Through the machine of the gaming industry, we see many companies that churn out the standard open-world, RPGs that at this point can start to feel boring. After removing the beer goggles of triple-A, you will find a world of gorgeous stories both long and short. Witchhazel woods is a fine example of this, taking place in a stretch of woods filled with beautiful creatures and telling a short tale of its residents. With solo developer Rachel Wigell at the helm with her debut game, we’re going to dive in to uncover just what makes this experience so entertaining.
Starting off from the intro screen we are treated to a beautiful 2d pixel art setting and some calming music that fits the setting of the game. Once we start, we are introduced to our main character Dylan and her companion Georgia (the cutest 2D pup I ever did see). Camping in an open area near some woods we see the start of a number of charming interactions. Dylan’s interaction with Georgia and the rest of the world are incredibly well written, with a mixture of sarcasm and inner thoughts that are both relatable and humorous.
This fun isn’t to last though, as after a stick throw goes too far, Georgia is captured by a ghost that haunts the woods. As any dog owner knows, you don’t steal a dog! No matter how cute and fluffy they are. But to be fair this doesn’t usually apply to the dead, thus Dylan attempts to communicate that she won’t just let the ghost take her dog. After a threatening transformation that understandably scares Dylan back, we are tasked with offering a suitable trade so the ghost won’t be lonely.
This is where our adventure truly begins, as we move through the varying areas of the woods and interact with its many inhabitants in a game of trade. With the goal of getting our beloved pooch back, we trade various items that we find and procure until we find an item that can cure the ghost’s loneliness. This is a short adventure, where the aim is first to rescue your friend, but also to help the many new friends that you make as you move towards your final goal.
The story is charming, and the writing is incredible, but what of the gameplay? Well as this is a story-driven game with no need for much more than movement and exploration, although there is an inventory system that shows us what items we have to trade. This exploration is gripping as the interactions with the animals are brimming with personality. To those who also fear getting stuck, there are enough cues from the supporting cast that you will eventually find your way to the satisfying conclusion.
The final thing I’d like to just bring up is the use of sound throughout the game. The music is very good at setting the mood for a scene before you’ve even begun to understand the narrative. This all comes together to help you understand what the developer was trying to create in every moment. The use of natural sounds is also used masterfully, creating the atmosphere that a wood brimming with wildlife would actually sound like. All of these factors come from the incredible effort of solo developer Rachel, and the world feels truly fleshed out as a result.
In conclusion, Witchhazel Woods is a compact but very entertaining and beautiful story, that is well written and brimming with both life and imagination. If you’re in the mood for a calming yet interesting story experience jump onto steam today and add it to your library!
Check out the interview we had with Rachel pre-game release.
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