Saturday, May 5

Review: Goetia [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Point-and-click adventure games have very much had a resurgence in recent years, with indie developers embracing this genre that had fallen out of favor over the years. Typically revolving around you exploring spaces, looking through anything you can find, and then solving puzzles in the environment to progress their lack of direct action can make it tricky to keep them engaging. While many developers found success in using humor as the hook to keep you playing along in the case of Goetia it is ambiance, suspense, and a touch of horror trying to keep you engaged.

In the game you’ll play as the spirit of Abigail Blackwood, returning to her family home to try to discover what has happened to her family and why she has been brought back. Represented on-screen as just a ball of light you’ll hover about through the environment poking at everything you see in the hopes of finding clues or objects that will help you progress. With the way the game is structured elements of the story are also pretty well exclusively learned through these means, so overall there’s a lot to process and roughly everything you see should be checked for fear of not just missing some key to advancing but possibly something that helps fill in the gaping hole around the story in general.

A typical weakness in these sorts of titles is their tendency to have puzzles that range from strange to outright obtuse and unfortunately I’d say Goetia falls more heavily into that trap than most. You’re able to manipulate objects but even when you have an idea of how they should be used actually doing what is necessary to be successful isn’t always clear or intuitive. As a whole I found myself doing a bit more wandering and wondering than I’m comfortable with and when you find yourself looking to guides just to understand fundamentals of what you’re supposed to be doing or how it’s not a good sign.

Perhaps what I’d consider the game’s biggest weakness, though, is that whether tied to the fact that my character is a mere ball of light or the very slow rate at which you’re able to make discoveries to fill in the gaping hole that is the story I found it very hard to care about any of it. When you struggle to identify with your character, their situation, or to feel empathy (or even sympathy) for them it makes the desire to return and overcome frustration pretty low. No doubt the ambiance is somehow meant to compensate and leave you wondering what you’ll discover next but it really didn’t connect for me and that’s very atypical so it stands out.

While Goetia puts a fair amount of effort into its detailed environments and sound design to make them lush and engaging unfortunately the gameplay experience felt lacking by comparison. The method of discovery, checking everything you see in the hopes of getting scraps of story in pieces, really made more challenging than it should be to establish a baseline of caring for the character. Especially since Abigail lacks a physical form to latch onto, and since there’s nothing initial to establish why I should care about her, for me the experience stumbles to even get out of the starting gate. Throw in a more aggravating overall experience with puzzles and lack of direction than is typical from the genre and I find it hard to recommend outside of people who’re really hoping it being creepy and odd will redeem it.

Score: 6

  • Terrific ambiance with gothic environments and well-matched music
  • A story that has some intrigue if you’re able to stick with it
  • Many hours of content

  • Even amongst its peers its puzzles are more aggravating and poorly-explained than most
  • The nature and pacing of how the story is revealed makes it difficult to connect with the character or be engaged in the experience