External Links

Online version with sound (Release 3)
This link will let you hear the music while you play in the browser.
Play this game in your Web browser.
Release 3 *
Contains Release/Beat Witch.gblorb
Fixes some minor bugs, such as exits not being apparent on the 32nd floor, and the bonus material not being mentioned at the start of the game.
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Release 1 *
Contains Beat Witch/Release/Beat Witch.gblorb
As it stood at the start of the 2023 IF Competition.
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Listen to the music featured in Beat Witch.
Two Gimmicks and a Joke: The Beat Witch Postmortem
Source code
Source code and assets
* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.

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Beat Witch

by Robert Patten profile


Web Site

(based on 12 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

An interactive loneliness ...

The beat witch killed thousands with a thought. Now you venture into a city of death to face her. Flee your pursuers. Save a world that fears you. Stay away from music.

Content warning: This story contains dead bodies and some violence.

Beat Witch features music, though it is not required for play. The soundtrack is available in the external links.

Game Details


37th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Woah., November 6, 2023
by Max Fog
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

A crazy story with some extremely vivid moments (the bridge of bodies, falling, and the immediate aftermath with LIVE. I loved that.) and a strong sense of madness to it. Unfortunately I didn’t understand the whole bit from the eating of the headphones to the bridge (who was that other person? What was actually happening?) but overall pretty good.
An extra bonus point for the US Government speech. That was really, really good and I think people need to read it. It gives off a strong vibe with lots of meaning: people who have been born with no voice in the world (no say in what they can do), and are not even treated like people because others know they have the power to fight back.

Song: Paranoid Android. Personally my favourite song. Some of the lyrics relate really well.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Effects pedal to the metal, November 29, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

Beat Witch is something I haven’t seen before: a parser game imagined as a series of high-octane action set pieces. It makes for a propulsive, pacey experience that’s easy to imagine seeing as a blockbuster movie, with sudden reversals, twists, and explosive climaxes coming one after the other. This approach isn’t without its downsides – the traditional parser pleasures of exploring an environment at one’s leisure and carefully thinking through the solutions to a smorgasbord of puzzles are completely absent, as the game pushes you from one adrenaline-fueled sequence to the next – but it makes for a unique change of pace.

Unsurprisingly given the game’s design ethos, Beat Witch starts in medias res, as you jostle your way into a safehouse alongside a bunch of hazmat-suit clad rescue workers dealing with a deadly plague. And just as you start to sort out what’s going on, you’re in for further rug-pulls; as it turns out, you’re not actually part of the team, and there isn’t actually a plague. The ABOUT menu fills you in on the situation through a neat bit of worldbuilding – it offers you the table of contents of a book about the eponymous “beat witches”, dangerous women who have the supernatural ability to siphon off and invest life energy, as well as a fatal vulnerability to music. Just giving the title of each chapter establishes the setting with admirable concision; I was way engaged contemplating “The Choral Uprising and why it failed” or “The phonograph, the radio, and the Great Extermination” than I would have been by a traditional lore-dump.

It doesn’t take long to realize that you’re one of the eponymous witches – but you’re a good witch, not a bad witch, with an angsty backstory from having accidentally hurt members of your family and striving for redemption by taking out the especially evil beat witch who’s made the city her hunting grounds. Of course, once the rest of the hazmat team realizes what you are, they aren’t going to take any chances or ask any questions before trying to kill you – in only a few turns, you’re faced with deadly danger, and once you solve that puzzle, there’s only a fleeting moment to catch your breath before you make it to the bad witch’s skyscraper lair and find the next desperate situation from which you need to extricate yourself.

The game never really stops, shunting you from one well-implemented sequence to the next – sometimes literally, as if you dawdle too long other characters might force you to move on. In pretty much all of Beat Witch’s scenes, you’re at the brink of death and struggling just to survive; there’s little extraneous scenery to explore, and in a convenient bit of worldbuilding, beat witches like you are mute, so there’s no real conversation system to slow things down. And while you’re powerful, your abilities are relatively straightforward, so you only have a few options in any given situation. As a result, things move quick; the puzzles aren’t especially hard, but it feels good to solve them because they have such high stakes.

