Longtime contributed, Action Cast! co-founder and all-around good dude Andy Keener drops by to contribute today’s entry.
When I was younger, my friends and I would always go to haunted houses in October. We’d get a big group together and would usually end up going to the same one every time. Wandering around in the dark, trying to find the exit, just knowing that someone, or something, was waiting to jump out at us. Being together gave us the strength to get into our roles as victims; it was easier to drop all pretense of being tough and not scared when everybody was around. It made the scares more scary and the dread overwhelming.
Had I gone alone, without the ability to share the experience, I’d be just a dude wandering through a haunted house. Getting scared, but ultimately not really enjoying my time. It’s been about a decade since I last went; a fact I didn’t realize until sitting down to write this article. I had almost forgotten that feeling of being scared together.
That is, until I picked up White Noise Online on a Steam sale last year. It was a few bucks and had online co-op, so I figured why not. I convinced a friend to buy it too.
If I were to do the typical video game review for WNO, it’d be something like “Graphics suck, movement speed is too slow, story is dumb, too confusing, not enough content.” Thankfully, that’s not what I care about. This game allowed me to experience that haunted house fear again, and that means more than any star or percent rating could.
WNO is a multiplayer Slenderman game. There was a whole crop of these that showed up a couple years ago. The basic gameplay is “it’s dark, you walk around collecting X, randomly something yells at you and kills you. End.” WNO is no different. Taken as a single player experience, you are dropped in the middle of a level with only a flashlight. It’s dark and you can’t see shit except the very little cone from your light. You start to wander and eventually hear static, which means a tape recorder is nearby. Make too much noise or run too much or, honestly I don’t know what prompts it, but then a monster thing will get you. Rinse and repeat seven more times and you’ve beaten a level.
Spooky monster is spooky
But bring in another person (the game supports up to four players) and the entire experience changes, just like the haunted house. While the game isn’t an explicitly competitive game, you will inevitably start trying get more tape recorders than your friends, which means more running, which means the creature will be attracted to you faster. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to hurry and find an object in the dark then all of a sudden hear a growl and have to stop and turn off your light while the creature decides you’re not worth its time while your friend just wanders around, not a care in the world.
“Let’s split up, we’ll cover more ground that way.”
Each person has their own flashlight, and you can see the other players’ flashlight beams, but not what they reveal. If your friend turns off their light, then you effectively can’t see them. You can hear their footprints, but it’s incredibly easy to get lost and split up. Very few games have given me the same sense of dread as when my I had to turn off my flashlight and my friend didn’t hear me say stop. He wandered off ahead, then heard the monster, so had to turn his light off. I couldn’t see him but I kept wandering around trying to find him. I was lost, alone, and being hunted. Then the monster’s growl got louder. Frantic, I turned off my light, but I kept trying to find my friend. I ignored the increasing closeness of the growls until it was too late. The monster’s spooky face filled my screen, yelled at me, and I jumped back from my computer, angry for a few seconds then laughing at how tense the game had made me.
- Released: May 22, 2014
- System: PC, XBLIG
- Developer/Publisher: Milkstone Studios