Blair Witch: Volume I – Rustin Parr

Rustin Parr is the first in a trilogy of games based on the The Blair Witch Project mythology. The game takes place in Burkittsville—a small town with a long history of unexplained events and mysterious tragedies. Most recently, a local hermit named Rustin Parr has killed and mutilated 7 children in an act of violence that he attributes to the Blair Witch. But despite what you might expect, Blair Witch the game doesn’t follow the characters from the movie, but instead from another game altogether – Nocturne.

6_1Ellspeth “Doc” Holiday and The Stranger return to investigate the circumstances surrounding Parr’s crime. Playing from a third-person perspective, you control the character of Doc, a resourceful scientist who dabbles in paranormal thingamajigs. In a departure from Nocturne, Doc is on her own for this case and The Stranger makes only a few appearances. Starting with what was only hinted at during the film, Blair Witch 1 fills in the local history to create a complex tale of the supernatural. Although the movie is not a prerequisite for the game, if you have seen it you might recognize some clever tie-ins.

You explore the town of Burkittsville and travel to locations in the Black Hills Forest. Pack your hiking boots, because you are going to do a lot of repetitive trekking through the woods via a twisting set of paths made even more confusing by changing camera angles. Although you carry a map and compass, they are not always effective and you are likely to end up as lost as a blind mouse in a maze with no cheese.

Terminal Reality has used an enhanced version of their Nocturne game engine to create a stark atmosphere that reflects the dark game themes. Color (or lack thereof), lighting, and shadowing are effectively combined to render a realistic 3D game environment that reeks of menace. The town itself has an authentic 1940’s feel, from the gas pumps outside the general store to the jukebox in the local diner. The human characters are equally detailed, with extra attention paid to facial expressions. In contrast, Terminal reality seems to have invested less time in creating the denizens of the forest that appear on the path (each determined to kill you each time you enter their territory).

14_1So, with beautiful graphics, exquisite sound, and a solid foundation of creepy legends, why isn’t this a must-have game? In a word: gameplay. Blair Witch 1 tries to balance between action and adventure and falls short in both categories. If you are a point-and-click adventurer, the precision action sequences and the limited supply of ammunition and healing kits are apt to drive you to distraction. If you are true action fan, chatting with local residents and running a gauntlet of plodding zombies may not give you the horror you crave.

Genre preferences aside, however, you are apt to find yourself at several premature “End of Game” screens. Despite its flaws, Blair Witch 1 does an admirable job of sustaining an atmosphere of suspense and horror from start to finish, and for some people that may be worth the price of admission. It is reasonably fun, but not a great game.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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