Originally released back in 2001, South Korean horror title White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is finally heading to European retail on August 4th courtesy of PQube. We talk to product manager Matthew Pellett about this cult-classic and why more publishers should be looking to South Korea for new business opportunities.
For those unfamiliar with White Day, how would you describe the game?
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a full remake of the classic first-person survival horror game released in South Korea in 2001. It quickly went on to be something of an underground fan favourite for those gamers who sought it out and translated it for other territories to enjoy.
Originally created before the genre began to embrace action over scares, it’s a defiantly old-school horror game set inside a haunted Korean school. Expect resource-based save points using pens and school notice boards – similar to the ink/typewriters of Resident Evil – and limited health replenishment items. There are no weapons, so players need to stealth past the killer janitors who patrol the hallways… and run and hide from them if they get spotted.
When it first came out in 2001, what did White Day do differently compared with other horror games?
Though games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Outlast and Resident Evil VII: Biohazard have now established first-person viewpoints for horror games, back in 2001 White Day’s camera was quite unique for the genre. Stealth plays a bigger role in progression than in most other horrors, though some of White Day’s bigger monsters can be vanquished by solving some of the game’s trickier puzzles.
One of the biggest departures from a lot of other horror titles, however, is White Day’s adventure gaming DNA. You’ll have the opportunity through branching dialogue options to build – or destroy – relationships with some of your new classmates and your actions and dialogue choices shape the story’s path and ultimately help dictate which of the nine endings you’ll receive.
There are also swathes of secrets and collectibles to unlock, including 20 ghost stories. These tell the gruesome ends of some of the building’s victims, and they may lead you towards hidden hauntings. Finding these stories and, crucially, working out how to meet the ghosts themselves is hugely entertaining, with your results logged in the main menu almost like a paranormal Pokedex.
It sounds quite feature packed for a horror game – does this make it harder to market?
Harder to pigeon-hole, maybe, but not harder to market. A wider range of features enables us to talk with different groups of gamers across different territories. Gamers want fresh experiences, and White Day’s mix of ideas and experiences sets it apart from other titles currently available. We’re seeing a lot on interest from all over the world as a result, not just from horror fans but also the vast European adventure gaming community.
What improvements have been made to this new version?
This is a remake rather than a remaster, so while the base adventure is taken from the 2001 classic, the visuals and audio are all new, and many features, from puzzles to hauntings to endings, have been reimagined or created for this version. There’s even an entirely new character and storyline specially crafted for this PS4 and PC release to ensure that even returning players will have new things to uncover and more mysteries to unravel.
We’ve also got a wide range of language options – we’re well aware that the only thing holding back the original from global recognition was its Korean-only release, so we’re delighted to include both Korean and English audio tracks and subtitle options for French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian and both Simplified and Traditional Chinese.
Japanese horror games are well-established in the UK thanks to the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill – why haven’t Korean games gained the same kind of traction?
Japan’s role in the genesis of gaming’s popularity and, again, with the surge of the survival horror genre in the ‘90s shouldn’t be underestimated. The Korean development scene isn’t as vast or as well supported as that of Japan and there simply haven’t been the numbers of games, or the opportunities for them to shine, to allow Korean titles to gain wider appreciation. But the territory is a real hotbed of development talent and independent games such as White Day, which really broke new ground when first released, show why more attention should be paid to the scene.
South Korea is a real hotbed of development talent and indie games such as White Day show why more attention should be paid to the scene.
Matthew Pellett, PQube
With Korean culture gradually becoming more prevalent in the UK, will we see more Korean titles come to retail?
We certainly hope so, and not just Korean titles, either. Here at PQube we pride ourselves on introducing new experiences to western audiences. Sure, we’re best known for our work with Japanese studios, but we’re hugely invested in seeking out the best titles from across the whole of Asia. As for White Day itself, we definitely hope its success can help ensure more Korean titles get worldwide coverage. The developer has some hugely exciting plans for the future, including an entry in the series that will be coming to PlayStation VR. Resident Evil VII: Biohazard did tremendously well on PS VR, and the hunger is there for more great horror series to embrace virtual reality for unprecedented thrills and shocks.