“While playing Witchery Spell you will meet 5 young witches. One of them recently turned 23 and mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. What happened to her and will the others face the same horrific fate? As young girls, they performed a ritual from an ancient book they had found. Now it turns out that this seemingly harmless child’s play may be their downfall. The problem: only someone who isn’t a witch themselves can undo the spell, but what are the consequences? Are you ready to unleash the powerful ancient magic once again?”
Hello, dear reader, it’s good to be back! I took a trip with a couple of friends to the beach a few weeks ago and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to finally crack into a game I’ve really wanted to play since I purchased it nearly a year ago: Witchery Spell!
The game arrived in a relatively unassuming brown box featuring the game’s logo and a recommended entry point into the game attached to the outer box. We made our way through the initial entry point and then—having been trained by many puzzle games over the past year not to open anything without being explicitly told to do so—we stalled for a moment as we wondered if we were allowed to open the box yet! We decided to live dangerously and opened the box, finding a variety of beautiful props packed inside a bed of straw. Fortunately, that was the right move and we were able to dive right in to the puzzles.
The experience was well constructed and aesthetically stunning, though we did encounter some large hiccups (detailed below in Puzzle Play) along the way. It took our group of three about three hours to make our way through the mystery and solve the puzzle, though other puzzlers may be able to solve a little more quickly.
The story was well-integrated into the puzzle experience, both of which reached for a completely mimetic experience. I appreciated the amount of extra thought and detail included in the experience, which helped make the characters feel fleshed out and real. This was undercut a bit, unfortunately, by some pretty wooden video acting; though I will always appreciate an ambitious near-miss than a safe and rote success.
The narrative itself surprised, starting off looking like a typical “solve the disappearance” mystery and becoming something different and way more interesting.
My favorite parts of the experience were the bits where you got to feel like you were performing some real magic. Through its entire presentation, the game encourages you to take it seriously and to immerse yourself in the narrative and to actually try and believe what you’re doing. In this way it reminded me a lot of Root of All Evil, which is truly one of the highest compliments I can bestow upon a game.
The props included in the game do their part to reinforce this belief. The more “game-y” components are given a suitable in-universe reason for existing, and several of the props were nice enough to hang onto afterwards for display on my shelf. A lot of thought and design work went in to making the props and graphic design aesthetically pleasing. This is a very good looking game.
Amusingly and completely coincidentally, two of the primary antagonists in this game are named Delta and Omicron. The game came out before COVID existed, but we got a laugh out of it.
The puzzles in the game were mostly pretty well designed, but we experienced a somewhat major hiccup that caused a pretty big disruption of the game. It’ll be hard to talk about obliquely without some spoilers, so feel free to skip the next paragraph if you want to go in completely fresh. Otherwise, selecting the paragraph will reveal the hidden text.
The game includes two cards that pointed towards hint sites. We set them aside, as we didn’t feel like we needed hints at that moment. Near the end of the game we had solved almost all of the puzzles we could find, but were stuck on what to do next. We visited the hint site, which was a typical puzzle game hint site, with progressively hint-ier hints, eventually offering up a solution. However, the entire hint site was in Dutch and—try as a I might—I couldn’t figure out how to translate the entire page into English. So, I ended up copy and pasting what I hoped were relevant portions into Google Translate1I have since found a link to show the site in English, it’s here if you need it: Witchery Spell Hints, and getting mixed results. This should have pointed us to the second hint card, which was an in-universe card and intended as the true starting point of the entire experience. Once we figured out that we needed to use the second hint card, the game locked into place and we were able to make our way through the rest of the game mostly without issue. However, one end game puzzle is time-locked, based on when you started to use the in-universe hint card. We ended up just grabbing the answer for that puzzle, because the alternative would have been a long wait after we’d already stalled out.
I don’t want to dwell too much on that, because I truly think it would only take a few minor tweaks to alleviate those speed bumps and elevate this game into a classic. The rest of the puzzles were clever and well thought out. The difficulty was well executed, landing right in the goldilocks zone of “just right” most of the time. The puzzles felt very thematic and strongly tied to the narrative elements of the game. At its best, the game felt like it was accomplishing real magic.
As a bonus, the game was completely color-blind friendly as well!
This is a great game that is kept from being an all-time classic only by a few small missteps. I’m a bit puzzled that there still isn’t an English version of the hints site, as the rest of the game is written completely in English.
I would happily recommend it for the puzzle enthusiast or for someone who love a good witchy aesthetic (and to be fair, who doesn’t?). However, the less-than-smooth experience means I would have a harder time recommending it to someone new to the hobby.