Goetia – The Switch Island Review
Goetia, in case you’ve forgotten, is a practice that includes the summoning of demons. We’ve been pronouncing it go-ay-sha (please let me know if that’s wrong). The demons have an important function in this spooky point and click game: they wall off the areas you’re not allowed to explore yet. Once you’ve appeased a demon, it (he? she?) opens up the next explorable area. I prefer it in point-and-click adventure games when the world is unveiled piece by piece, to avoid feeling overwhelmed with thousands of things to click on, and so using the demons for this is a neat, and suitably unnerving, means to an end.
I say suitably because your protagonist is a ghost – sorry, for not mentioning that yet – who is visible as a nebulous blob of light. She can speak and explain things to you with the handy use of text-boxes. Her story is that she ‘wakes’ beside her grave in the grounds of a vast mansion, with no idea why. The game is exploring what has happened to her, her abandoned family home and surrounding areas, piecing everything together puzzle by puzzle. As I say, spooky. Also melancholy.
As a ghost you don’t have the corporeal limitations us living endure. This adds some fun dynamics to the genre. Want to move through a wall, that’s fine. Just follow the arrows that appear when you move the cursor near a wall. This makes traversal different; you’re not always limited by walls or doors. The only areas you can’t go are the ones blocked by the demons or if you can’t solve a puzzle. Of course, as a ghost, you have no way of storing items in a handy satchel or enormous pockets. Luckily, certain ghosts – poltergeists – can possess items, and it would appear this is your ghost type (species?) in Goetia. The effect on the game is that you can pick-up and use one item at a time. And possessing an item limits your traversal; you can’t move objects through walls. This adds a very slight Metroidvania dynamic and serves to keep items for the most part limited to the areas they’re required. No needlessly carrying a rubber chicken, then, to area after area. (Note: there are no rubber chickens in Goetia.)
If you prefer your point and click games in 2D, you’re in luck here, as it all takes place on a gloriously convenient flat plane, with none of that clumsy wandering around in 3D. The graphics are gorgeous and detailed, with lots of subtle lighting effects. The music and sound effects are eerie and put you in the right mood for ghostly exploring.
Playing on Switch is interesting. We play these games as a duo – which is great because I couldn’t solve these puzzles solo – and so we played on the TV in docked mode. You control a cursor that you move around with the analogue stick. It works fine but seems like a bit of a work-around for not having a mouse. You can play via touchscreen in portable mode, which is nice. This would be a great game for playing in bed, the night drawing-in.
This is not an easy game. There are point and click adventure games you can play half-asleep, but Goetia isn’t one of them. We are veterans of the genre and our poor brains were quite thoroughly tested by this one. If you’re wanting to move through a story and don’t like getting stuck, perhaps this isn’t one for you. If you’re in it for the puzzles then Goetia definitely has them. Frankly, for us, this is perfect. We personally aren’t fans of overly ’talky’ adventure games and prefer our puzzles to, well, puzzle us. The game has some nice features to help you too, including a codex, which takes the form of a menu of text and picture items that you might need to refer to, sorted by area. And there’s a journal to remind you what you’ve done and where you might need to try next, sorted by story thread. It’s nicely organised.
I’ve painted a rosy picture so far but there are a few niggles. Carrying items as a ghost is certainly novel, and we get that it’s a ghostly possession, hence one item at a time, but it does become frustrating. If you want to try an item on something then you have to navigate back to the item – and God help you if you can’t remember where you left it – and then slog it back to where you’d like to try it. There is a fast-travel mechanic from the game’s map, but it only takes you to key areas, not to every room (another nuisance). This problem isn’t quite as derangement inducing as it could be, but it’s certainly a pain. If we can believe Guybrush can carry massive blocks of tofu in his pirate trousers then we can believe a ghost can have an inventory to pull things from.
Also as we progressed through the game, there have been quite a number of bugs. Items would stick in place, the menu wouldn’t let us choose things, and other quirks. The game can be quit and restarted really quickly, which is nice, but surely a bit more play-testing would’ve found these (see: Breath Of The Wild).
Overall, we’ve found Goetia to be a challenging, creepy and ultimately different point and click experience, and one we’d recommend with only minor caveats.