Aren’t you all in for a treat – another game review! I got the Bloober Team package deal on Steam (which means there’s still Layers of Fear 1 and 2 left) and already played their other game, >observer_. Based in Kraków , the Bloober Team is a Polish video game developer company, which was founded in November 2008 by Peter Babieno and Peter Bielatowicz. The Blair Witch game is their latest release, so let’s take a look.
And don’t worry, as this was released this year, I won’t be posting any spoilers so read on!
Blair Witch, much like >observer_, is a psychological survival horror. As mentioned above, it was developed by the Bloober Team and was published by Lionsgate Games for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One on August 30th, 2019.
As you may have guessed, the game is based on Lionsgate’s Blair Witch franchise. If you don’t know what that means, you can just watch this:
It’s 1996. A young boy disappears in the Black Hills Forest near Burkittsville, Maryland. As Ellis, a former police officer with a troubled past, you join the search. What starts as an ordinary investigation soon turns into an endless nightmare as you confront your fears and the Blair Witch, a mysterious force that haunts the woods… – from the Blair Witch website
The game is set two years after the original movie. You play as a former cop and veteran, named Ellis, who also has PTSD. You have just travelled to the Black Hills Forest (where the events of the movie took place) to join the search party looking for a missing boy. The best part of the game is your best friend, Bullet, who happens to be a dog. Bullet is the best boy. He helps you prevent sanity loss, he finds things for you, he helps you get back on the path if you get lost, he alerts you to danger, and he’s all around a good boy.
Needless to say, things don’t go as planned for poor Ellis. It wouldn’t be a horror survival game if it did, would it? The game expands upon the movie lore, explaining more about the Witch and the things she does. I won’t say anything more than that, because spoilers. I want you to have the experience of learning about it yourself when you play.
So, Ellis starts off into the woods, armed with a cell phone (you can play Snake!), a walkie-talkie, a flashlight, a backpack, dog treats, and Bullet, of course. You do eventually find a video camera and tapes that you can play, which leads into an interesting game feature – red-topped tapes allow you to affect time and space by rewinding/pausing them in the right spots. You also get five commands for Bullet, such as “heel”, “seek”, and “praise” – “praise” obviously being the best one because you get to pet him. Just saying.
All in all, it took me maybe six or seven hours to complete.
Inspired by the cinematic lore of Blair Witch, experience a new story-driven psychological horror game that studies your reactions to fear and stress. – from the Blair Witch website
As per usual, the Bloober Team spun a really good story. Another strong aspect of the game was the beautiful environment you find yourself in. They didn’t pull any punches when it came to designing the forest. Of course, the forest was beautiful in the daylight, but really creepy when night fell. Their soundscape was on point. At times, it sounded like something was out there breaking sticks/stepping on leaves, and my whole body was tense waiting for something to pounce out at me. If you watched the original movie, you’ll recognize some of the sounds, which added an extra layer to everything. Beyond that you also find those stick idols and see some extra creepy things in those woods. Needless to say, I liked the ways they incorporated and expanded upon the Blair Witch lore.
I loved their attention to the time setting as well. Your phone looks like an old Nokia, it can play Snake, you can choose to call whoever you want in your phonebook – I ended up annoying the pizza guy… The video camera speaks to the found-footage style of the original movie and you’ll even find polaroids of the Witch’s victims throughout the forest.
On the other hand, I think the biggest short-coming is the shortness. $30 can seem a bit steep for only seven hours, but the game does have multiple endings, meaning you can play it a few more times and get a new experience out of it. I’m just not the type of player to go back and do that.
Another gameplay aspect that pulled me out of immersement was when Ellis got caught in “loops”. For example, you fall into a small crevasse and walk and walk and walk and walk. As you do, words slowly, very slowly, take form on the walls. I could see the effect the Bloober Team was trying to achieve, but it just dragged on too long. It lost any effect on me. I wasn’t nervous or afraid or anxious. I was just waiting until it was over so I could get on with the story. This happens quite a few times in the process of the game and every time it was done to death, pulling me straight out of sense of unease into a sense of annoyance while I plodded through the levels, waiting to get to the next section of the story.
I hate to have only give this game a 6 since I was so looking forward to it, but I honestly liked >observer_ more. The story-line, graphics, attention to detail, and Bullet were amazing aspects of the game – but the looping sections and shortness really hurt the experience for me. In short, the looping parts seemed like a cheap way to extend the amount of play time.
Still, I think it is worth supporting the Bloober Team. They seem like a company to keep an eye on, I know I will be – and look out for my reviews of Layers of Fear 1 and 2, coming soon!
x P.L. McMillan