Call them the odd couple, rushing into things so soon after their introduction, but for better or worse, Slender-like psychological scares and online co-op are married in White Noise Online (80 MSP). For the sake of space, I’ll spare you the game’s premise. If you do need some perspective / background, the original’s review is here, though trust that the game is just as gorgeous, the darkness still as disorienting, as ever.
Tape collecting returns (each recorder now comes with a brief yet effective playback), with the benefit (and potential mood-breaker) of online co-op. Don’t worry, it’s not a Slender Man FPS, more a co-op excuse for people who need their hand held during horror movies. It’s only competitive in the sense of who can acquire the most tape recorders and survive the longest, though, as progress is shared between the group. And teamwork is necessary; getting too far ahead of the other players will spell your doom, and them likewise. Hearing the screams of your group getting picked off by the creature one by one, sometimes right next to you, is as unnerving as if you were playing alone.
‘Dying’ isn’t permanent in multiplayer. When you’re ‘found’ by the creature, you’re simply transported to a spirit realm of sorts, where you gain an illuminated view of the grounds. Your body is turned to stone on the spot, and your avatar becomes an outline of a ghost. From here until the last player survives or perishes (or disconnects), you can either follow the paths of others still in the hunt, or help them find additional tapes (being a ghost with enhanced vision has its advantages). At the end, a summary will show you and your crew where and when you found your tapes / demise, and how many times you walked in a circle like an idiot. All in all, the online play works well, even in the context of horror and isolation.
This time out, you can choose from three stages. ‘Chateau’ is the level from the previous game, and hasn’t changed much, outside of the weird, green ‘creature’ obelisks (do not stare at them for long) and avatar ghosts. The added locales, ‘Saint-Martin’ and the snowy ‘Kvitoya’, feature their own unique layouts and monuments, a church and cabins, respectively. Character selection is a first for the franchise, and goes beyond simple preference or gender choices. Each choice comes with its own skill set, like more flashlight power, better scouting abilities, or less susceptibility to fear (vital when you’re the last man standing, or searching, as it were).
Pro-tip for real life: if you ever find yourself in a secluded wooded area with a statue like this, run in the opposite direction.
There are extras in the form of unlockable characters, some of which can be obtained by collecting a set number of tapes over your career, while others are accessible only via codes you’ll find in other Milkstone releases you own (effective advertising at its finest, eh?). It’s nothing to get worked up about, just palette swaps, though it is a neat perk if you’re into showing off that you’re a loyal customer.
Leaving the Slender comparisons aside, and if you’re still in the market for scares or too chicken to go it alone, I definitely say you pick up this version of White Noise over the ‘barely two months old’ original. You still have the option to play solo, and the new areas and addition of online play are solid points to this otherwise very early sequel.