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All About...
Blair Witch Project Vol. 1: Rustin Parr

If getting lost in the woods sounds like your idea of fun...
This is listed as a "quiet fixer-upper, perfect for hermits and kids".
As you're probably aware, this is the first of three Blair Witch games coming out through the fall and winter -- GOD will be releasing better than one a month, each from one of three different developers. Volume I: Rustin Parr is from Terminal Reality, and, as such, it blends the Blair Witch mythos into the developer's own Nocturne universe. Nocturne wasn't a terrible game, but it was definitely uneven, and since Rustin Parr uses the Nocturne engine, you can expect more of the same pluses and minuses.

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The starting point is, in fact, identical to Nocturne's -- the secret US government, monster-hunting agency known as the Spookhouse. Set in 1941, the game casts you as one of Nocturne's minor characters, Dr. Elspeth "Doc" Holliday, who's sent to the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland to poke into the supernatural underpinnings of the Rustin Parr child murder case. Parr, you may recall from the Blair Witch movie and TV special, killed seven children, claiming a spectral old woman had compelled him to do it.

This is less action-oriented than Nocturne, much more like a traditional adventure game. To its credit, at first it's also rather creepy. There's definitely something odd about the people of Burkittsville, and the voice acting is mostly pretty good. The oppressively dark and gloomy graphic design does its job (when it's not completely obscuring what goes on), as does the whispery ambient soundtrack. There are also one or two instances of ghostly figures that appear in the background, only to disappear so fast you're never quite sure they were there in the first place. It works. And hardcore weirdness fans will catch a handful of knowing X-Files, and even Twin Peaks, references thrown in as well, which is fun.

But there's a lot that doesn't work too. You spend an awful lot of time digging up background information, and while it's sort of interesting, very little actually has much relevance to the case (and, if you're familiar with the Blair Witch at all, most of it you've heard before). By her second day in town, Holliday is reduced to blasting zombies and such with her guns, which is okay, but not very scary either.

The Nocturne engine also lets you down in the action sequences, thanks to some poorly chosen camera angles (whatever you do, do not wander behind Coffin Rock -- you'll fall in the river and drown without ever seeing it happen). And the fact that the "shoot" and "activate" buttons are one and the same means you have to holster your weapon in order to open doors, which often leaves you momentarily defenseless. In fact, there's a boss battle in which you have break up a stone circle, which means constantly bringing your gun out and then putting it away so you can kick at rocks. In a word, this can get rather frustrating.

There are other problems too: the goal of certain sections are as murky as the graphics (hint: when you wake up to find the town full of "daemites," you have to kill every single one of them for the sequence to end -- try checking all the buildings), and having to spend time lost in the woods isn't exactly fun or exciting.

The real problem, though, is that if the Blair Witch mythology is scary at all, it's because it's completely incomprehensible. A lot of really nasty, weird stuff has happened in and around Burkittsville, but how that happens, and more importantly, why that happens, remains a big, dark unknown. So in a very important way, any game (or movie, or book) that involves uncovering the ultimate source of the evil in the woods is kind of self-defeating -- especially when it mostly seems to involve just shooting things. And without wanting to give anything away, this nasty demon even has a name that makes it sound like either a sports drink or a kitchen appliance -- not really all that frightening, y'know? Lastly, this is one really short game. With a little effort, you can beat it in 10-12 hours.

For all that complaining, though, the game is also really inexpensive: $19.99 at retail. So, for many folks, that alone might make it worth checking out. You get what you pay for, but if this ain't great, you could argue that for the money you have to spend, it might just be good enough. Your call.

- Jeff Lundrigan

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Bloody Mess
Twin Peaks
Up To No Good
Bad Dog

"To its credit, at first it's also rather creepy. "


Believe it or not, you never actually meet the Blair Witch -- this is one of those wacky neighbors.

Yes, the graphics are a little dark and gloomy.

Unfortunately, you spend a lot of time in action sequences quashed into tight corners -- yup, it's annoying.

Developer Terminal Reality
Publisher Gathering of Developers
Genre Survival Horror
Supports 3D Acceleration

Make Your PC Climax.
Windows 95/98 or NT with SP3, Pentium 233 MHz, 3D Graphics Accelerator, 500 MB, 4X or Faster, 64 MB
A really, really fast computer, a good monitor and a very dark room.
Feeling Blairy-Eyed?
October is a big month for Blair Witch fans (and there must be a few of you out there, right?). In addition to the release of this game today, the second, Volume II: Legend of Coffin Rock will be out by October 31 (the last, Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale, is set to be released November 6). And, of course, the movie's sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, is also due out in theaters by October 27. Too much?

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