May 12, 2005
The Witch’s Yarn is a new “casual” adventure game from developer Mousechief! (exclamation point theirs, not mine). It’s the first adventure game I’ve ever played which I’m pretty sure I could have programmed most of myself. And I don’t know how to program. That is to say, the game was built in PowerPoint, or at least feels like it was.
No matter. Who cares? It’s the gameplay, right? It’s just important that the reader understand that this is a game that makes Inspector Parker and Betrapped seem like big-budget projects in comparison.
The Witch’s Yarn tells the story of a middle-aged witch named Wednesday, who with her fungal familiar Greta attempts to leave the magical life and open a legitimate yarn shop driven by human-only labor. A surprising amount of people (magical and otherwise) are involved in the success and/or failure of her new venture, and it is these interactions that are the meat of the game.
Actually, they are the meat, potatoes, two vegetables, and dessert of the game. You see, The Witch’s Yarn isn’t so much a game as it is an attractively illustrated and mildly interactive story.
About eighty percent of the game takes place on a single screen. In one single chapter you get to exit Wednesday’s store and explore the other shops on the street. But then it’s back to the yarn shop.
The gameplay mechanic attempts to recreate a movie or a play. By pointing and clicking, the player gives “cues” to the characters. This isn’t a bad idea.
The “puzzles” in the game consist of figuring out what order to click the cues. Yeah, I’m afraid that’s it. If you click too many “wrong” cues in a row, you fail the chapter.
The good news is that the game is very forgiving when it comes to making mistakes. If you realize you’ve messed the chapter up, you can simply “rewind” as many steps as necessary to try again. Or you can easily rewind to the beginning of the chapter.
I’ve complained that the game is essentially an illustrated story, but it must be said that the story is pretty good. You do get to know Wednesday’s children, extended family, and neighboring merchants. The social puzzles in the game can be fun to solve. The final major puzzle – making sure an impromptu party in Wednesday’s shop goes well – was fun to solve.
Though there’s precious little art in the game (and only the most minimal animation), the art is attractive and appealing.
The highest-quality element of the game is the superb jazzy piano musical score.
The bottom line is we have a game here with some good ideas – the “cue” system, a good story, an unusual presentation – hobbled by extremely static gameplay.
I can’t recommend this game at its current price point (around twenty dollars). I think it would be smarter of Mousechief! to give this game away and try to get players interested in the type of thing the developers are trying to do. I would be interested in playing this team’s next game. If they can figure out how to get a little more interactivity into it, they just might be on to something.
Final Grade: C