In response to a few recent games that appear to be lacking in the criteria. This is a short list and thoughts on some stand out game mechanics that developers seem to be ignoring and need to build upon.
The Witch’s House Review
The Witch’s House is a puzzle-horror game made in RPG maker, and one of the best i’ve played yet, being better then Ao Oni and almost comes close to being better then Ib.
The player takes the role of thirteen year old Viola, who gets lost in the forest on her way to visit her friend Ellen. With nowhere else to go, she has no choice but to go inside the house of a witch. Your sidekick in this adventure is a little black cat that talks, who serves as your savepoint, but is more intrested in joking with you then actually being helpfull.
The puzzle segments require making progress by solving puzzles in the various rooms which require the use of items in your inventory and interaction with objects, the horror aspect comes from enemy encounters after solving puzzles, and deathraps that are activated when solving puzzles wrong or interacting with objects in a certain way.
The game further suplements it’s paranormal atmosphere through scripted events such as bottles falling off shelves and breaking just as you pass under them, candles going out, the ghost of Ellen walking ahead of you, statues heads turning, furniture moving, and my personal favorite; objects in the room moving or appearing behind you as you go through the door, and when you go back in they’re gone or the room has changed.
The game’s puzzles aren’t that difficult, ranging from “Oh, I can figure this out just give me a second.” to “I’m going to have to trial and error this one.” once in a while. And if you must check the walkthrough it offers hints as well as answers so that you solve the puzzles without spoiling anything for yourself.
Forgive the witch pun, but the game is pretty wicked when it comes to catching you off guard, as the various enemy encounters and death traps do a great job of making you go “what…the f-” before killing you and every so often you’ll have a good “HOLY CRAP!” moment that you’ll remember for a while.
That said, the game is too short, taking about only an hour and a half to complete, and as creepy and intresting as it is, it doesn’t quite have the unsettleing ambiance that Ib has, nor does it have the constant feeling of “it can come out and get me at any moment” that Ao Oni does.
My real promblem with the game however comes from the “True Ending”:
Viola’s body was posesed by the witch the whole time, and Violas soul was trapped in Ellen’s body which the witch was using before Viola offered to switch because she felt sorry for her. I kinda of like this twist, but I’m a little dissatisfied that it is the only other one, and that you can get it simply by grabbing an item out of a wardrobe before leaving the house. Perhaps if there were more then two endings, and/or that you could only get this one a second playthrough it would make the revealation more impactfull.
This game, however, doesn’t need all that to be as fun of a playthrough as it was, and i’m looking forward to doing a no save playthrough soon to see how far I can get.
If you love RPG maker games you’ll definitly love The Witch’s House, if you don’t care for RPG maker gamers or puzzle-horror games in general, this just might be the game to change your mind. It’s a definite grade A and I highly recomand it for gamers of all kinds.
Download the game free here: http://vgboy.dabomstew.com/other/witchhouse.htm
or watch my Let’s Play of it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtwxN60VRRY