Dreams in the Witch House is a point & click/RPG made by the Finnish developer Atom Brain Games. It’s based on the Lovecraft mythos, and in my personal opinion, they absolutely nail the feeling from the stories – which of course has the effect of enteral suffering on me since I now have to wait patiently for the full release.
You play as a young and fresh student of Miskatonic University named Walter Gilman. And thanks to the financial aid of your aunt, you have managed to rent a small attic apartment in an old, run-down building in the suburbs. Your field of study is math, and your thesis involves math in combination with occult/folklore, which naturally fits the kind of theme this game sets out to be.
The game is a mix between an RPG, and a classic point & click adventure. You control your character in the typical P&C way, however, Walter also has RPG stats that will affect events in the game – like for example math, and occult skills, but also health, and sanity. This means you have lots of different kinds of stuff to focus on for you to build up your character for the upcoming exams, and you do that by reading the right kind of books. It sounds simple, but it isn’t that easy since everything you do in the game advances time, and for you to survive, you need to spend money on food, and other things, like for example medicine if you get sick. So, there are a lot of things to juggle here, time, money, school, and of course the inevitable private investigation into strange happenings.
I find it all a very fresh and fun take on the classic point & click adventure formula, to me, the survival aspect of the gameplay just enchanted the stakes and general immersion. I also like when games have time-sensitive tasks, and I don’t mean like when you only have 10 minutes to disarm a bomb kind of stuff. I mean, when you have a meeting to keep track of for example – it adds agency to the world, and to other characters, which makes NPCs come alive differently from the usual static placement.
Dreams in the Witch House has a pretty spooky atmosphere too, typical of Lovecraft’s work – the slow build-up to something otherworldly that slowly drains the sanity from our protagonist. From the demo at least, the centerpiece for this feeling is the attic apartment. Every time my character returned home at night from whatever thing he was doing, I felt genuine dread going up those stairs to the loft. Considering the material, that is a great feeling to have! I don’t want to spoil anything here, but this is one spooky room, and I also love the foreshadowing by talking to the other residents in the building. It’s a classic take on letting your imagination do the build-up, which rewards your anticipation in the end.
Visually, the game looks great, retro pixel art all the way, and not the cheap-looking kind either. The game is filled with animations and detail. Very visually stimulating to look at. The sound and music are good, even if I wish there were a little more ambient noises, some areas felt a little flat without any clear background sound. There is no voice-acting, and I don’t know if that is planned or not, but I would say it’s not needed. Music is also suitable spooky at places, which increases the tension – especially when it comes to that damn room in the attic!
All in all, a very good impression. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the demo. It has this cozy, and yet creepy atmosphere that takes turns in mesmerizing you. I also enjoyed the different kinds of characters you get to talk to. The dialogue felt very natural and flowed easily from one subject to the next. In other words; I can’t wait for the full release, which is set this year, thank the cosmic lords.
Thanks for reading.