Everything Is Scary

Be responsible, contemplate the void.

Forget the Brainteasers, GOETIA is a straight-up Braintaunter

If, like me, you grew up on adventure games, you're probably prepared to accept a certain amount of strange logic in your puzzle-playing time.  From Guybrush Threepwood using a Rubber Chicken to cross a zipline, to time-traveling in Day of The Tentacle to change the shape of a statue just so it wouldn't provide a handhold for a crazy lady in a wheelie chair, to pretty much everything in King's Quest, Adventure Games have long taught us that logic is a fluid concept pretty dependent on the mood of the designers.

With Goetia, the struggle is in wrapping your head around the often metaphorical or flatly obscure clues that are your breadcrumbs in a plot which, puzzles aside, is well-woven and told.

Goetia, the debut title from French indie developer Sushee Games, is a point and click adventure game in which you take the role of the deceased Abigail Blackwood, somehow incarnated as a hovering spirit capable of passing through walls - at least the ones that don't have magical wards on them.  Awakening outside your family manor, you discover the home empty and decrepit, yet many rooms have been sealed off with protective spells.  Seeking answers to why you have been brought back, what happened in the years since your demise, and where everyone is, you traverse the house and nearby village, unlocking more rooms, finding strange devices, and interacting with demonic entities.

In the traditional sense, Goetia is not like most horror games, never really seeking to terrorize or even frighten.  It's much more melancholic, with a subdued, eerie soundtrack, and some very stark imagery devoid of human life.  The knowledge that you are already dead immediately does take the edge off, though there are hints that something potentially dire could await you should you make the wrong choices.  The NPC interactions are also few and far between.  There are no monsters to chase you, no traps to injure you.  The demons that appear are otherworldly, alien and bizarre, but are designed to inhabit and enhance the atmosphere, not to disrupt it.

It's an interesting choice, and one that I think works quite successfully, especially with the twists and turns the plot takes.  Goetia is a game about regret, and it would be a disservice to that central theme to drop in a bunch of boogeymen.  It would also likely have been an outrageous addition of difficulty to force you to solve Goetia's intensely cranial puzzles while also dodge-rolling attacks from tentacles.  And boy, are these puzzles cranial.

A lot of the puzzles are deeply rooted in the mythology and history of the Blackwood family and the manor, and keeping track of a lot of those details can be a chore.  There is a fairly handy journal function so that you at least don't have to keep a massive notebook of your own in real life, but even with this hints are quite obtuse.  Other times, the puzzles will simply be dependent on you wrapping your head around the strange logic of the universe.  There is a large portion, for example, that takes place inside of photographs - literally.  And inside of those photographs, you can enter FURTHER photographs (provided the first photograph happened to contain a photograph...confused yet?).  A lot of it's very cool and fulfilling when you figure it out, and in the game's defence, if you really, really break things down, almost every puzzle does have an explanation and solution that more-or-less adds up with the knowledge you've been given.

Quite honestly, a lot of the time the struggle comes from actually finding where to go next, and which puzzle to solve next.  It can be tedious to routinely drift back and forth through the same rooms over and over again.  It's particularly egregious that the game makes you carry only one object at a time, and, as you can pass through walls but your object can't, it also forces you into some teeth-grinding frustration to find a more circuitous, open path.  For that matter, you'll encounter some inventory items quite immediately, and if you move them around it can be downright labyrinthine to relocate them once you've figured out what bizarre reason you need them.

This is a game, in other words, for die-hard adventure fans.  Goetia certainly has a well-told story, and some really pretty visuals that are quite unlike most other games out there.  But it's sheer scale of difficulty marks it as a puzzle game for only the most dedicated of fans.  I pride myself on beating Riven, and I had to look up a walkthrough to get through Goetia.  The puzzles are not, strictly speaking UNFAIR, as in the case of some of the more stupid King's Quest sequences.  But they are a meditation in patience, persistence, and absorption.  All traits which, it seems, add up to clues to your character's destiny.

If you're the type of person who likes to test the limits of those qualities, Goetia is for you.  If not, maybe steer clear.

Darkness follows.