and is not fun at all. The sad irony is that if the janitor were removed and nothing else changed, I think I’d have the complete opposite impression of the game. Alas, it was not meant to be. I will watch someone else play through it on YouTube to get closure so that my brain can let it go, but I simply cannot bear to continue playing it myself.