The best way to sum up Witch It! is that it is a novel take on a much, much older game: hide and seek. Players take on either the role of the Witches (the hiders), or the aptly named Hunters (the seekers). Before the round starts, the witches have a few seconds to find a suitable hiding place, and then the hunt is on! In its main game modes, the objective of the witches is simple: survive until the timer runs out. For the hunters, it’s equally straight forward: find and eliminate the witches.
Where it starts to get different is the powers and abilities at the disposal of each side. You see, each of the different levels (whether it’s a theater, castle, or tropical beach), is stuffed to the gills with props. Chairs, books, tables, candles, bales of hay, beach balls, cannonballs, seashells and more, liberally litter each level. Witches can turn into, or possess, each and every one of these objects. At the beginning, this can make finding witches a game of spot-the-discrepancy. See three candles where there should be only two? Chances are one of them’s a witch. See a plank of wood moving across the ground (or floating) by itself? Definitely a witch.
Of course, this only works the first time a team of hunters come through an area, as it tends to get pretty messed up by potatoes. No, you read that correctly. Potatoes being the standard way of telling whether a chair really is a chair, or a witch in disguise. Hunters move through the level, flinging potatoes at objects, hoping to elicit a yelp which means they’ve found a witch in hiding. Unfortunately (from the hunters’ point of view) all this spud hurling tends to mess up the level pretty quickly. Which is where the chickens come in. Armed with a witch-sniffing chicken, the hunters can release said fowl which will travel a few meters, and start noisily clucking if a witch is nearby.
When this happens, the witches have a few choices. Make a run for it (rarely successful), tough it out and hope they don’t notice (surprisingly effective, especially if another witch in the vicinity lures them away), or use a defensive power. These range from control-and-vision-disrupting mushrooms which can be summoned behind the witch as she makes her getaway, to a handy decoy power which summons a prop wherever you aim it, and is very useful for distracting hunters which are getting too close for comfort.
The net result of all this was that I spent 3 or more minutes, hiding in a bookshelf as one of the books, whilst a pack of hunters tore the room apart around me. It was glorious. The tension, mixed with the mischievous fun of summoning decoys to distract nearby hunters, or cackling insanely (not in real-life, there’s a taunt button) and watching as the hunters redoubled their frantic efforts to find me, was exhilarating. Do I summon a decoy and hope the hunters will be distracted (which means you’ve got to pay attention to where the hunters are looking and summon the decoy in their line of sight), or will doing this simply alert them that I must be nearby? Decisions, decisions.
This is the game at its best, a heady mix of tension, tactical decision making, and mischief. At worse, particularly if you’ve put yourself in an area where you can’t see anything that’s going on, it can become, just like hide-and-seek, a little dull. Fortunately, these moments never last long and are more than compensated for by the usual excitement. Of course, there are also a few different modes, if you want to spice things up a bit. The differences between two of these modes are minimal, and simply changes whether witches, once eliminated, turn into invisible ‘spectators’ and simply watch the remainder of the match, or respawn as hunters, making things even harder for the remaining witches. The final mode is a race between hunters and witches, with the witches trying to fill mystic cauldrons with the correct object types (find the object, transform into it, then hurl yourself into the cauldron), and the hunters trying to prevent them from doing so. (The more disruptive of the witches’ defensive abilities are certainly necessary here, as a flying park-bench is a little conspicuous, to say the least.)
Grasping the basics of these modes, and gameplay in general, is made easy by the excellent tutorial videos included with the game. Also, the voxel-ish, cartoon-like nature of the visuals (from the classic picture-book witches to the oafish hunters, whose balloon-shaped bodies wobble alarmingly whenever they move) make this suitable for just about any age.
All in all, this is a pleasant, light-hearted game, and a great excuse for the young (and young at heart) to enjoy the thrills of hide-and-seek again.■