Last, but just barely not least.
For a mysterious metaphysical entity, the Blair Witch has become about as familiar as that banana that's been in your gym locker since last semester. After two short and relatively disappointing stabs as a game concept, the witch is back yet again for a third and equally disappointing attempt in Blair Witch Volume 3: Elly Kedward's Tale.
The game takes place in the harsh winter of 1789. A number of people have turned up missing in Blair since the recent execution-by-exposure of an old woman on grounds of witchcraft. In fact, many of the missing people played key roles in accusing and condemning the old woman. This woman was, of course, Elly Kedward, henceforth to be known as the Blair Witch.
You play as Jonathan Prye, a clergyman who claims to have lost his faith, but as a witch-hunter, employs himself in the good work of ridding the world from those in league with the devil. Prye is dispatched to Blair Township to investigate the recent disappearances and quickly becomes convinced that the Blair Witch is somehow posthumously responsible, so he sets off to do something about it. Let me tell you, nothing puts me to sleep faster than a man of the church struggling to rediscover his faith. Pagans, can I get an amen?
This third installment in the Blair Witch game trilogy comes from Ritual Entertainment and sports their interpretation of the Nocturne engine. It's a kind of Nocturne-as-seen-by-Disney experience. The backgrounds are nicely drawn but lack realism and are, as usual, almost as interactive as the inside of a burlap sack.
In Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, the developers (Terminal Reality) made great use of sound to create a chilly level of realism and general creepiness. The movie itself relied heavily on sound (since they didn't actually manage to film anything). Having done nothing special with the sound in Blair Witch 3, Ritual threw in some last minute footstep effects. It sounds like someone kicking a wicker basket in your general direction and never quite manages to connect to an actual source. And I assure you, there's nothing terrifying about wicker. (You haven't seen my grandma's apartment in Florida... - Ed.)
The gameplay consists of running back and forth through the woods collecting a few talismans, artifacts and clues from the townsfolk (who have terrible voice actors). Each jaunt through the wooded areas pits Jonathan against zombie after uninteresting zombie. There are also demons, demon dogs, stick figures, and other enemies who will request your attention as you're commuting to and fro. None of these minor nuisances provide much of a challenge. What happened to the zombie hordes I always see in the movies? Two to three zombies at a time for a witch hunter is a walk in the park.
In terms of running, your enemies are not very quick. Their pathetic arthritic loping makes Jonathan Prye look like Jesse Owens. If you decide to fight them, Prye has many weapons that can easily suffice - the blunderbuss, for example, or the crucifix, which can sear the shape of a cross into your opponent's flesh until they burst into flames. This is actually pretty cool. I guess that's for moments when you want them to feel your wrath.
Most of the enemies you kill will drop health and ammunition, and they also respawn in the same spots. Needless to say, it's tempting to hang out on a single screen for a while to stock up on goodies. All that's missing are a few cold brews and your fishing buddy, Earl. And some fun. And some suspense.
I expect more from a horror-themed game than just a spooky premise. Blair Witch 3 makes no effort at an atmosphere of foreboding and danger. Instead, they made it dark. But the dark isn't scary if you know there isn't something in it to be afraid of.
The bottom line is this game isn't very much fun and it plays like it was put together last night. It manages not to sink to the depths of Blair Witch Volume 2: Legend of Coffin Rock but hasn't risen very far above it, either. Given, it only costs $19.95, though you'd be better off saving that cash for some nice wicker chairs.