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Blair Witch Review – Evil Hides in the Woods

The Blair Witch seems to be back to haunt gamers, and it looks like the Nintendo Switch is no safe place from the grasps of this evil being. The original movie was a cinematic phenomenon, but how does this video game fair? Will this trip to the woods terrify us to no extent? Or will this new story in the Blair Witch universe leave fans confused as it did back in 1999? Well, let’s find out!

STORY

Blair Witch follows a man named Ellis, who is clearly from a troubled past and suffers tremendously from PTSD. We learn early on that his transition back home has not been an easy one, and he received a dog named Bullet to be both his “partner” in law enforcement and serve as his service dog of sorts.

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blair witch

Ellis is the centerpiece of the game, despite the fact that this is a story that is supposed to take place in the Blair Witch universe. This is a bold and interesting choice by creative, and I often wondered why they chose this direction instead of the simple horror-like “jump scare” approach. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments that serve to get a quick quick fright out of you, but the story is about Ellis and what is happening inside of his mind.

The game does a great job of developing connections, too. You are consistently contacting or being contacted by certain individuals that serve as important rolls in Ellis’ life. There are awkward moments that make your skin crawl, and then there are wholesome moments that show stability. But the story mostly exists in the middle where it messes with you, the player, as you frequently wonder if what is happening is real or not. This is Blair Witch‘s greatest strength, and it does so in a way that genuinely connects you with the main character.

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I was a bit confused by it all, though. Why tell this great story in the midst of this horror movie? It did feel like two completely different things were happening throughout the game, and the Blair Witch stuff always played second fiddle to Ellis’ struggles and relationships. That’s not to say that the two worlds did not connect, but I constantly found myself more interested in Ellis than I was in the titular situation.

Because of all of this, the story in Blair Witch is a strange one for me to assess. On the one hand, I was strongly zoned in on certain things, but on the other hand, I could not have cared less about the spooky stuff happening in the woods.

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GAMEPLAY

I have to be honest, this is where I least enjoyed Blair Witch, and because it is a video game, this is detrimental to the overall score.

You are tasked with finding a young boy who has gone missing in the woods, and Ellis is going to find the boy whether it kills him or not. But herein lies the problem, the woods is not a good place to serve as the main location of your game. 80% of my gameplay was wandering trying to figure out where to go, and even with the appropriate tools, often times I found myself going the wrong way or missing obscure clues.

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Bullet, the dog, serves as a guide of sorts throughout the game. You will regularly ask him to find some clues, stay by your side, or stay behind as you go somewhere deemed “too dangerous” for him. In theory, having Bullet around is a great idea and should serve as a worthy companion, but he seems as lost as Ellis half the time.

The gameplay is rather simple in theory, though, and “death” when it happens does not come off so punishing. You will roam through similar looking woods until you come across something that ignites Bullet, starts a cutscene, or looks abstract and needs to be interacted with. The puzzles, however, are not the simplest, and some of them require going large distances to collect necessary items in order to complete. Some of these puzzles were downright not fun, and I could not wait to finish them so I could move on.

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Combat, if that’s what you want to call it, is when crazy creatures are zipping around in the woods, and you need to stand behind Bullet to stay protected. The game does not do a good job explaining how to do this, so the trial-and-error approach is a bit annoying. But more than that, it is just a tedious event that happens throughout the game to simply exist, and it is not fun at all.

As you walk your way through the woods, you will also encounter Blair Witch twana, the humanoid stick figures, that will freak Bullet out, and destroying these twana will reward you will a disturbing photo with a name on it. These photos are also scattered all throughout the game and serve as a collectable, but collecting these does not change anything in the end game. They serve to give you something more to do.

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The best gameplay in Blair Witch is the choices you are forced to make, many of which will affect the game moving forward, particularly Ellis. Since you are in the woods, you are mostly talking to people on your cellphone or walkie talkie, and you are given the option to answer or not answer the calls. These decisions make major impacts on your relationships, and it is part of the reason why the story is so fascinating despite the frustrating gameplay.

Overall, this is a horror game that lacks the horror element. Although the setting, the antagonists, and the psychological problems caused by PTSD are scary in theory, Blair Witch simply failed to make a truly horror experience.

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AUDIO

The sound is average at best, mostly because it is seemingly generic scary sound effects and ambiance. I did experience some strange audio problems where snapping sticks in the woods would just constantly snap over and over and over again, although it triggered nothing. What was initially somewhat scary quickly became exceptionally annoying, and this happened on a few different occasions.

The voice acting throughout was top notch, and Ellis in particular is done so well. The struggle and the emotion in the voice are clearly present, and it helps so much to connect more with the character and what he is going through. Although the supporting cast is not as present as Ellis, they all served their roles really well and helped to further the story and character development quite well.

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VISUALS & PERFORMANCE

The cutscenes are usually pretty solid in the game, despite clearly being downgraded for the Switch version. However, models and textures, particularly trees and foliage, are poorly done and often cause problems finding things in the game because areas look so similar. Polygonal tree over here looks just like polygonal tree over there.

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blair witch
Bullet out of bounds, but he’s still handsome.

Bullet can be a mess as well. In my gameplay, he commonly would get stuck in corners or somehow run outside the borders of the map and could not return to me. Gameplay-wise, this was quite problematic, as Ellis’ PTSD escalates the longer he is away from Bullet.

Lag issues are also frequent, and it does not help that this is combined with textures popping in and out. It is hard to ignore the continual problems throughout Blair Witch, but they are present and they are not hiding at all.

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VALUE

At $29.99 USD, I honestly cannot recommend this game. Although the story and the characters are pretty great, there are just too many problems present throughout that cause for a less-than-mediocre experience. If you are looking for a pseudo-horror experience on the Switch, then I guess this will serve that purpose, but I would recommend waiting for the inevitable sale and taking advantage of a cheap price than what is currently being asked.


Blair Witch Review provided by SwitchWatch.co.uk
Review also available on OpenCritic
Publisher: Bloober Team
Release Date: June 25, 2020
Price: $29.99, £26.99, €29.99
Game Size: 5.8 GB

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  • Story - 8/10
    8/10
  • Gameplay - 4/10
    4/10
  • Audio - 7/10
    7/10
  • Visuals & Performance - 5/10
    5/10
  • Value - 5/10
    5/10

Summary

Blair Witch is a great story with a strong and interesting main character, but the experience is marred by less-than-mediocre gameplay, frustrating puzzles that just are not fun, and graphical problems that make the game look so ugly at times. It is sad that the strong points are brought down heavily by the weak points, and that is unfortunately the demise of the game. So much potential, and yet so poorly executed.

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Overall
5.8/10
5.8/10

Pros

  • Strong story about the struggles of PTSD
  • Great main character

Cons

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  • Lackluster and often aimless gameplay
  • Lots of graphical issues
  • Lots of performance issues
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