Nightmare Adventures: The Witch’s Prison was developed by Torque and published by Ghost Ship Studios in 2010. It is a point-and-click adventure game that centres around a woman named Kiera Vale, who inexplicably finds herself in the middle of the activities of an unnamed cult. Waking up and finding herself in the custody of a mysterious government agency called A.R.C.A.N.E., Kiera begins to recount her story for them, causing the entire game to be played as a flashback tale.
Knowing next to nothing of her family or its history, Kiera goes off in search of information and, in doing so, is contacted by Alton Quinn, the groundskeeper for Blackwater Asylum. He informs Kiera that she is the current owner and thus she sets off to investigate the abandoned site for clues about her family history. After meeting Alton, however, Kiera quickly discovers that he has presented himself to her under false pretenses and that Quinn had an ulterior motive for inviting her to the asylum. As Kiera searches for answers, she finds not only information about her family history, but also discovers the history of a witch who has been caged since the 1700s, the cult determined to free her, and an A.R.C.A.N.E. program from the 1980s that wanted to use the witch for its own purposes, all of which are linked to one another.
Gameplay focuses on puzzle solving, using both situational and actual puzzles. The situational puzzles are simple, reasonable, and logical and incorporate the actual puzzles to not only find inventory items but also allow for area progression, all of which feels completely organic. The actual puzzles are fun, challenging, and at times infuriating, but none of them overreach the skill level they are intended for or require out-of-the-box thinking in order to be solved. And the best part is that each puzzle method is only used once, which will keep your brain ticking for the entire game.
Kiera keeps on her at all time a PDA, which she uses to record her thoughts, a camera, which she uses to take pictures of any helpful clues that can be used toward future puzzle solutions, and inventory items you have collected. As the PDA has no impact on gameplay whatsoever, the player must rely on the pictures as well as their inventory items to help solve puzzles. Many of the pictures taken and inventory items collected do not always affect puzzles within the immediate area.
This game is so well put together that you can tell it was a labor of love for the developers. The programmers created such a great game with a completely grounded story that it is almost impossible to find anything wrong with it. I have only found two faults for this game – one minor and the other major. The minor fault is with the way the game displays photographs. When you go to view the pictures that have been taken, you are given arrow buttons to move through them. Instead of being left and right arrows, however, they are up and down arrows, making navigation through the picture set confusing. Even though you are given an indicator as to which picture you are currently on within the set, I continue to remain unsure as to which way the arrow will move me from picture to picture without experimenting each time. The major fault has nothing to do with the game itself but rather its handling of the strategy guide. In plenty of other point and click games, an icon is provided at the bottom of the screen in-game to allow quick access to the guide should you ever have need of it. With this game, not only is the link for the guide located at the main menu, causing you to exit the gameplay, the link sends you to a website, forcing the game to minimize before pulling up a browser window. I am unsure if this was the result of poor planning or deadline restriction, though given how near perfect this game is, I choose the latter.
This game is solid adventure, though it does have one instance of a hidden object scene. This irked me a little, especially because I bought it at a time when I had played so many hidden object adventure games that I was looking to get away from them for a while, but thankfully the hidden object scene is simple and quick to get through, leaving its presence within the game in question, especially since it fails to match the tone that the game sets. Was it thrown in for levity? Were the developers paying homage to these kinds of games? Who knows? I can see some people losing their immersion a little with this scene, despite how early in the game it appears, but it still fits within the context of the game to provide Alton Quinn with an additional personality quirk and serves to remind the player that not everything is as it seems.
This is such a wonderful game I cannot help but highly recommend it to everyone, especially since it has a twist ending that leaves open the possibility for a sequel. This is a highly enjoyable game with a loveable and intriguing story that leaves you with just enough mystery as you play through it to see what will be uncovered next. Although this is not a mystery game per se, there are still many questions to be answered as you make your way through it and you will find yourself wanting to know more.
Nightmare Adventures: The Witch’s Prison is available on PC and Mac from Big Fish Games and on Android and IOS.