White Noise Online
May 13, 2013 19 Comments
Whoa, Déjà vu. I’m pretty sure I played something like White Noise Online two days ago, only much more inferior. White Noise Online itself is a direct clone of a popular iPhone game called “Slender” just like The Monastery was. I haven’t played Slender myself, nor do I plan on it. I use my phone for casual, pick-up-and-play fare, not survival horror. If I wanted to be creeped out using my iPhone, I would give my number to that janitor who stares at my tits every time he sees me. I guess this whole “walk around looking for stuff with a flashlight and try not to randomly run into a monster” thing is a fad now. Sort of like how there’s too many horror movies based around found footage. The weird thing is, I don’t know anyone who actually likes those movies. And I can’t find anyone who can explain to me why White Noise or Slender is actually a good game. Scary? Maybe. Fun? Not in the slightest bit.
I think a better term would be “spooky.” The concept for White Noise is you have to walk around looking for tape recorders of your buddies. The ones that were violently murdered. I wonder whose bright idea it was to go looking for them this way.
“Hey Bob, we’re going to go find out what happened to our friends!.”
“I’m down with that. I’ll meet you in the morning.”
“What do you mean, morning? We’re going tonight. Preferably after midnight.”
“And why are we doing that?”
“Because this can’t wait any longer!”
“But it will be more difficult to see what we’re doing and where we’re going and besides that, our friends were splatter-killed. They found Jimmy’s insides scattered throughout a tree. The cops thought it was morbid Christmas decorations!”
“But we have to get to the bottom of this and find out what happened to them!”
“We can find out in the morning, with less risk of dying.”
“But if we die, we’ll know what killed them!”
“But we’ll be dead!”
“And then the mystery will be solved!”
“Are you suicidal?”
“A little bit.”
“I told you not to buy shares in Facebook!”
So yea. You wander around, looking for these recorders. When you get close to one, you can hear white noise, which is better than no indicator at all. However, once you pick up a recorder, it’s tough to make out exactly what is being said. It sounds like the drive-thru from Hell. Eventually, an evil monster thing that looks like a demented Zora from the Zelda series will spot you. Or more accurately, you’ll spot it. At this point, it’s pretty hard to survive. You can run for it, but even when I selected a character with high evasion points, I still never lasted more than a minute after encountering it. When you have no warning, no method of fighting back, and extremely low odds of not dying once found, it saps the entertainment value from the experience, because death isn’t a question of if but when.
As is the norm with a game from Milkstone, the graphics and audio are superb. As a horror game, the mood is perfectly set, with unnerving audio and an eerie fog that sometimes looks like it might be a monster or a ghost or something. The thought of that is much scarier than any actual frights White Noise Online offers. For fans of this schlock, I’m sorry but I just don’t get it. The whole “being stalked by a baddie in the dark” thing just doesn’t interest me in the slightest bit. So, despite a genuinely spooky atmosphere, I really hated White Noise Online. It’s just not a fun or entertaining game. It’s tough to get goosebumps when the core gameplay involves aimless wandering and no actual means to escape the enemy trying to kill you. It’s just plain boring.
The best scary games are a blend of good play mechanics and atmosphere. Eternal Darkness probably terrified me more than anything I can remember, but I wouldn’t have bothered with it if it wasn’t also a joy to play. The same goes for Fatal Frame 2 or Silent Hill 2. They’re not perfect, mind you. Those Silent Hill games could be as clumsy as a drunken rhinoceros turned loose in a china shop. But they offered gameplay other than “walk around in the dark.” White Noise has no puzzles, no combat, and the exploration sucks because everything looks samey enough to make navigation confusing and tedious. Obviously there is a market for this, given the success of Slender, and the fact that my best pal Tim the Toolman Hurley seemed to have enjoyed what White Noise was pitching. For me? I want games with a good story and good play mechanics. But, if I can only have one of those, I would take the play mechanics. Why? Because games are things you play with. Movies are things you watch. I know David Cage missed that memo, but you indie guys are supposed to be smarter than that.
80 Microsoft Points didn’t play with the online mode. If the mechanics were more or less the same as the single player mode, the only difference would be getting bored with friends instead of getting bored with myself in the making of this review.