The Witch

by Charles Moore profile


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Underrated puzzle game, November 30, 2023
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

I ended up liking The Witch quite a bit more than I started out liking it. It does a lot of stuff early on to make you bounce off of it, from having a map full of empty locations (most of them, unfortunately, in the beginning) to failing to implement prominent nouns.

What also made me consider quitting was the first puzzle I solved. (Spoiler - click to show)I get the sign, went to the beaver, brought it to the tree, get ten points… and then, happy as I was, typed ‘score’ and read that my puzzle solution had made the game unwinnable. As this was literally the first thing I did in the game, I found it rather discouraging!

But I persevered, and as I went on, I actually started liking the game more and more. The setting is more fun that it at first appears, with many neat little touches of world building and some good descriptions, especially around puzzle solutions. It also made sense, once I came across the mill, that my little adventure (Spoiler - click to show)with the beaver had the undesirable result it had. I came to appreciate the ‘score’ message as a helpful guide to what made the game unwinnable. And I started solving some of the puzzles, such as the mill and the mine, without hints, which made me feel good. These puzzles are not completely groundbreaking, but they are fresh enough to be fun. And the programming is very solid.

I wasn’t able to finish the game without hints, though, and that had mostly to do with implementation – so I strongly suggest that Charles returns to the game and make some changes based on what I’m going to say now, because it can greatly improve the experiences of future players. (Spoiler - click to show)(1) The owl puzzle could be better clued. Showing the seed leads to death, okay. But the current behaviour of the seed is rather overwhelming: dropping it anywhere in the game leads to instant death. This does not suggest that it’s possible to throw it at the owl in its den, given that the owl can instantaneously move to the other side of the map to kill me! I wasted quite some time trying to protect myself with a bucket on my head and things like that. Perhaps the seed should simply do nothing outside of the tree; and perhaps it can be a bit better clued that you might have the time to throw it. (2) I had the exact right idea with growing the peach tree, but “put plant food on peach pit” gives an error message, and so I abandoned the idea. This should probably just work! I also think it would be good to have a more positive message for dropping the pit at that location, and maybe allowing something like “put peach in mud”. (3) I also got stuck with ‘apricot’, but that was more my own fault for not being a thorough enough old-school adventure player. But it might be a bit better clued that you need to say a password to the mirror. I spent time trying to show it different objects. (4) When I crossed the river for the end game, the game told me that it had become unwinnable. But it hadn’t! I could still win, using the exact chain of commands in the walkthrough. I had all the right objects with me. Not sure what was going on there. (5) I’m not sure if I would have ever solved the final puzzle, but I love the idea of it: the race through the maze and the final imprisonment. Perhaps it would have bee nice to put an object somewhere in the maze over which the player trips the first time they go there? That would be a great clue.

All in all, I think The Witch is a really neat game. It has gotten a fairly cold shoulder in the reviews, which is unfortunate. Solving some of the implementation issues in the early game, and improving cluing of a few of the puzzles, could go a long way though. You’ll never get the love of people who don’t like difficult parser games, but you sure can get the love of those who do. It’s all solid, well thought out, and with some seriously good puzzle ideas.

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