Adventure Gamers Awards
Sushee’s first foray into point-and-click adventures, the successfully Kickstarted Goetia, is a wonderfully eerie exploration of a small English village abandoned in the early 1940s, as seen through the eyes of a resurrected-in-spirit 12-year-old girl named Abigail Blackwood. Abigail died 40 years earlier, accidentally falling out of a window in her family’s manor, and has now been brought back (by what or by whom you don’t exactly know) to unravel the secrets of what has happened to her family and the village in her absence. The resulting investigation is thoroughly engrossing, an incredible supernatural mystery that won’t let you rest until you’ve gotten to the bottom of it all.
The plot of Goetia is very obscure at first, and plays out in an abstract manner. You’re given very few details, other than your name and the fact that you were the daughter of a prestigious, if a little odd, family living on the outskirts of Oakmarsh in England around the turn of the 20th century. Oh, and now you’re dead. Not a traditional ghost, Abigail is shown as a small, white ball of light that you direct around the screen, but she still has her mental faculties and is surprisingly astute for a young girl brought back to a time and place that are entirely foreign from what she remembers.
So what happened to Blackwood Manor? Why is Oakmarsh abandoned? Where did all the people go? You, as Abigail, set out to unravel these mysteries, mainly by piecing together hints and clues from various books and journal entries left around the various locations. Every scrap of paper brings you another step closer to figuring out what went on. Additionally, you meet Malphas, a demon who has been locked inside the walls of Blackwood Manor by your sister Annie. Abigail’s curiosity overrides discretion as she sets out to free Malphas and the five other demons that are similarly trapped inside the family home, and along the way she gradually uncovers a dark history to her family legacy.
While Goetia is heavy on backstory, it’s extremely light on characters. The village, manor, and all outlying regions are completely deserted, and the only character that has any significant dialogue with Abigail is Malphas. Fortunately, Abigail keeps up a running commentary throughout the game, most of which serves as veiled hints as to what you should do next, if you know how to interpret them properly. Abigail takes every discovery in stride, despite having to deal with the concepts of her own childhood mortality, the death of everyone she’s ever loved, the existence of demons, and the devastating aftermath of World War II. The other main characters in the tale, Abigail’s father, her older sister Annie and Annie’s four sons, are only glimpsed through the writings they have left behind. Nonetheless, they are all nicely fleshed out and given personalities and motives integral to the plot.
Abigail herself is an intriguing and immensely sympathetic protagonist. She’s curious and honest, the perfect vessel through which the player observes the mystery as it unfolds. Malphas, on the other hand, is enigmatic and infuriating at times, never revealing even a fraction of what he knows to Abigail, despite seemingly being on her side. His attitude is very much one of a god amused by a human plaything, and it’s easy to feel as though he is toying with you through most of your encounters.
The gameplay of Goetia is very easy to grasp. You left-click to move somewhere in the side-scrolling world, and on specific objects to use them. Some hotspots will glow when you move your mouse over them; other times you’ll just have to guess or use the hotspot highlighter. Once you’ve clicked on an interactive item, you have the option to look at it or, if possible, either use it or possess it. Possessing an object causes Abigail’s spectral ball to fly inside it, which then becomes your cursor instead and can be moved around the screen at will. It’s the only way to move something from location to location, but as possessed objects obey the laws of physics that you so conveniently do not as a ghost, you’ll need to remind yourself for the first little while not to simply try flying through ceilings and instead figure out more creative ways to get where you need to go. For example, early on in the game you need to figure out how to move a hexagonal-shaped key from inside the house to the outside, without opening the front door. And no, windows are not a shortcut; you have to be a bit more creative than that.
While challenging, the puzzles in Goetia are fun and more importantly, they’re clever. Most require possessing objects to complete your tasks, but they also involve deciphering journal hints, figuring out how to open passages and solving a few heinously tricky music puzzles. Luckily for tone-deaf gamers like myself, there are only two such puzzles and the worst one is optional. A few of the puzzles have alternate solutions, depending on whether or not you’ve picked up some of the available ghost powers in the game. This helps ease the difficulty at some points, but the tradeoff is that these powers require you to solve extra puzzles. The number of puzzles overall is astonishing, and every single one of them makes complete sense in context. Is it a little ridiculous that an eccentric family in the middle of England would set up all these conundrums to hide things? Well, yes, but the way the characters are written it’s completely believable and never feels like the puzzles were thrown in solely for the sake of slowing down your progress.Continued on the next page...