'Blair Witch' Game Review
You've volunteered to search for a missing boy in Black Hills Forest. What could possibly go wrong?
I'd never watch this movie again.
The independent film The Blair Witch Project was released on August 1999 on a limited budget that would reflect in its overall production. Despite its use of improvised resources, The Blair Witch Project ended up grossing approximately 248.6 million dollars at the box office and went on to become one of the most important horror movies of the time. As a teenager who was more into Animaniacs and Lizzie McGuire than I was a fan of movies, this isn't the type of scary movie I'd recommend to break you into the genre.
The only thing I accomplished by trying to act tough was traumatizing myself for a few years—not to mention I spent a better part believing the premise of the movie was real. The Blair Witch Project was a disturbing film about three friends and filmmakers who venture into the Black Hills Forest in Burkittsville, Maryland to gather evidence about a supposed witch, responsible for the disappearance of children in the past. After events take a turn for the worst, recovered video footage reveals grim details about an evil paranormal force in the forest, a year after the three students have also mysteriously vanished.
Although the element of found footage had been used in movie productions before, it gained most mainstream notoriety in the horror genre during The Blair Witch Project, and now 20 years after its theatrical release, a new psychological horror game promises to deliver a chilling experience. Earlier this year, the launch trailer for Blair Witch was revealed at the Xbox E3 2019 to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary. From game developers Bloober Team, who were also the brains behind Layers of Fear back in 2016, comes Blair Witch, which was officially released on August 30th for the Xbox One console as well as for PC.
When I first watched the trailer for Blair Witch, I didn't necessarily think the game was going to be as scary as it was being depicted to be. While the trailer visually hints at impending claustrophobia, it also reveals impressive features like the use of videotapes to rewind or fast forward time to make progress within the game. Like in various horror games where your character's sanity levels are determined by external factors, Black Hills Forest would be impossible to navigate without your canine partner, Bullet. If you ever wanted or imagined yourself exploring Black Hills Forest, trust your dog to lead you in the right direction.
More than your dog, it's fair to say that Bullet is the equivalent of a map. Because Blair Witch was not designed to be a combat game, the way you treat Bullet throughout the story will determine his own reactions to you towards the end of the game. The commands available to guide Bullet around are pretty straightforward, though I personally don't agree with the button to scold him. He's such a good boy—unlike Ellis, the main character, who is more on the run from his past than he is from the Blair Witch. On a psychological level, Bullet's presence becomes an emotional roller coaster for the actual player. By the middle of the game, I was less concerned about Ellis' fate and more inclined to protect the dog, though, at one point, the game becomes so muddled that it's hard to determine what's real and what's not.
By that point, I'd completely lost interest in the game. Generally, the use of flashbacks applies relevance to stories—it progresses the plot, and it gives characters credible backgrounds. In Blair Witch, however, Ellis's fragmented memories eventually become the center of the story, and the focus then drifts from the paranormal threat around him. Early on, we learn that Ellis joined Peter's search party out of guilt. The Blair Witch is clearly manipulating Ellis' mind, but the entity that we know is then depicted as a cliched symbolic force instead of a psychological power. Ironically, the closer we get to rescuing Peter, the less anticipation there is to even get there.
Blair Witch might not be the best game for seasoned players, but I'd recommend it if you're easily scared or if you don't mind wandering a haunted forest for hours at a time. If I didn't know the game was related to The Blair Witch Project, it would be a creepier version of Firewatch (2016). As for me, I'll take this game over the actual movies any day. If you do happen to play Blair Witch for yourself, be sure to give Bullet some treats. Ellis brought him into those woods—don't be like Ellis.