GDC 14 Hands-On Preview: White Night – Alone in the Black & White

OSome Studio made a very bold decision during GDC last week. Amongst an arcade-like setting with loud independent games, the team decided to set up a more personal experience for their narrative driven horror game White Night. White Night was able to draw me in and make me jump in fear even though I was in the middle of a giant convention hall.

Before even picking up the controller, the atmosphere in White Night stuck out because of the stark black-and-white visuals and cutscenes that are reminiscent of classic cinema. Developers from OSome Studio were there at the show,  and during my demo they mentioned their many influences. Two big influences that got my attention were movies by Alfred Hitchcock and the first Alone in the Dark game. White Night actually has a lot of influences, but that is because a large part of the experience comes from the investment in the game’s stylized and bleak world.

WhiteNightManorWhite Night begins with a brooding man and a long establishing car sequence. After a car accident cripples the man, he must travel to a nearby house but, like most abandoned houses, there are mysteries and a ghost. Since the main character hurt his leg, he walks with a limp which creates a slow pace to the game. The camera shifts angles often during exploration, but the man’s hobbled pace keeps the technique from being jarring.

The puzzles in White Night revolve around the black-and-white aesthetic, and the idea of lighting an area to find solutions. Light becomes both the character’s tool and his only means of survival against the spirit which haunts the house. Since he is only armed with a matchbook, he must sparingly use each matchstick; if he is in the dark for long enough, the spirit will find him.

In all honesty, I did not expect the spirit to appear and when I first got captured I flung my headset off. Then I realized the developers were behind me giggling, but that is one of the most impressive elements in White Night currently. The game has the ability to draw people in thanks to both the narrative and atmosphere that OSome Studio achieves.

screen_19-1024x547There are not enough games out there that capitalize on a black-and-white color palette, and focus on the narrative style from that same era of film. White Night’s puzzle design is basic for the first couple of minutes, but there is an opportunity for clever challenges later in the game. Maybe I can conquer my fear of ghosts when White Night releases for PC and Mac sometime later this year.