Beat Witch does run on action-movie logic; if it explains how you knew about the bad witch you’re trying to stop, I didn’t notice that being established. You zip up, down, and around the skyscraper without being especially bound by the laws of physics (there’s an internal monologue and flashback as you fall from the roof that goes so long it almost becomes funny). And your nemesis is a classic motormouthed villain, cartoonishly evil and incapable of shutting up: when, late in the game, she taunted me by saying “think how much you goofed while I squeeze you like a juicy fart”, I imagined the protagonist was as tired of her BS as I was.

But these are all in keeping with the genre the game is trying to emulate, and may be the price to be paid for some really compelling moments like – I’m going to spoiler-block this one so as not to ruin the surprise – (Spoiler - click to show) sky-bridge of semi-animated bodies connecting the roofs of neighboring skyscrapers, or the LIVE command overwriting the after-death menu and heralding your resurrection. The game does have some unforced missteps, though: having an antagonist named “Dr Steve” is a little too goofy for the mood, and while I understand the intended thematic resonance of the final encounter, I think it comes off a bit anticlimactic. But these are easy to look past.

Reading between the lines of this review, it’s probably not a surprise for me to reveal that I admired Beat Witch more than I enjoyed it. I am an increasingly-old fuddy-duddy who likes to potter around when I play a parser game, and I tend to prioritize things like literary prose, thematic depth, and well-realized characters – none of which Beat Witch has much interest in. But I’m pretty sure that for some folks out there, this will be their favorite game of the Comp, and I can completely understand why; it delivers an experience most parser games don’t even attempt, and does so with elan.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beat Witch review, December 21, 2023
by EJ

Beat Witch is a parser game that takes place in a world where some girls, at puberty, suddenly turn into Beat Witches, a sort of energy vampire for whom music takes the place of garlic or holy water. The PC is one of these witches—the well-meaning “reluctant monster” type, who tries not to kill when she feeds—and her goal in the game is to take down another witch, one who has no such compunctions.

The game is fairly linear, not just in the sense that it lacks plot branching, but in the sense that it doesn’t often let you wander and poke around. There’s generally one specific command the game wants you to type at any given time and it won’t recognize much else, other than examining things. And even going that far off-script can be risky; sometimes if you don’t do the thing the game wants you to do immediately, you die.

When you type the right thing, the next bit of the story will be delivered to you in a large multi-paragraph chunk of text. Even on my gaming laptop, which has a large screen by laptop standards, this was almost always more than one screen’s worth of text, and sometimes more than two screens, so I was constantly scrolling back, trying to find where the new text started. This was a bit of a hassle, and to be honest, if I’d been playing on a smaller screen I don’t know if I would have had the patience to make it to the end.

I have to admit that as the game went on, I wondered more and more why the author had chosen to make it a parser game. It isn’t really taking advantage of the strengths of the medium (the sense of space, the object manipulation) or doing anything that hypertext couldn’t do, and I think I would have had a much smoother reading experience had it been a choice-based/hypertext game. The constant back-scrolling was frustrating and undermined the sense of propulsive forward motion that Beat Witch seems to be going for. Besides, if I’m going to be discouraged from interacting with the environment, I’d prefer to just get rid of the illusion that I can do so. It’s distracting to be constantly wondering if maybe this time there might be something interesting off the beaten path. I’d rather be put on some visible rails and know for a fact I can’t deviate from them. (Plus, the game’s recurring problems with unlisted exits couldn’t have existed in a choice-based game, but that at least is relatively easily fixed.)

In a work without much gameplay, the writing has to do most of the heavy lifting; Beat Witch has mixed success on this front. It has an atmospheric depiction of a mostly-abandoned city and some effectively gross horror imagery, and the loosely-sketched worldbuilding was intriguing. The emotional beats, however, didn’t quite land for me; you get too much of the PC’s backstory and motivation in a single infodump, and it feels a little inorganic. I would have loved to get that information parceled out over the first half of the game via the PC’s own memory so that her brother’s recording didn’t have to cover so much ground. I also feel it would have worked better for me if I had actually seen some of her idyllic childhood before everything went wrong. I think that would have made finding out what happened to her more immediately, viscerally painful, which then would have made the ending more satisfying.

There’s some interesting stuff in Beat Witch, but in the end it felt to me like a story that was constantly fighting against its format, and between that and the uneven handling of the main emotional arc, I was never as fully immersed as I wanted to be.

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Beat Witch on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Beat Witch appears in the following Recommended Lists:

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The following polls include votes for Beat Witch:

Outstanding Horror Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best horror game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Suggested...

Outstanding Surreal Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Surreal game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Suggested...

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