I’ve been writing this thing about horror games made in RPG Maker for my journalism class, and it’s been coming along pretty nicely. One of the things I’m doing for it is putting a list of recommendations for newcomers to play and I got a bunch of suggestions on what to put. A popular suggestion was The Witch’s House, which I have not played beforehand, so I decided to get on that and make a write-up while I was at it.
The Witch’s House is a game made with RPG Maker VX by Fummy, translated by vgperson. You are Viola, a girl who, according to the letter in her inventory, went to visit her friend. Alas, it appears that she got lost in a forest and a thick bush of roses is blocking her way out. With nowhere else to go, she’s forced to enter the eponymous house. Tailed by a friendly talking cat, Viola wanders around the haunted house filled with absurd traps, under the constant threat of the witch, Ellen.
As you can expect from a horror game, you’ll be dealing with absurd traps and bizarre puzzles. This is actually explained by the house essentially being a living thing working for the witch and trying to screw you over with its own bizarre logic. If that’s the case, why does the house even offer you ways out at all? …That’s actually also explained.
A general thing I liked about the game were the small scares, more specifically, the scares that’s just there to unnerve, but does nothing to you whatsoever. Frequently you’ll spot glimpses of the witch… who does nothing to you. Things in the environment frequently change, from things inexplicably breaking to objects suddenly being replaced to small animations of something moving or reacting to you in some way. But for the most part, they all leave you alone, as if threatening Viola but holding back. Yeah, there were the usual “monster chase scene” bits that you’d expect from a horror RPG Maker game, but these moments are so few in comparison to the numerous smaller frights that when these chases finally happen, it’s actually surprising. The Witch’s House honestly does a good job at building up atmosphere, creating a sense of unease with its smaller scares, always threatening you and until it finally goes through with the threats.
Another thing that I have to comment on is the game’s morbid sense of humor, which is seen frequently in the game’s environment and writing. Like honestly, it’s as much of a dark comedy than it is a horror game. A lot of the deaths in the game are kinda funny to me, and given that the villain is a demented murder child, it’s rather fitting. Go ahead, lend a hand to the chef, he’ll appreciate it. While you’re at it, step on that blood puddle at the beginning of the game, I’m sure it’s just there for effect. There’s definitely an attention to detail in how the creator put in animations for the incredibly obvious deaths that you’d have to be intentionally trying to kill Viola to see them. Go ahead, read the Book of Death – the only way out of reading it is death.
On a lighter note, that cat following you around sure loves to joke around. What a good cat. The cat acts as the game’s save point and shows up frequently enough that you don’t have to make up for a lot of lost time when you die. Apparently, something special happens if you go through the entire game ever talking to that fella, but I’m a compulsive saver, so I didn’t even bother going for it. I did look up what happens though, and it actually is significant for the story, if you’re planning on going through with this.
For the most part, the story’s told in short passages from Ellen’s diary, which is scattered throughout the house because of course it is. Much like the game’s scares, they’re small things that build up, the final diary entry leading to the climactic chase with Ellen herself. If you remember a certain thing from the beginning of the game during the chase, that diary entry takes on a different meaning and the triumphant normal ending becomes something far more miserable. Looking back after finishing the game, there were a lot of things that makes sense in retrospect and I’m sure that replaying the game after getting the true ending would give players a different perspective.
(I’d say more on those subjects, but also, I’m not sure about my spoiler policy. Is it still too early to freely spoil things? I don’t know.)
On the subject of the game’s puzzles, they were generally pretty fair with a lot of variety. Probably the only one I hated was this puzzle involving these skulls, but as usual with puzzles, I’m not sure if it’s really hard or if I’m just really dumb. If you do manage to get stuck though, there’s a walkthrough available at the download link that will help you out.
There was also this companion book made called The Diary of Ellen, which fleshes out the game’s backstory and shows Ellen’s perspective. There was an English translation that was also made by vgperson, but Fummy asked to take it down. The companion book had gotten a manga adaptation and said adaptation got an official translation, so I’m guessing the creator didn’t want to jeopardize that. If you want to check out the manga or look up the book’s synopsis, I warn that they contain spoilers for the game’s true ending, if you’re like me and somehow haven’t played the game until now.
I ended up walking away from the game with a better opinion than I expected and I think it’s a good example of a horror game made in RPG Maker. My playthrough of the game took about an hour, so it’s a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. A perfect length game, if you ask me. And of course, it’s a free game and with its short length, there isn’t much stopping you from playing this. Except if horror games make you squeamish, I guess.