the writings of a mind

Title: Blair Witch Projects: Volume 1: Rustin Parr
Genre: Action Adventure
Big Word: Frightful
Strap: One day John Walker sat down at his computer to play the new Blair Witch game. This review is all that remains.

Youíve seen the film? Good. You havenít? Rent it, watch it, and then come back to this very point. While no endings or the like shall be given away here, thereís an inevitability of spoiling something of the movie beyond this paragraph. Weíll wait for youÖ

ÖGood, everybodyís ready now. So the thing that should be bothering you at this point is: How the hell can anyone make a game out of The Blair Witch Project? How can a film that shows nothing of what is happening be converted into an effective gaming experience? The answer is a convoluted, and perhaps not entirely satisfactory one.

You will note from the name that this is "Volume 1", and for once this is not the over ambitious titling of a slightly facetious marketing company. Instead, this is the first of three releases, from three different teams working under the collective name The Gathering of Developers, developed on the Nocturne engine.

So here is Volume 1 to start answering our question: After hurriedly being told that it is 1941, you are put in control of Spookhouse agent Doc Holliday for the training mission. You are given a briefing by your boss, have a chat with The Stranger, and are then required to learn the ropes of manoeuvring, weapons, and monster destructionÖ

Wo-ah there! Hold your pack of unruly disobedient horses. 1941? Spookhouse? The Stranger? Weapons? MONSTERS??? What on this shiny-surfaced earth are you on about? So far this has had nothing to do with the Blair Witch, and a lot to do with, er, Nocturne. Confused? Join the rest of us.

The link is that you are investigating the murders of the seven children that the eponymous Parr picked off in the back history of the film, at the time they happened. Through the third person view that Nocturne provided, you investigate the goings on in Burkittsville, Maryland through a mixture of point-and-click adventure, and third person action. But this is where the connections end, and the brittle tenuousness begins. Because unlike in most movie tie-ins, the problem here is not finding a game to match the film, but a way to crowbar the film into the game. What remains is not really any more than a Blair Witch mod for Nocturne. And that wasnít a very good game in the first place.

The big problem is the Jekyll and Hyde-like nature of the two gaming styles, and the levels of inadequacy of both. As a point-n-click adventure it commits almost every offence available, the most heinous of which is the microscopic amount of in-game objects that can be interacted with. There are doors you canít rattle, drawers you canít open, objects you canít pick up. Barely anything is available to be "looked" at, and those which can be are inevitably vital for the game. Then thereís the conversations: 1700 lines of dialogue have been scripted, and about 1700 of them are excruciatingly badly performed, the worst of which belongs to your own character. Puzzles are of the sub-Gabriel Knight variety, never really challenging and mostly dull.

Then *switch*, itís an action game. No more may you explore, but now only shoot. Shoot monster after monster after monster. And all under the same torturous conditions set by its engineís original. The constant changes of camera keep either you or your enemy off the screen for most of the time, and as soon as you are cornered youíre gonna die. Avoiding being cornered is a tad hard when you canít see the corner you are cornered in.

And all of this criticism is not to mention the fact that THERE ARE NO MONSTERS IN THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT! Please, tell me Iím not going mad. The film was about a witch. *A* witch. When interviewed at the beginning, the local townsfolk did not tell tales of demons and werewolves and vampires stalking the streets. Youíd think such beasts might have caused a bit more of an impact on the myths of the area than one bloke chopping up some kids. Psycho murderer on one hand, creatures of the dead living amongst us on the other. I think I can guess which would have lasted longer in the townís memoryÖ

Thank all that is brightly coloured that there is a but: Itís damned scary. No matter how much this game may give new meaning to the phrase /apropos of nothing/, skulking around the dimly lit streets of Burkittsville at night time, your way lit only by your torch and occasional flashes of lightning, the long sentence of the wind howling in the background punctuated by enormous exclamation marks of thunder, never knowing what is going to happen next, is very, very unsettling.

So it all depends upon whether that is enough. And it isnít. Volume 1 fails at all the tasks it set itself. It was meant to be playable to the non-gamer, but itís far too hard for that. It was meant to be for the fans of the film, but itís got near-bugger-all to do with it. It was meant to tell a story, but itís very hard to care. Although there are some genuinely nerve-wracking moments, and although it looks very stylish thanks to the engine it rides upon, there is really nothing here that you canít get from Nocturne, and certainly nothing added by the license. Lost in the woods it should be.

Margin Note:
Those References In Full

You should be pleased to note that this review contained none of the following references for easy jokes: Bundles of sticks containing body parts, bobble hats, twig stick-men, snotty noses, video cameras, missing maps, small piles of stones, and the opening spiel of the fiÖ oh bugger.

 Looks like Nocturne, smells like Nocturne, but with little wicker men. Unstartling and disappointing.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Take 2 Interactive
Developer: Terminal Reality
Price: £20
Minimum System: PII 233, 64Mb RAM, 12Mb 3D card, 850Mb HD
Recommended: PIII 450, 128 Mb RAM, 32 Mb 3D card, 1.2 GB HD
Multi-player: None
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