The darkness and the fear of what might be lurking in the shadows, can be terrifying. Or, it can be deeply annoying – as evidenced Nuit Blanche, the adventure-game equivalent of hitting your shins on a coffee table. The relationship between light and shadow is brought beautifully to life using a distinctive monochromatic graphic style, which lays the foundation for an atmospheric and disturbing adventure. Yet the same style undermines its exploration projects and elements of puzzle solving every step of the way.
The tone set by an almost exclusive use of black and white is definitely the best part of the experience. With a slow jazz piano playing softly in the background and darkness enveloping the main character, I felt like I was walking foot in a classic 30s noir thriller I am attracted by the intensive use of tropes, deliberately crushed dialogue, crammed with weird comparisons, and his grizzled voice – White Night pays pulp influences proudly. But it is also a mystery of the haunted house and a Hitchcockian thriller inspired. In short, there are many influences swirling around, and while some overlap quite well – the damsel in distress reinvented as a restless spirit – all in all I found it a bit of a confused mashup.
When he finally succeeded, however, in creating the atmosphere and a sense of belonging. Vesper Mansion is a dark environment, fascinating as I initially enjoyed exploring. Draining the world of color creates an elegant and rigid grip on reality, where the darkness can really eat really light and not feel like a valuable and powerful resource. The correspondences are necessary to help you navigate the shadows, but they burn quickly and provide no real protection against the evil spirits that roam the dark corridors; electric light is the only way to finally exorcise the spirits nearby. It reminded me of the original Resident Evil, where every room of Spencer Mansion had something cool or scary to disclose, with the most disturbing secrets are buried deeper.
Similarly, the phantoms themselves are excellent; they are fuzzy, flickering creatures who seem tormented in death. You can almost see through the dark, contorted in a variety of claims poses to face a wall or swinging from the rafters. If you see a ghost, it emits a piercing scream and sues you – and that there is when White Night ceases to be any fun at all. It is possible to avoid them, but more often than not being identified means that you head to the last checkpoint, which is usually a frustrating distance back. There is literally nothing you can do, unless you happen to be next to a flashlight at the time. Any tension I felt pretty soon gave way to frustration and boredom.
You can register when you find a chair in which to have a little sit-down (similar to the typewriter Resident Evil backup system origin) would be good if Vesper Mansion was not so sparsely furnished with them. I found myself constantly returning the nearest chair – even if meant the closest a bit of a trek – to save my progress each time I finish a stage in a puzzle that I’m in the resolution process, as it got to the point where I could ‘t face to redo all over again should I run accident in the ghost on the last step.
This seems whiney, I know, as I’m not up for a challenge. But the frustration I was feeling was exacerbated by another factor, which unfortunately I have to go back to the greater strength of Nuit Blanche: this style of art. At heart, this is a puzzle game in which you must find objects and solve problems. For example, you move an object and a beam of light falls to reveal a key. It is clean, clever and works well … but none of this is particularly favored by the near absence of light or insta-death enemies, and it is actively hindered by the use of fixed camera angles. Seriously, for one reason or another, you can not see what you are doing most of the time.
At first I thought these elegant shots were fantastic. There is a shooting early on who looks down on you from a point of bird’s-eye view as you walk on the steps of the house; it is straight out of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But when I am trying to find a light switch, and the camera angle hidden location until I got into a very small sweet spot, I could have quite happily done without artistic presentation. Sometimes, I resorted to the boring but reliable tactic to sweep the perimeter of a room to see if an interaction icon appears. (If you ever get stuck, it usually means a light must be light somewhere.) Welcome back to the old days of tedious pixel-hunting adventure.
The art style and premise are great: as a detective, you are supposed to introduce light into the world of White Night of darkness. And from the beginning, it really feels as will be careful clever idea that will be the center of everything. But once you enter the house, it consists primarily interference in darkness and bumping into the furniture you can not see that you are running away from ghosts, you can not see either. The bones of a decent procedural game horror are buried under about six feet of still frustrating camera angles, insta-death, and poor checkpointing. Ultimately, it’s just not that much fun being a detective in the dark.