When I was a kid I remember watching the Blair Witch movie and being terrified of the dark, so I figured it would be a good idea to sit in my apartment with the lights off and play a super spooky game that I thought would remind me of the terrors of the night.
Blair Witch is a psychological survival horror game created by Bloober Team and published by Lionsgate Games. The game is your run of the mill first-person walking simulator with some adding jump scares.
The game is set two years after the original film where the player, Ellis Lynch, a veteran and police officer, enters the Black Hill Forest in Burkittsville, Maryland, in attempts to locate a boy that had went missing, Peter Shannon. Ellis is accompanied by his dog, who has a VERY odd but fitting name (I guess) Bullet. Ellis and Bullet become lost in the enormous forest and proceed to search for Peter in the dark.
The forest is really fucking creepy. The atmosphere is top notch here. The UI is very limited so that the player gets to enjoy everything the pitch black forest has to offer. The forest is teeming with sounds of various animals and at times the deafening silence that incorporates nothing but Ellis’ labored breathing and Bullet’s growls and barks kept me on edge. The areas that you stumble upon while traveling throughout the forest are equally as creepy. The sawmill that has a single light on, a makeshift tent with blood scattered around it allows the imagination soar.
It is really dark in the Black Hills Forest and your garbage flashlight only has a range of three or four feet which is frightening and actually pretty stupid. I know its to make the game more spooky but, like, I really want to see where the fuck I’m going and the game wont let me until I smack right into something.
The flash light is the only “weapon” the player receives in the game and it feels good. It feels good actually be helpless and lost with nothing to protect yourself, adds more to the feeling of survival. There are horrors lurking in the dark depths of the forest and when they are near, shine a flashlight and they scurry away. This happens only a few times but when it did, goosebumps, people.
The camcorder is another item that Ellis acquires early on and its use become clear immediately, to rewind time. Rewinding to a specific time will help with obstacles. For instance, need a tree to stand up again? well, rewind the appropriate tape that shows the tree falling, stop the tape before it falls and voila! the tree is standing. It is quite a cute mechanic that I guess it fits with the game.
Blair Witch really gets the player into the groove of just walking. I did a lot of walking in this game. Come to think of it I really did not do much but walk. except for the camcorder, the game really emphasizes Bullet to do everything else. Need help finding Peter’s trail? Bullet. Need help over coming an obstacle? The obstacle most of the time can be solved by telling Bullet to seek. Ellis does do a lot within the game but he does a lot more walking than anything else.
The characters are believable…to a point. Ellis is a veteran with a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Blair Witch makes the plot revolve around over-coming ones own demons. There are sections that flesh out the cause of Ellis’ PTSD and it interesting to watch as Ellis evolves as the game continues. Bullet is always next to Ellis because if he is not attached at the Ellis’ hip then the player can in fact succumb to the PTSD. This enables the story progression which I believe is smart and it works well at times. There is a point where the player gets a full effect of Ellis’ PTSD to where Ellis begins to cry out for his best friend and takes a moment to hug Bullet and come out of his trance. It was a heart-felt moment that really hit the heart but it immediately dissipated as Ellis stood up and called his ex-wife to crack jokes even though minutes before he was on his knees crying. It just felt like the PTSD was a trope and nothing more than to push the plot forward, which does not sit well.
The things that go bump in the night are the highlights of Blair Witch. The pitch black forest and all the haunting shit that are mixed in are just plain spooky. The antagonist is visceral and provides good entertainment as he consistently annoys Ellis with his words. I had fun with the first play through up until I noticed it was just a really dark walking simulator. The last chapter really succumbs to monotony when the player literally walks the same path in a house for almost 25 minutes. The characters banter is fun but it is not very convincing. The game looks good when you stand still but I had screen tearing the entire way through.
To end October with a game like Blair Witch felt good. It takes a lot from the 1996 film and it ends up being its own entity. I was not really “scared” per se but the game was keeping me on the edge of my seat for my first 7 hour play through.
I didn’t poop myself not one time.
Except when my cat walked into the room and screamed at me for food while I was focusing on looking up to find something in the trees.
Happy Halloween I guess.