The Witch’s House first saw light of day back in 2012 as a piece of freeware, before getting a full remaster via RPG Maker MV in 2018 – hence the MV addition to the title. Having now launched on console though, can The Witch’s House MV capture the old school Japanese horror vibe it’s going for and scare the heck out of potential gamers? Or is it rather dated, with the scariest thing about it being a host of difficult puzzles lurking within?
To be fair to The Witch’s House MV, it does a pretty good job on most fronts; albeit with a few caveats surrounding the puzzles and the overall fear factor.
The Witch’s House MV begins with a young girl, Viola, awakening from a slumber in the middle of a flourishing forest. Almost every route out of said forest is blocked however, leaving her just the sole option to head inside a rather mysterious house. Upon entering, it soon becomes obvious that this is no ordinary place and it turns out she’s now trapped within it by the spirit of the former occupant. This poor girl must try to survive the lurking dangers, while also managing to find a way to escape.
There’s just enough intrigue in the spooky setting to initially draw you in, but getting a real grip on the narrative is only really possible if you’re willing to explore and interact. That’s the way to gather the morsels of lore littered throughout, which allows a slightly better understanding of the witch whose house it is. Aside from that though, there are also some fun encounters involving other spirits too; especially in one case where an offer to lend a hand is taken literally.
The core of the top-down gameplay consists of solving conundrums and surviving the many, many dangers within the multiple floors of the house. In order to make progress, doors need unlocking and passages may need unblocking, hence you must solve a variety of puzzles. I like how one minute you could be moving items around a room to create a mirrored layout and the next you’re figuring out a riddle involving paintings. Nothing is ever quite as straightforward as it seems either, with sheer craftiness ensuring certain solutions require thinking outside the box.
There are definitely a couple of situations in which the solution could have you scratching your head for a while, simply because a part of it isn’t presented clearly. But that’s nothing compared to the amount of bewildering deaths you’ll experience. Whether Viola gets crushed, mauled by a giant spider, poisoned, or maimed in one of the many other ways, death will find her.
Usually the hazard will trigger out of the blue, catching you off-guard and potentially causing momentary shock. It’s relatively enjoyable though to be honest, mainly due to the swift restarts on the easiest difficulty and the fact that you must try to learn from your mistakes to avoid it happening again. Whatever the punishment Viola faces, there’s always a reason. You may have touched something you shouldn’t have, or awakened a spirit that’s bound to chase you.
It’s these moments which are the main source of jumpscares, but even as a horror rookie, very few really do the job as intended. Beyond the first jumpy bit, the rest are then very much expected and anticipated. You will be on edge at least, which is compounded by a well-designed environment to roam around. Despite the limitations of the pixel art, there’s still a creepy essence to surroundings and the house is spookily decorated too.
The time spent escaping from the clutches of The Witch’s House MV is quite short unfortunately, with roughly a couple of hours enough to reach completion. There are a few different endings to achieve however, as well as an unlockable difficulty which introduces more lore, extra ways to die and different problems to overcome. Those factors combined provide a great incentive to play through it again, so there’s a decent amount of longevity on the whole.
Overall, The Witch’s House MV manages to convey a decent story through clever methods encouraging exploration, with a spooky setting to create a suitable vibe. It’s the puzzles that stand tall however, in terms of frequency and quality as you’ll feel each offering is different to the last. Even though the fear factor is underwhelming for a horror, the numerous deadly hazards ensure you’re kept on your toes for the most part too.
The Witch’s House MV will lure you in with the promise of horror, but the excellent puzzles are the reason you’ll stay.
The Witch’s House MV is available to buy on the Xbox Store