Let’s just get it out in the open. It is impossible to mention White Noise: A Tale of Horror (80 MSP) or any of the harm / good it does, without first invoking Slender. Their two cores are so intrinsically-linked that it’s not out of order for you to call White Noise a straight-up rip-off. It is. It’s also a no-brainer. I can say I entirely don’t mind a console version (unoriginal as it may be) that can replicate the fear the indie PC release did such a masterful job at creating.
As much as I can claim to be better equipped than some, I’m still a wuss in a lot of respects. I don’t like to feel scared or helpless. The same applies for horror games and their manifestations, especially being at the mercy of a threat you cannot fight no matter how much courage you muster. Your only choice throughout is to walk (or, better, run) in the opposite direction. The patch of ground the entirety of the game takes place in is no ally either. Each play starts you off at a random point within it, keeping you disoriented and constantly plying the darkness and terrain for clues, with no safe port to anchor in.
You’ll undoubtedly walk in circles your first few tries, which is entirely the game’s intention. How better to appreciate the odd layout of the land, the heavy foliage and wandering ghosts (harmless), a running stream or architecture that’s even Silent Hill-esque in spots, like a street that unexpectedly drops off into a foggy void? Milkstone certainly has the programming chops to evoke uneasiness. White Noise has a really nice-looking 3D engine that I hope to see employed in other, lengthy and more original horror endeavors. That’s not a dig at the company, more so a ‘thumbs up’ for them to aspire to do more.
Both the environment and ambient sound effects superbly set the tone. Disembodied screams, or the coughing of your own character, ratchet up nerves. The subtle images in the darkness, like trees that take human forms, or statues whose shapes are a little off, too, spawn a sense of dread. The predator here is just as effective. Granted, Milkstone’s creature is no Slender Man, but the same visceral tension is present in every near sighting, every corner-of-your-eye glance. You won’t suffer from any nightmares, but if Slender scared you enough to avoid playing with the lights off, expect White Noise to do the same.
Again, collection of a set number of items is the engine for transporting scares. While Slender had you retrieving eight scattered pages, in this game it’s tape recorders. There’s no map or set route to follow, and only the sound of static will point towards the next recorder. You don’t get to listen to any dialogue upon collection, but the accompanying music change lets you know you’ve just made a mistake. The creature begins stalking you after the first pickup, and doesn’t lose your scent for long if you manage to avoid it. Count on it standing right behind you. There are several cues, audio and visual, that will warn you of trouble.
And that’s it. It plays like the original. White Noise is obvious copycatism, though it does succeed at beating everyone else to the punch (i.e., Slender on console). It’s light on additional content, only a code to unlock items in other Milkstone releases (EDIT 1/27: An update has added new unlockable visual filters: Night Vision / Smiley Face / brighter flashlight, and a new Hard mode), but as a homage (or rip-off, depending on your word choice) to one of the most unnerving games I’ve played, it fills the role much better than expected. The fact that someone will pay a dollar willingly in order to be terrorized is compliment enough.
Bonus! Watch the always-entertaining Alan from The Indie Ocean blindly play White Noise.