I have a love/hate relationship with scary video games. I love the fact that I'm scared but I also hate the fact that I'm scared. I love being apprehensive about turning round the next corner, but then I hate the thing that's about to jump out at me. This is exactly the relationship I had with Blair Witch, and it was great.
Blair Witch is a first-person, psychological horror game inspired by the film of the same name. Set in 1996, you play as Ellis - a former police officer with a troubled past - who has joined the search for a boy who disappeared in the Black Hills Forest. Ellis realises pretty early on that he may have taken on more than he bargained for; luckily Ellis isn't alone. He has his trusty sidekick, Bullet - your trusty canine.
As you begin your adventure through these spooky woods you soon realise that something isn't quite right and it's then that the real fun begins. Let me tell you, I've played a lot of horror games in my time but Blair Witch has been the only one that has genuinely made me question my own sanity. It does this in many ways - the most obvious being the way it loops certain areas making you as the question 'Wasn't I just here?' Obviously, being in woods - and often at night - it can be hard to tell if you were just here or not as it all looks very similar.
With not much in the way of combat, Blair Witch relies heavily on its gameplay mechanics to hold your interest, which it does extremely well. The only tools at your disposal are a video camera, a mobile phone, a walkie-talkie, a torch and finally, Bullet. Each of these items will be relevant to use in order to continue the story but it's the way in which you can use them that I found interesting. For example, you can use your mobile phone at any time to call certain people which will uncover parts of the story that you could've missed - or you can play 'Snake'... whichever takes your fancy. Your video camera also has the ability to manipulate reality, which is the main source of uncovering the games captivating story.
You will find numerous tapes throughout your journey, analysing these tapes is the key to cracking this case and finding this missing boy. As you analyse the tapes things will change in your current timeline; whether that be a tree moving or a door opening, which allows you to progress. Sometimes finding the specific tape to analyse can be a pain and at one point I was rewinding tapes for a good 15 minutes just trying to figure it out. It's a cool mechanic to have though.
The use of Bullet is probably my favourite part of Blair Witch. I mean, if you don't love dogs then get out of my life, you know? Bullet has a list of commands that you can use to your advantage throughout the game but all in all, Bullet has his own personality and he will react accordingly depending on how you treat him throughout the game. You can praise him, scold him (don't scold him), tell him to wait, look for items - I mean, it's like having your own pet! It also helps to not feel so alone during this extremely stressful game.
Blair Witch does an excellent job of putting you on edge throughout the game entirely, you never feel relaxed and the sounds in-game are a massive help for this. The atmosphere never eases up which meant I was on the edge of my seat for the entire game - add in the fact that Bullet will randomly growl at things, my heart was always beating through my chest.
One thing I really enjoyed was although there is no combat, as such, the game forces you to face those enemies you encounter head-on. There is no changing direction, no way to avoid them and that is truly terrifying. The most you can do is scare an enemy away with your flashlight, but it doesn't feel like much of a victory.