Blair Witch so desperately wants to be a psychological horror game, it completely neglects its few clever mechanics. But you can pet the dog.
The Blair Witch Project doesn’t have the best history with video games (look it up). I was cautiously optimistic that the new Blair Witch will break this curse. After all, Bloober Team seems like the perfect studio to tackle the source material. But sadly, that’s not the case.
We are doomed to walk in circles in a dark forest, occasionally triggering a not-so-spooky hallucination, and shooing off scarecrows with our flashlight.
The Same Old Witch
Before we start, full disclosure: I don’t like The Blair Witch Project. When I first watched it in 1999, I thought it was boring and not scary at all. The only bit I do like is the very final shot, where we see Mike standing in the corner before the camera drops to the ground (spoilers, I guess).
Bear that in mind when I tell you I found the Blair Witch game equally as boring, but without that redeeming final shot. Not only because it rehashes a lot of the same themes and visual queues from the movies, but mostly because it’s a psychological horror game that more focused on the psychological part than actually being scary.
You play as Ellis, an ex-cop and veteran with a checkered past, who’s out in the Black Hills Forest searching for a missing kid. But finding this kid is only an excuse for Ellis to go deeper into the woods, even when things get weird.
Ellis suffers from PTSD, and we start learning what happened to him through a series of visions and hallucinations. At first, they manifest in some cool ways, like burning buildings popping in between the trees, or even gunfire from an unknown enemy. But as the game progresses, they lose their impact and become stale and less impressive.
When you’re not having visions, most of what you do is walk around in circles, collecting literal garbage. While getting lost in the woods is part of the “Blair Witch thing,” it isn’t fun; quite the opposite.
Who’s a Good Boy?
Luckily, we’re not alone in the Black Hills Forest – we have an adorable, fluffy companion. Bullet, Ellis’ Belgian Shepherd and therapy dog, is always with you, ready to lead you down the correct path or help you find a clue.
While Bullet is a very good boy, he’s also kind of pointless. Sure, his presence is reassuring, and he can help nudge you in the right direction if you get too lost, but he is very underutilized as a gameplay mechanic.
He’s still my favorite part of the game, though, so I guess I don’t really have anything to moan about. I do wish he would have had a more significant part to play and evolve into something beyond a cute gimmick.
The one place where Bullet shines is combat. Well, I say combat, but it’s more like playing hide-and-seek with a bunch of scarecrows in the middle of the forest. All you do is burn them with your flashlight until they run away.
Combat isn’t random and only happens in pre-determined moments. You’ll know there are monsters around when Bullet starts to growl, and you hear movement in the trees around you. These moments are somewhat intense, but not very challenging if you keep your eye on Bullet, who always points you in the direction of an enemy.
The monsters themselves are not very imaginative in design, but they do fit in with the iconic visuals of The Blair Witch Project. They are living wooden figure who rush from tree to tree and can disorient you to the point of panic. But since each encounter with them is the same, they become more a nuisance that prevents you from getting on with the game, then a real threat.
Found Footage, Missing Puzzles
Popularizing the found footage genre is what The Blair Witch Project is most known for, so naturally, our protagonist walks around with a camcorder. Not to record his journey, but to watch home videos and solve puzzles.
You find these tapes in specific locations, and viewing them on your camera can alter the world around you. Is the door in front of you locked? Watch the tape you just found and pause when someone opens the door – it will open in real-life as well.
The fact you only get to do a handful of these puzzles is the game’s ultimate sin. This mechanic has so much potential, and it’s wasted on unlocking doors and starting one fire. I really wish Bloober Team would’ve committed to the found footage concept and ran with it. It would have been way more interesting than what we ended up with.
Blair Witch feels rushed and cobbled together from leftovers the devs had laying around in the office. Some moments are almost straight out of the movie, while others could be found in a dozen other mediocre horror titles. The game simply has no identity of its own and doesn’t enrich the source material in any way.
There are some nice ideas here and there, but they are often ignored to make room for another vision to justify the “psychological horror” label. This game is yet another proof The Blair Witch Project should stay buried deep in the woods, where no one can disturb it ever again.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.