October 11th, 2000
Developer: Terminal Reality
Publisher: Gathering of Developers
I must admit, "The Blair Witch Project" got me excited about seeing the movie before it was released. However, when I finally saw it, in the daytime with lots of people in the movie theater, I thought, "This is it?". It was not scary to me in the least. Creepy, maybe, especially in the final few minutes, but not scary at all
My opinion of the movie changed when I saw it on DVD. I was along, at night, with the lights down. And boy, was the movie more than just creepy. The suggestions and hints about Very Bad Things just outside of the camera's sight were much more effective in that situation than they were when I saw it with a bunch of people.
That's also the way the first of these trilogy of PC games based on the film and its extensive mythology should be played: Alone, in pitch black, and the sound with just the right volume to give you the willies.
Let's face it: Gathering of Developers took a big risk putting out three Blair Witch games one after the other. If the first game wasn't up to par (no pun intended) that means no one would come back to pick up the other two titles. Thankfully, the first game, Blair Witch: Rustin Parr, is a scary and effective adventure game that stays true to the Blair Witch storyline while adding some things on its own.
It's fitting that Terminal Reality should be the first to tackle the Blair Witch mythos. All three games in the series (the other two are being developed by Human Head and Ritual) are using the Nocturne engine that Terminal Reality used for the game of the same name it released in 1999. The game involved some of the same errieness that the Blair Witch film had (right down to the artwork on the game box).
Terminal Reality, in fact, chose to make Rustin Parr a semi-sequel to Nocturne, bringing in the characters and settings of the government agency Spookhouse back. The protaginist of Nocturne, The Stranger, makes only a cameo appearence in Rustin Parr, while his partner Elspeth "Doc" Holliday takes center stage. After a brief training-tutorial mission, the Spookhouse sends Holliday to Burkittsville, Maryland to investigate the ritual killings of seven children by hometown hermit Rustin Parr.
If you have seen the movie or seen the Sci-Fi Channel special "Curse of the Blair Witch" you know that Rustin Parr is connected to the Blair Witch legend in some way. Holliday finds out just how connected Parr was to the witch and the darkness in the Black Hills surrounding Burkittsville during the game. To say any more would give away a few interesting suprises but let's just say the natives of Burkittsville, and indeed the whole area, are not what they first appear to be.
The one big thing in Rustin Parr that was not improved much upon from Nocturne is combat. The game is set in third person and some of the camera angles you get while trying to battle your way through creatures are very awkward. A couple of the puzzles, including one where you are using a tape recorder to find a clue, are a bit too frustrating.
However, much of the game is cool and scary indeed. Going into the woods, and checking out Rustin Parr's house (where the video documentarians in the Blair Witch movie find their fate) are really frightening. I would have preferred more interaction in the game; sometimes in-game cut scenes came up too rapidly and took me out of the game.
You can't really fault the Nocturne engine as seen in Rustin Parr; it's perfect for this kind of adventure title. Character models look great and art direction is spot-on for the creepy terror that fills the game.
The game itself doesn't take too long to finish, but that was intentional, since this game will soon be followed by Human Head's and Ritual's entries. It's an interesting experiment in marketing a series of games and for me, it's working. Now that Rustin Parr is completed, I can't wait to see the other two titles.
Fans of the movie will love seeing the Blair Witch mythology expaned upon in Rustin Parr. Fans of good and scary adventure games will have much to like here as well.
Rating: 80 out of 100
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