Leading up to Halloween this year, I decided to keep my eyes peeled for a new game which was both spooky and fun.
There’s plenty of fantastic horror games out there, but given we’re approaching what’s usually the most stressful period of the year – within a year which has been more stressful than any in recent memory – I just wanted something to whet my Halloween appetite without flipping the fight-or-flight switch in my brain.
Witch It came to the rescue. It’s the first game from Barrel Roll Games, a relatively new studio out of Germany.
Witch It has technically been available on Steam for a while now, but October 23rd marked the game’s official graduation from Early Access to full release. I can’t speak to how the game has evolved throughout the Early Access cycle, but a launch trailer was released alongside the game showing off an impressive list of bug fixes, visual improvements and new features.
It’s a delightfully spooky take on the classic Garry’s Mod game mode Prop Hunt; a newer variant of which younger readers might recognise from recent Call of Duty titles.
The premise is simple: a team of witches is given thirty seconds to disguise themselves amongst the many inanimate objects strewn across the map, and the opposing team of witch-hunters must use their instincts and tools to sniff them out before time runs out.
Really, it’s a big game of hide-and-seek, where the hiding team can polymorph into barrels, candles, fruit, furniture and much more. By throwing projectiles and special abilities like a chicken which will alert players when there’s a witch hiding in its vicinity, the hunters must frantically figure out what’s real and what’s about to scurry away on a broomstick when their back is turned.
Thanks to its crisp but lo-fi art style, Witch It is easily one of 2020’s best-looking games. There’s an obvious PS1 aesthetic going on here, from the low-poly character models to the unsettlingly shifting textures on some objects.
This won’t work for everyone, but as someone who still adores the way games like the original Silent Hill and Crash Bandicoot look – especially at a high resolution via emulator – it’s got a hell of a lot of charm. At 1440p it looks clean and crisp without spoiling the aesthetic, and runs incredibly well too.
Despite the simple setup, Barrel Roll Games have clearly made an effort to diversify gameplay with the addition of unique skill sets available to both teams. It’s up to you to decide the best combination of abilities, depending on how you approach hiding or seeking.
Not very good at staying still as a witch? Choose the skill that temporarily blinds your pursuers, and take off into the sky on a broomstick. Or maybe you’re more the patient type, in which case the ability to manipulate nearby objects to throw the hunters off will come in handy.
There’s plenty to experiment with here, and this is essential given that it’s such a simple game at its core. It particularly helps that Witch It supports player-hosted servers and custom maps in addition to the official ones, so there’s always something new to discover.
On the same note, there’s a cosmetic system here – and don’t worry, you won’t need to get your wallet out. The better you perform in each round, the more EXP you’ll earn – and levelling up will reward you with resources which can be combined to craft cosmetic upgrades for your witches and hunters.
It can take a while to earn what you need, but the game’s not too stingy with handing you freebies every now and then. There are some pretty cool cosmetic items to unlock, too – and there’s even special time-limited events with exclusive items to unlock.
It’s a welcome layer of progression in a game which doesn’t necessarily have a huge amount of depth, but it absolutely nails the Prop Hunt experience.
The only real short-fall for me was down to network issues. Because I live in New Zealand, it was difficult to find a server to connect to – official or otherwise – which didn’t have a ping rate under triple digits.
This won’t be a problem for everybody, especially if you live in areas like the United States. And despite my high ping, it’s still entirely playable; I just had to account for extra lead time on my aiming.
In fairness to Barrel Roll Games, they confirmed that there was an Australian server available to players before release, but unfortunately they had to pull it due to low player counts on that particular server.
It’s an understandably tricky issue to solve, especially for a team of five developers who don’t have access to the immense power of the Microsoft or Amazon cloud. Just keep it in mind if you live somewhere like New Zealand!
Despite that, Witch It is a really charming and clever little game which I’ve really enjoyed playing in short bursts. There’s plenty of potential for them to explore more variations on the Prop Hunt format, and given that I’ve encountered players who are level 100+ or even 1000+, it looks like there’s plenty of demand for them to keep working at it.
If you’re an old-school Garry’s Mod fan looking for some nostalgia or just looking for a well-priced bit of multiplayer mayhem, you can’t go wrong with Witch It.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Witch It was played on PC using review code provided by the publisher.