John's Fire Witch

by John Baker

Fantasy
1995

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A dream of ice and fire., November 8, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Puzzler

It's been too long since you and John got together for some heavy liquor sampling. For some reason however, he didn't show up. When you go to his house, you find that John has disappeared and that a mysterious hole in his basement has appeared. Hmmm... What to do?

John's Fire Witch takes the basic structure of an old-fashioned cavecrawl and ditches a lot of ballast, resulting in a small and focused adventure.

Instead of having a sprawling map with many connecting junctions, confusing layout and mazes, John's Fire Witch is confined to about 35 rooms. A few clever twists in the layout do provide a limited sense of exploration though.

The simplistic scenario functions as the backdrop for a small number of really good puzzles. You'll have to use some basic real-world physics and pay close attention to the wording of object descriptions. The final puzzle requires an intuitive leap to use one of your objects in a new way.

The writing is very good on the level of individual descriptions of rooms and objects. However, I found that the old-school approach to the overall atmosphere didn't work so well. The game wavered between lighthearted and self-deprecating humour on the one hand while never quite succeeding in evoking a scary-underground-tunnel feeling on the other.

The game misses a lot of opportunities to flesh out its atmosphere. Many plausible actions are not supported, background scenery is mostly unimplemented... On the whole, I felt that there should be more stuff there to look at (even if it was just the cave ceiling). This is perhaps justified by the theme of the final room, which is just full of stuff (presumably hoarded there by the antagonist). Here, the overabundance of stuff serves to make the endgame hard and confusing by giving you so many options that you could never hope to try them all within the limited time allotted to you. SAVE-RESTORE is your friend...

Good fun.