This will be the first installment of a new series in which I will introduce you, the readers, to some very interesting Japanese indie or niche games that are definitely worth a try. Many of these games, including the one I will be delving into below, have been made with RPG Maker, a freeware program that’s exactly what it sounds like.
Beware–some spoilers may be lurking in the depths below. Enter at ye own risk.
First up is a unique horror game called The Witch’s House, or Majo no le in the Japanese version. You play as a young girl named Viola who ventures into the forest to visit her friend Ellen. However, she stumbles upon a witch’s house, who is said to kidnap children. After being blocked off by rose bushes and unable to leave, Viola decides to enter the house and lift the curse.
Of course Viola must first survive the house, which is ever-changing and unimaginably deadly. There are traps, tricks and dangers lurking at every turn but, luckily for you, Viola has help in the form of scattered hints and a talking black cat.
The Witch’s House starts off very strong, as poor Viola will be almost immediately chased by skulls, snipers and other dark creatures that have only goal–to spill this young girl’s blood on the carpet of the decrepit old house. Not even inanimate objects are safe; clocks and boulders will crush her, knives will defy gravity to stab her through the air.
As the player, you are tasked with solving numerous puzzles while traversing each floor of this mansion and keeping Viola alive. Along the way, you may have to commit strange or unsavory acts, such as feeding a kind and helpful frog to a snake to stay alive.
For being a game made with RPG Maker, the setting and mood is suitably haunting and downright terrifying at points. You’ll find yourself at the edge of your seat, especially when the witch herself appears for the final chase scene.
The Witch’s House, post patch 1.07, now has four possible endings, which reveal more about the circumstances behind the game’s plot. The simple graphics belie a deep, depressing and meaningful story–one that grows even more disturbing the further you go down the rabbit hole.
You can download The Witch’s House here for free; the link also has a walkthrough in case you’re having difficulties. You can also read the excellent prequel novel by Fummy and written in Ellen’s point of view (I would highly recommend beating the game first and unlocking the third “True Ending” before reading it).