The game I am reviewing today is for the PC and you can download it for free right now:
Plot: 13 year old Viola wanders into a haunted house and gets caught up in a deadly battle of wits with a sadistic, dying woman.
There is something very comfortable about playing a retro, indie game. The stripped back nature of this genre of game puts the player at ease and lowers his expectations. We expect a simple few hours of fun, much like playing a mini-game, like Temple Run. Therefore, when playing a cleverly thought-out game, such as the Witch’s House, we are taken aback by how well put together such a game can actually be. On the other hand, comfortable is the wrong word. The Witch’s House is definitely not a comfortable game.
You start as Viola, a little girl lost in the woods. Moments into the game, you team up with a talking, black cat who acts as your only friend and save point. Trapped in the forest by supernatural forces, you have no choice but to seek refuge in a creepy-looking house. Instantly, we are on edge. Scary games always work best, when you are totally outmatched and that is definitely the case here. Viola’s only weapon is your wits and reflexes. She moves at one speed, until provoked. For someone like me, who isn’t really used to PC gaming, more often than not, you end up being too slow and caught out by whatever monstrosity the game throws at you.
And god, it will throw them at you, usually with very little warning. If you get something wrong (which could be literally anything), something will come and get you, as a punishment. Sometimes it doesn’t even tell you if you’ve got something wrong, allowing you to carry on clueless for a few beats, before suddenly launching in and getting you. And if you get the puzzle right, then the game sends you to the next phase without telling you what would have come after you. This can be frustrating at times, but it is a purposeful move on the game’s part. Despite dodging a bullet, there is still this eerie sense of vulnerability, which comes with walking through a room that would have had something waiting for you, if you hadn’t lured it away beforehand. This game will definitely cause a few goosebumps.
Be warned, logic isn’t this game’s strong point. It may revolve around working out a puzzle (usually to do with memory) to get to the next floor, but otherwise, do not expect much sense to come out of the game. In the first level, a dismembered teddy bear, bleeding everywhere, will chase you down, only to disappear moments later. It will not be brought up again. Once you’ve put yourself into the mind-frame to expect anything, you’ll be fine, but expect a few jolts of surprise at the start.
I wasn’t expecting to be too scared from this game. Sure, it relies on jumps and some eerie atmosphere, but at the end of the day, it is pretty poor graphics. It is a RPG and it feels like you are fairly safe. You would be wrong. The finale is quite simply, terrifying. It uses blind terror into tricking you into making the wrong move, or the right move too slowly, and then you’re dead. It is the kind of scare that will leave you stunned, as the end credits kick in. Apparently there is an alternative ending somewhere in the game that I wasn’t smart enough to figure out. It is worth reloading one of your final saves and retracing your steps to try and figure it out.
Flaws? Well, it’s over pretty quickly and you are kind of left wanting more. Hopefully, there will be a couple of sequels to follow. There is a sense more could have been done. The levels are littered with bonus reading material, but Fummy could have added something else. Secret dungeons? A couple of Easter eggs? The closest the game comes is a few added surprises if you end up retracing your steps to some of the earlier rooms. A few things would have been moved around to really send chills down your spine.
Final verdict: Simplistic and basic, but when it’s a free game that will keep you entertained for a few hours, it is hard to complain.