08th May2018

‘Goetia’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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Goetia tells the story of Abigail Blackwood, a 12 year old girl who last remembers falling from a window and now appears to be a spirit represented by an orb of light. As she re-enters her family home she finds everything abandoned and dilapidated which leads her to look into the mysteries of what became of the Blackwood family and estate.

The mechanics in the game are mainly based around Abigail’s ghostly ability to possess items, moving them around the locations in the game, using them to solve puzzles and progress. Some of the puzzles focus on the fact that whilst Abigail’s ghostly form can travel through objects, the objects that she possesses need to be manipulated in order to get them from screen to screen whilst others rely on paying attention to details discovered in the notes scattered throughout the game.

Graphically the game is a pleasure, with richly drawn locations (the game takes place in Blackwood Manor and the surrounding town and forest) that are suitably eerie and devoid of human life. The accompanying music is also haunting, ebbing and flowing with the locations that Abigail’s ghost traverses.

At the start of the game, a lot of the manor is blocked off due to various sigils that need to be removed in order to proceed and this is done, naturally by solving puzzles spread numerously throughout Goetia in order to find the relevant incantations and notes needed, these are all added to your in-game codex. The game requires a LOT of reading and some serious attention to detail, you absolutely cannot skim-read your way through.

The game is very unique in its premise and play style. You view Abigail’s world in a completely 2D fashion, able to move in all four directions if a room can be accessed and there is a hint button (‘-‘ on the Switch) that highlights all the hot-spots that can be interacted with in the game. I had real reservations about this, because the game has so many items to interact with on screen and if they are incidental, they are never removed as appoint of interest from your hint screen. I found that my journals and codex filled up pretty quickly, requiring me to trawl through looking for information on puzzles (more on the puzzles later) and a lot of the hot-spots are for information only and cause Abigail to say (in various ways), ‘this isn’t of any interest’, there are so many of these that it makes the game feel cluttered as it’s full of descriptions that add nothing to the story and could easily be removed. So many objects refer to how long the town has been abandoned as if we might not have noticed when it becomes plainly obvious after a few minutes. In this respect it reminded me of the Dark Fall games, wandering through abandoned locations with no human interaction whilst solving puzzles…very complex puzzles.

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The main issue I had with Goetia was that the puzzles just didn’t click with me. I can see that the game has been pretty well-received on the whole but the story didn’t grip me and the puzzles for the most part seemed very vague and quite dry. It starts off simply enough with finding ways to move objects between rooms, find codes, etc. but I found that I would get stuck quite early on. After a while I would revert to a walkthrough and the answer to the puzzle would be a conclusion that I just wouldn’t have reached myself and doesn’t give any sense of satisfaction when completed. Again, it could have just been that the puzzles really didn’t click for me but other people may have real joy in deducing the quite cryptic clues. There was a certain typewriter puzzle that completely stopped me in my tracks because I couldn’t even complete it with the aid of a walkthrough! Proving again that this could be an issue on my behalf as I clearly just wasn’t attuned to the game’s way of thinking.

The rating of the game is PEGI 7 so there’s no scares or horror, again as is the case in the Dark Fall series, it’s just a slightly eerie atmosphere and I just couldn’t shift the feeling that there was no threat (I mean…you’re dead when you start the game) and I was moving through a story that I had no emotional investment in stopping only to try and solve puzzles that I had no interest in. I understand that this reads as a damning review but although Goetia didn’t work for me, I can imagine its cerebral, methodical puzzles will really get other people hips deep into its story. When I had a glance at Steam, some people who were praising the game had literally logged dozens of hours playing it, giving an illustration of how long some of the puzzles can take to master.

Goetia feels like a very Marmite game, whilst it didn’t grab me, I can understand how some players could enjoy its ghostly charms and game play, definitely one for fans of Dark Fall, Myst and the like. The game is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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