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The Witch’s House is an indie horror puzzler built using RPG Maker VX. This gives it the look and sprites of a 90s JRPG, which seems adorable until you’re killed by a teddy bear.
This is only the first of many jump scares that did their job with me, because I’m a wuss puss. You will die. You will die a lot while playing this game.
I decided to watch it after reading Lost in the Aether’s review (linked above), and I chose Cry as the LPer, because he’s not only hilarious, but his reactions are utterly organic, un-contrived, and exactly as I would react.
The titular house’s nature shifts and twists as the main character navigates through it with only the cryptic “Come to my room” message to guide her. Locked doors are opened not with keys, but with solving puzzles, and your “save point” follows you in the form of the black cat who warned at the beginning that “this place isn’t safe for humans.” However, since the path out of the forest is blocked by a gigantic rosebush that’s impervious to clippers, there’s no other direction to go.
While The Witch’s House looks like a JRPG, it is not a JRPG. Your instinct to explore and check everything is not rewarded by any means, unless you enjoy that bloody death screen plastered onto your retinas. Honestly, the biggest scares are what you either don’t or half see. A slight movement of a suit of armor, a brief shadow in the corner, blood drops and footprints appearing on a wall.
Despite having the mien and aesthetic of a second generation systems’ sprite based game, The Witch’s House still manages to create an utterly eerie environment where doom waits around any and every corner, manifesting in something as seemingly innocuous as a pool full of tadpoles. While it may seem like I’m giving away some of the scare moments, I’m really not. There are plenty, and besides that, the jump scares and creepy atmosphere are only the surface of ‘what’s wrong” with this game.
Everything culminates in the ending, which will haunt you long after you’ve moved onto something else. I’ve never seen any story (game of other wise) with this kind of plot twist, and it twists hard like a rusty knife. It makes you reexamine everything that’s happened from start to finish and could possibly prompt a replay to experience it with the knowledge garnered at the close. It’s not only horrifying, it’s heartbreaking, and there’s a major clue to what’s really going on right at the start of the puzzle.
While many might not be overly impressed with the simplistic, sprite graphics (though I still prefer the sprite aesthetic tbh and kind of wish FFVII had utilized them while keeping the FMVs), the ingenious and terrifying twist makes this a game worth your while to play or watch. I was able to do the latter in a day, since Cry’s Let’s Play is only five videos, and I can’t imagine playing it yourself would take much longer (though I suppose you’d have to factor in the number of deaths). I also believe this game is free, so you only have your time to spend on something that might not outwardly scare you as much as it did me, but will crawl beneath your skin and make you rethink your every move.
Have you played or seen The Witch’s House? What did you think of it? Was it holy shit haunting for you, too? Did you enjoy the JRPG/sprite aesthetic and how that was juxtaposed with its horror motif? Let’s discuss in the comments!