- Format: PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Sushee
- Players: 1
- Site: www.playgoetia.com/
- Game code provided by the publisher
Ghost stories have made for some great video games in the years following their resurgence thanks to the likes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but they haven’t seen much of a shift out of the first person puzzle genre. Sushee’s Goetia is out to change that with a Kickstarter-funded ghost story of its own that takes a sidestep into the point-and-click adventure genre, and Square Enix have decided to give them a hand getting it out there.
Goetia has players take control of Abigail Blackwood, a young girl who died after falling out of a window at the family home, Blackwood Manor. Oddly enough, her spectral awakening was delayed by several decades, and it falls upon her to uncover the family secrets of the many years following her death by exploring the manor, its surrounding areas, and making deals with a crooked demon.
As a small ball of ectoplasm, movement is pretty simple: You point the mouse somewhere, and the physically-deprived Abigail will float over, regardless of any pesky walls or physical limitations that might get in the way of a more corporeally gifted individual. Things get trickier when possessing items, however, since Abigail is then restricted by physics and will have to find holes or paths to squeeze through. Except for when that doesn’t apply. Sometimes levels are designed in such a way that you’re not only able but expected to float objects through apparently thick stone walls with no apparent hole or even crack to get through. Needless to say, this can be frustrating when you’re trying to find the path only to discover it was there all along, just not communicated at all.
This possession is the basis for a lot of the puzzles, but they’re unfortunately poorly designed, overall. They’re either incredibly obvious routines of grabbing key items to unlock some kind of object, or possession will give Abigail seemingly random visions of the next objective. The game’s story justifies this as the objective having some relation to the history of the item, but how on Earth should the player know that a feather was somehow related to an otherwise invisible hole in the wall of a stairwell? We looked around the environment and perused the text logs for some justification for this particular example and came up empty, so it seems easy to assume that the intended solution to this particular puzzle was simply to possess every item and wander around until you stumble upon the newly accessible hole.
Later puzzles are a bit more typical, but again involve guesswork thanks to overly cryptic and esoteric clues such as the text “right hand, left hand, right hand” which means absolutely nothing in the actual solution, or sorting animals in their proximity to the moon or something? That’s what we got from it, at least. It doesn’t help that a lot of these clues come from hopelessly long text logs that are overly dry and imbued with an alarmingly low amount of character or flair.
Finally, there’s the old problem of perfect solutions not working since it’s simply not the intended solution: One room contains a battery and a small hole that seems just the right size for the passage of your new energy source to slip through – almost as if it was designed that way – but it just won’t go through for whatever reason.
There is one rather compelling section, however, where Abigail is tasked with delving into different worlds, bringing items back and forth between them, and manipulating the orientation of the rooms in order to solve puzzles. It’s a shame that is maybe the game’s shortest sequence, as the game would have benefited greatly from more of this kind of level and puzzle design, and less of everything else.
A point-and-click adventure game relies heavily upon its story for the most part, and Goetia‘s is just not engrossing enough to justify the dull puzzles. As Abigail delves deeper into the history of Blackwood Manor, you will learn more about this troubled family, but it just isn’t written or presented in a memorable or compelling way. The only bright spot of it all is the fact that Abigail is a fairly sympathetic character at times, but these moments come all too rarely for the story to have any impact.
Where game design and writing falter, however, the artwork and sound design pick up the slack. Goetia is a good looking game, utilising a limited tool-set to create a visually enticing world full of atmosphere. While there are very few characters and they’re certainly held back, they’re well designed in a sufficiently creepy manner.
The game’s sound design is the biggest positive to take away from Goetia, with the music and sounds of the world doing a fantastic job of adding layers to the creepy, insidious vibe of the game. Perhaps the only knock against it is that the game could have done with some voice acting to further this.
Even with good art and sound, the poor design and writing makes it hard to recommend Goetia to anyone but the most devoted of ghost story fanatics who simply must engage with every ghost story in existence regardless of quality. The design of point-and-click adventure games has come a long way in recent years, but it seems like Abigail Blackwood isn’t the only one stuck in the past.