Freeware computer game “The Witch’s House” is as an understated, deceptive and — above all — surprising horror survival game. I first encountered this game during the Snowpocalypse last month when a fellow horror-genre enthusiast friend showed me YouTuber Cryaotic “Cry”’s five-part playthrough of the game. I was first distracted by Cry’s unusual voice, but shortly after the four-minute mark — at which point Cry falls into the first of several jump-scare deathtraps in the witch’s house — I was hooked.
Players control Viola, a 13-year old girl with golden braids. When the game begins, Viola wakes up in a forest with nothing around her but a black cat sitting on a nearby tree stump. When players go to “Black Cat,” he jumps and responds, “You’re up and at ‘em, eh?” In Cry’s video, he reads a sign by the cat saying, “↑…..’s House, ↓ Out of the Forest,” then goes back to Black Cat, who says, “Humans shouldn’t be here. Too dangerous.” From this point, on players can use Black Cat as a save point.
After a simple puzzle involving a machete and some incredibly strong roses, players are able to enter the witch’s house. The front door to the house opens on its own, so obviously some creepy $#!^ is about to go down, but Black Cat, who remains fairly nonchalant throughout the game, says, “Might as well, if you can’t leave.” There are roses blocking the exit out of the forest, and it would seem Black Cat is right: There isn’t a foreseeable alternative to entering the house.
There’s a simple foyer in the witch’s house, but the second room contains a note on the opposite wall and a small red splotch in the middle of the floor. This is where Cry made his first fatal mistake: He stepped on the splotch. SPOILER: This causes the walls to close in on Viola à la Indiana Jones and splat her. If a player reaches the note unsplatted, they will find it reads, “Come to my room.”
This is what the game is, essentially: a lot of puzzles, trial-and-error, jump-scare deathtraps and, most importantly, Black Cat. The player is taken through the witch’s house and is privy to her diary, and her house full of things that want to kill Viola. It is revealed fairly early on that the witch is named Ellen, who was plagued by a disease as a child and felt that her parents didn’t love her. Later, though, Ellen’s diary states she killed her parents, or “X”ed, as the game refers to death.
The charm and horror of the game is its deceptive cutesy appearance. It has the retro look of an old-school “Legend of Zelda” game and lulls players into a false sense of security. Cry certainly had no idea of the jump scares and brutality in store when he began his playthrough. At one point, for example, players are forced to use an adorable frog found in the witch’s house as bait so a snake won’t bite Viola. Players are also confronted by an invisible ghost girl using a rope Viola gives her to hang herself with. And more jump-scares akin to the walls splatting Viola await players of “The Witch’s House.”
It isn’t until the end of the game — for which four endings exist — that all is revealed about Ellen, Viola and the nature of the witch’s house. All I’m going to say is I loved the ending for its storytelling and hated it for all of the feels it gave me.
More can be read about “The Witch’s House” on its Wikipedia page, but I would recommend downloading the game for free — which can be done here at vgperson.com or here at uptodown.com — and playing it yourself. Fummy, the developer, does not appear to have a downloadable link to the game. Multiple play-through videos are available, and Fummy released a five-chapter novel titled “The Diary of Ellen” that serves as a prequel and background story of “The Witch’s House.”