Yes, Right. Of Course.
HIGH Great scope, solid puzzles, good sense of humor.
LOW Ghosting through doors was not adequately tutorialized.
WTF The, uh… ‘style’ of Akiro’s portrait art.
I don’t generally go in for Adventure games.
The logic needed to solve their puzzles is often annoyingly idiosyncratic, and progression comes to screeching halt if a crucial item gets overlooked. Backtracking through every screen, talking (again) to every character I’ve ever met, randomly combining every item with every other item and mousing over every pixel of every screen for a clue is the equivalent of nails on chalkboard to me.
However, every once in a great great great while I’ll encounter an Adventure title that doesn’t make me run screaming. Nine Witches: Family Disruption is one of these rare birds.
Set during WWII, this darkly whimsical 2D outing introduces Professor Krakovitz and his assistant, Akiro. The pair are recruited by the Allies to stop the Nazis – Hitler’s occult division is cooking up something nasty in a remote village, and whatever it is, it’s not good.
The player controls both Krakovitz and Akiro, switching between them at will. Akiro will do most of the work collecting items, talking to townsfolk, and handling the gunplay – in an unexpected turn, this is an Adventure game that has simple combat. However, the Professor is also vital – he’s got the ability to go into a trance and astrally project. His ghost form can fly, speak to the dead, command weak-minded characters and pass through locked doors.
The division of abilities between the two is great, and the devs take full advantage of this by offering clever puzzles that successfully manage to walk the fine line between comedic and common-sense. Need some information that’s being closely guarded? Krakovitz can go immaterial and spy it out in spirit form. Need to blast some guards or collect some specimens? Akiro’s the man.
At this point, I have to commend developer Indiesruption for their excellent design. There are many ways that Nine Witches could have gone off the rails and been reduced to just another irritating Adventure game, but they thread the needle perfectly.
While players can travel between several locations on a world map, there are ultimately only a small number of scenes, and each one is modest in size. There aren’t a million characters to talk to, and there aren’t a billion things that need to be investigated. By limiting potential options, the player’s chances of becoming hopelessly stuck are greatly reduced.
The same thing goes for the items. In each location – a bar, barracks, a festival and more – there are never any useless items, and the total number of things that go into the inventory is limited.
Again, this is a good thing! Since the player will only ever have a small number of things to interact with, there’s a good chance they’ll naturally intuit the right answer to any obstacle, and if not, then options can be shuffled through in a quick, efficient manner. There’s also a great notebook listing objectives and it’s easy to spot things that are important in every screen.
Of course this is not to say that the devs never get a bit silly – the correct use of male enhancement cream made me chuckle – but they keep the nonsense under control, and when they do decide to play something for laugh, the timing is spot-on.
Along the same lines, a key part of (almost) every Adventure title is the writing, and Nine Witches is strong here as well. Each conversation has just the right amount of irreverence, and the script’s callbacks and eyewinks are all on point. There are even a few instances of breaking the fourth wall — something that’s usually cringe-inducing — but it’s used sparingly and adds to the humor instead of tearing the player out of the experience.
I have few complaints about Nine Witches, but I will say that Krakovitz’s astral projection ability needed a clearer tutorial. I got hopelessly stuck early on because I had missed the cue telling me he could pass through doors — I had no idea he could do it until I saw it on a loading screen tooltip message. It’s a key ability, and should be called out more directly.
Also, Akiro’s character illustrations gave me serious pause. In promo art and in-game portraits, Akiro (a Japanese man) is depicted with a racist trope related to Asian eye shape. A red flag went up immediately, but I was both surprised and relieved to see that there’s no racist content in the game itself, related to either Akiro or anyone else… From what I gather, it’s just one single really poor art decision? I would respectfully suggest the team rework the design because the visual connotations are… not good.
It’s been a long time since I could say that I genuinely and deeply enjoyed something in the Adventure genre, but Nine Witches: Family Disruption was a great ride from start to finish. This gem has lots of laughs, plenty of clever situations to solve, and a good dose of rotten Nazis to foil. Plus, zombies! If Krakovitz and Akiro get assigned to another mission, I’m up for that tour of duty.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Indiesruption and published by Blowfish Sutdios. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Crude Humor, Suggestive Themes, Violence, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco. The rating is solid on this one — although it’s never extremely bloody or explicit, there are still instances of people dying, gross humor and more than a few dick jokes. It’s all well-done, but appropriate for older players only. No kids!
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played most of the game on mute and had no issues at all. All dialogue comes via text (see examples above — text cannot be resized or altered) and there are no relevant audio cues needed for gameplay. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
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