Blair Witch is as divisive of a movie today as it was back in 1999 and I think the game, developed by Bloober Team, the studio behind Layers of Fear, is shaping up to have the same legacy. And the funny thing is that it’s mostly because of its first hour thanks to a lack of padding, glitches, and a lengthy intro.
Blair Witch 2019 nails the getting lost in the woods idea, but it’s as much a weakness as it is a strength. Everything that can happen is reliant on you and if you can’t figure out a puzzle then you will find yourself walking around aimlessly. While that doesn’t sound different than any other puzzle game, in Blair Witch 2019 you are looking at the same, simple scenery and, more often than not, it’s at night with no peripheral vision and you’re hearing the same sounds: creaking branches, falling acorns, the whimpers of your dog Bullet, and just about every other noise you can imagine happening if you were alone in the woods with your dog. But those things are Blair Witch staples, so why do they come off as “bad” in the game? Glitches and a lack of padding around puzzles, that’s why.
Simply put, repetition is handled better in movies than in games, because you know there will be an end to the repetition and, as a member of the audience, you don't have to do any leg work to get through it. Games, though, allow you to take your time and most of them pad the time you spend looking for a piece to a puzzle with enemies or collectibles. Sure you’ll get bored slapping around the same enemies and eventually find every collectible in an area, but it’s still something to do and that’s the problem with Blair Witch 2019 - there isn’t much to do when you’re stumped. What makes the whole thing worse is that the puzzles in Blair Witch the Game aren’t obvious and you kind of learn you need to solve something after walking around aimlessly for a while.
I honestly can’t say that the lack of padding between puzzles is a bad thing. As I said before, the idea of walking around aimlessly is kind of what the Blair Witch series is about and I dig it. Especially in this case because the sound design is absolutely amazing and the trees really make you think you see things. What I didn’t dig, though, was the abundant supply of glitches and specific one in particular.
How most of the puzzles work in Blair Witch 2019 is that you find video tapes that allow you to bend reality to what you see in the video. The problem is that the game isn’t able to follow its own rules thanks to a glitch that prevents reality from bending. Let’s say you’re in front of a locked door that happens to be open in one of the video tapes you found. What should happen is that you watch the video up to the point where the door opens and the real door should open with it. What will probably happen is that the door won’t open and you’ll either assume you need to do something else and leave it to run around like an idiot or you’ll continue to watch and rewind the video until the door happens to work like it should.
All of that is bound to happen to you in the first hour of the game and I can see how it would turn someone off, especially if you encounter glitches during the lengthy intro that sees you only picking up things and listening to people. Sure walking around aimlessly and listening to mundane conversations is very Blair Witch, but even the first movie has the telling of the Blair Witch legend to grab you right away. Blair Witch 2019 opens with a guy having relationship issues and while that it isn’t wholly uninteresting, it isn’t something unique.
Blair Witch 2019 isn’t a bad game, but it is definitely one that you need to stick with for a little bit to find its good. If you can just push past the slow beginning and any glitches and keep in mind to keep trying the reality bending video tapes, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the game and especially so if you’re a fan of the first movie and Bloober Team’s other endeavors.