Welcome! Today I will look at White Night, a third-person, detective-puzzle survival-horror game. Some very clear game-design choices were seemingly made during the production of this game, and these become evident from the very first minutes of playing. This game is simple, yet clever, in its way of devising scary and creepy moments throughout. It certainly affected me!
The first thing we really notice it the film noir style of the game, both graphics and story-wise. It is set in the early 30s, and the visuals are simplistic, with jagged edges and clear outlines to every object. In addition, the fact that the game is in black and white is a striking feature. It is almost as though the designers of the game really wanted us to feel as though we were a part of a noir detective film.
The style choices of the game work very well, because they are used consciously throughout the game in ways of affecting the player. So let’s take a closer look at these choices within the game.
First, there is the narrative structure of the game. It is told in third-person, but we still get access to the protagonist’s thoughts through inner monologue at times. When we are offered these pieces of monologue, they are usually speculative and directed towards some new piece of information in this mystery house. An example would be as we enter one of the rooms. Behind us, a dark ghostly figure passes by the door, to which I clearly get slightly spooked whilst playing (See video). But, the protagonist did not see it. I then continue to explore the room and at the other side there is another door opening. Again this ghostly figure of a woman passes by, but this time the protagonist is also facing in the direction of the door, which means that he also sees it, and I (lucky me) get a close-up of a distorted ghostly face. The protagonist then offers us a piece of inner monologue. He does not seem as affected as I myself felt, and ended his monologue in simply putting out the question “Was it real?”. This is one of those funny Meta questions to put out there in a game, as I, the player, obviously know that this is not real, but at the same time, I let myself become quite affected by what is going on. Even more affected that the protagonist in the game, of which I know, at least within the narrative is the only one of us who could be in actual danger.
Now let us move on to this games main feature, the way I see it, namely its colours, or lack thereof. The game essentially takes place in a black and white world that highlights the contrast between light and dark. It is this contrast, this difference, which the game uses to great effect. It begins with the title White Night, which in itself is a contradiction of logics – usually the night is connected to darkness and blackness. This leads me to assume that “white” is either describing something to do with the games story, or is simply there is set up the stark contrast from the very get-go of the game. The darkness in the game carries out several roles. It is a part of the puzzle, as things can easily hide in the darkness, and we have to find these things i.e. explore the darkness. The darkness is also a threat. We never know just what we might find out there, and are totally dependent upon light sources in order to progress. The narrator comments on how he finds the darkness “cold” and “chilling”, and generally indicates that it is threatening somehow. This becomes evident in the game as soon as we are surrounded by the darkness. In short, if we don’t light a match then the protagonist dies, from what could be a panic attack.
The darkness isn’t just something that affects the protagonist, it affects the player as well. People in general do not like the darkness, and this is something we can ascribe to our evolutionary past. Our night vision is honestly quite appalling and we are therefore hardwired to be afraid of the dark. It became an evolutionary advantage to stay away from what we cannot see. This can in part explain why it feels so counterintuitive to go and explore in the dark, even if it’s just in a game. When playing the game I was definitely jumpy and even slightly scarred a few times when looking at the portraits hanging on the walls. This was a combination of the graphics and my own expectations. You see, I expected something to be there, and several times thought there was something creepy about a portrait, when there was not. We sometimes see things that are not there (another survival mechanism), because a false positive (seeing something that is not in fact there) is better than a false negative (failing to identify a threat). It is better to run away one times too many, than one to few. So yeah, I did get myself unnecessarily worked up a couple of times. Another part of this was as I said due to the animations of the game. The sharp lines and the shifting lighting helped in part sometimes at distorting images slightly, which gave me just that split second to imagine something that was in fact not there.
This game is in actual fact not all that scary, but I will still admit to being spooked several times. White Night plays on its strengths well, which is why it by using some very simple techniques can still strike one as being scary.
The narrative of the game is fairly interesting, but the puzzle solving up until this point has been quite straight forward. It is slightly too linear at the moment, which is a shame, as it makes the game experience just a bit too simple. But, this might of course change getting further into the game.
In conclusion, this is a very good game though. It is a nice mix of detective and horror. It isn’t too scary, which honestly suits me fine, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have played it, and couldn’t write this post. I think what I like the most about it, is it’s noir style, which just gives it a different feeling to a lot of other games I have played recently, whilst also making the visuals slightly more interesting.
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