The Witch’s House

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Genre: Puzzle/Horror
Developer: Fummy
Release Date: October 3, 2012
Let’s Player: Cryaotic
Recommended By: Lost to the Aether

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.

This screen will become all too familiar.

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!

18 thoughts on “The Witch’s House

  1. There were quite a few people who ended up making horror games in RPG Maker; I think it’s interesting how they saw potential in that particular engine for the genre. Anyway, I remember hearing about this game when Aether wrote a post about it a while back. As I said back then, this medium has a huge advantage over others when it comes to horror because when the player is an active participant in the proceedings, the freaky stuff has a much higher chance of resonating. Similarly, plot twists in general also have the potential to leave a much deeper impact when you’re actively trying to get to the bottom of things, and from what I’ve heard, this game in particular has one bombshell of a revelation nearing the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bombshell is the operative word. I was blown away by it. That is really interesting. I’m hoping these games come out soon, because I’ll watch them…from behind my hands at the scary parts. What I really liked about this game was how it took your learned “investigate everything!” behavior with RPGs and completely turned it against you. You have to override years of doing that with this otherwise you’ll end up dead (again).

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s really awesome when a game successfully does that – it challenges common gaming conventions by turning them on their head. That’s one of the many things I really admired about both Undertale and Planescape: Torment. I myself ended up playing through an adventure game made in RPG Maker known as OneShot, and it too has no shortage of revelations that will blindside you. It’s truly amazing what one can accomplish with a minimalistic approach.

        Liked by 1 person

          • I think that’s a good point, people underestimate minimalism. I think that’s really one of the strongest points of this game, how minimal it was throughout. The plot’s the best example, you only get little tastes of it every once in a while, mostly when you’re talking to your save point or when you find a journal, but I think that’s really what makes the bomb it drops at the end so effective. If it had more moving parts, it’d just get lost. It has a very concise plot, but the bits it does show you are chosen so well.

            Same way with a lot of the scares, too. My most threatening moment of the game, where you find yourself in that dark room without a light, I found out later there’s actually no danger to your player character there, but just not being able to see what was making all those noises around you felt far more dangerous than the times where you had something chasing after you.

            And the game’s all compartmentalized, too. You’re moving through a lot of small bits, you don’t take much in between them, it’s only at the end that you have to start worrying about things persisting for more than a couple rooms. But it’s effective. Those small bits do build into a greater whole.

            Anyways, I’m really happy to have introduced you to something you enjoyed so much.

            Liked by 1 person

            • That dark room was absolutely terrifying, and finding out that there was no actual threat is sheer genius. I’m absolutely terrified of “chase” scares. I just hate them so much. Whenever anyone would chase me as a kid, I’d just cover my face lol. There are a few parts in Mario Odyssey where you’re being chased, and they’re my least favorite parts because of that fear.

              The very end when you’re being chased by the “witch” is just harrowing. I really appreciate you talking about this game! I’m glad I was able to experience it 🙂


  2. Even with 16 bit graphics games can be creepy. I learned this when playing Corpse Party. Having the save point follow you around is a neat feature. I hate games were you have to backtrack to a save point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There are quite a few horror titles that go to great lengths to provide scares with retro graphics. It’s fantastic. I’ve never heard of this one, though, so I’ll have to give Cry’s LP a go at some point. I’m starting to run out of stuff to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s quite a feat to get all the scares across in that graphics style. I’m likely never going to watch or play this, ever *shudders* 🙂 Great review though!

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. OH MY GOSH!!! I SO love this game it is one of the masters of RPG gaming, beautiful!! This game is what has inspired me to create my own RPG, also a good thing to check out is “Blank Dream” just as good if not more in-depth. I am currently creating a class project based around this!

    Liked by 1 person

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