Are you in the mood for a real ghost story? Halloween finally arrived, so between carving the pumpkins, preparing your costume and devising a devilish plan how to appropriate all candies for yourself, you might consider to try out something that will additionally put you in the mood for some seasonal revels by instilling an extra dose of fear and terror in your bloodstream. Of course, there’s no better way to do it than by sampling a true gothic PC horror game, done in the traditional point and click style. For that purpose, Goetia is just the thing that doctor Frankenstein would order – a game which impishly reverses traditional horror roles and puts you in the ectoplasmic person of a restless spirit (as if is there any other kind?) of a 12-year-old girl called Abigail Blackwood. The game starts one quiet night by the crooked gravestone, as your character wakes up from its rest and faces the harsh reality that she’s dead, faintly recalling an incident which ended with her obviously fatal fall. The Abigail’s ghost took the form similar to that of will-o’-wisp, a delicate phantom light capable of flying around in all directions, which will come in handy during her personal quest, as she tries to make sense of her demise and the curious destiny of her eccentric family.
As she hectically flutters around like a spectral firefly, little Abigail (or, rather, her spiritual essence) discovers that the scene of her ancestral home, Blackwood Manor had much changed. The 40 years had passed since the fate of her entire household was sealed and some terrible, seemingly impenetrable mystery permeates the whole place. As is the case with most revenants (at least according to old ghost stories), little Abigail has only a partial recollection of the critical events that culminated in her death. As she slowly picks the broken pieces of her family’s history, constantly torn between the urge to find out the whole truth and the sense that some things are perhaps best left unsaid, Abigail discovers that her family had an unusual hobby indeed. The once stately estate had fallen into ruin, empty and deserted, and only other “resident” beside her that haunts this desolate house is a raven-shaped demon who goes by the name of Malphas. One of the demonic entities summoned by the members of her family and trapped in the confines of the house, Malphas offers her advice and assistance, providing that she releases him from his long and tedious entrapment.
Obviously with all the ghosts, abandoned houses, demonic forces, demon summoning, old families dabbling with spiritualism and black arts, Goetia is certainly made of stock motifs from gothic and horror literature. However, the way that the story is disclosed is rather unique, thanks to the fact that it’s told from the perspective of the ghost itself and not the usual living spectator. And the best thing of all is the way that several parts from the ghost folklore are elegantly fused into the gameplay. For instance, like all ghosts, although Abigail herself is incorporeal (which means that she can pass through the walls at her whim), she still can exert her influence in the physical world. A proper little poltergeist, Abigail can possess physical object she encounters around the house. That in practice means that she can enter inside them, carrying them whenever she pleases and use them as an ingredient in solving different puzzles. Of course, possessed objects still retain their fundamental physical aspect, so they can’t pass through walls or do anything which would compromise their physicality. That’s why an integral part of many puzzles will include Abigail’s inventive efforts to transport required objects between different locations – such as, for instance, from one room to another, separated by a locked door. In addition to possessing various objects, Abigail’s other steps required to lift the veil of mystery will be to dust off long-forgotten journals and read them for clues, finding alternate routes for transporting items and many more. There are even a couple of music puzzles which have been criticized (as most puzzles of this type) as being overly difficult. However, they, like all other puzzles in the game, are perfectly logical, so although there’s no hint system whatsoever, all you have to do is to follow the subtle thread of clues and you’ll solve them without too many complications.
A true horror story is nothing without a proper atmosphere, and Goetia has a great one. It’s not only generated by an interesting narrative and expertly lead plot, but also by very good graphics. Artistic, precise and detailed, visuals are a perfect accompaniment to the eerie story, and when it’s paired with unnerving sound effects and amorphously suggestive ambient music, the overall effect is even better. Indeed, the atmosphere can be so subtly menacing at times, that the fact that you play as a supernatural being yourself won’t make you immune to its frights and terrors. Finally, just because the protagonist is a spirit doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a great and convincing personality. The ghost of little Abigail will certainly grow on you, demonstrating a touching effort and persistence in her search for answers. Made by an indie developer called Sushee and published by Square Enix. Do a good deed and help young Abigail on her quest and you’ll be rewarded tenfold with this terrific blend of great gothic narrative, inventive puzzles, and flawlessly administered fear.