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1995-2000
GamesFirst! Magazine


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by Gathering of Developers

In preparation for this review, I rented the original Blair Witch Project movie so I could have a reference for Blair Witch Volume 2: The Legend of Coffin Rock.  That’s right, I wasn’t one of the millions who flocked to see this unorthodox horror film when it was in theaters.  It was my duty, however, to see this movie so that I, as a Game Journalist, can best report for my readers.

Hey! Stop laughing!

Interesting movie, but it was a waste of $0.99 since Coffin Rock had very little to do with the film.  Even more disappointing is the game itself, with its sluggish controls, simple game play, and a very rushed plot and short playing time.  Recommended for Blair Witch aficionados only, this game adds very little to the annals of the ever-increasing survival-horror genre.

Coffin Rock
is part of a trilogy of Blair Witch computer adventures being published by Gathering of Developers.   Each individual volume is developed by different companies with Human Head Studios (makers of Rune) handling Coffin Rock.  The game uses the acclaimed Nocturne game engine, which definitely has some issues of its own, but more on that later.

Remember when Heather from the Blair Witch Project
was talking about the massacre at Coffin Rock?  Well, you’ll be reminded by a grainy video at the start of the game and from there the story quickly progresses.  You play as a strange, bloodied man who wakes up in the woods outside Burkittsville, Maryland circa 1883 disoriented and without memory.  No, he isn’t a college freshman the morning after a kegger; he’s a Civil War soldier and eventually he’s discovered by a little girl who takes him to her grandma.   You’re named Lazarus  by the old lady and all hell breaks loose as the little girl goes missing.  Your job, should you choose to accept it – and the old lady makes you – is to find the girl, discover your identity, and not fall asleep during the frequent periods of dialogue in the game. 

As you work your way through the levels, certain actions will trigger cut-scenes that advance the plot, rather inadequately in my opinion.   You meet with characters that tell you meaningless back-stories and never reappear for the rest of the game. The game really suffers from its brevity.  There simply isn’t enough time for a full, engrossing story line.  Potential side conflicts are introduced, but never resolved.  A great example of this is when Lazarus confronts a search party looking for the missing girl and accusations are made when he refuses to join the party.  One thing that is done right is the interactive flashbacks Lazarus has back to the Civil War which flesh out his story and predicament.  Lazarus (Lieutenant MacNichol in the flashbacks) and three Union soldiers explore the woods of Maryland and hunt down Confederate soldiers that have the intelligence of cardboard.  If the soldier AI was based on actual Confederate army tactics, then the South deserved to lose.  Soon, Lazarus has better things to worry about when members of his party start dropping dead.   This all leads up to the event where Lazarus appears in the woods bloodied and amnesiac.

There’s a very limited amount of enemies you actually have to deal with in this game.  Instead of the cliched zombies, your main enemies are walking stick figures and ghosts.  And of course a survival-horror game would not be complete without demon dogs, which Coffin Rock has in abundance.  I absolutely hate demon dogs; it brings back bad memories of my old paper route and a particular Satan-possessed Rottweiler, but I’m digressing. You have two bosses to contend with and they’re the most challenging enemies in the game and that’s not saying a lot.   The AI is slow and not too bright; a lot of times you can be on the same screen as an enemy and even fire off a few shots and it’ll never notice you until you’re a short distance from it.  As far as weapons go, you’re stuck with a six shooter revolver, a saber (later, an axe) and a glowing cross with the ability to fry ghosts.  Believe it or not, ghosts are vulnerable to gunshots, too; they even bleed ectoplasm. 

That is, if you can hit the ghost.  The Nocturne game engine is great for visuals, but the controls are too slow and seem half-witted.  Just turning around is a chore and running from one place to another is so slow that it drags the game down.  Aiming the gun is hit-and-miss, pun intended, as the target used to aim the gun is tiny and can easily be hidden from site.  The game features an Auto-Aim ability that makes the game too easy since most enemies will stay in one spot anyway.  Plus, when backing away from an enemy, it’s more than likely that you will get stuck between the trees or other obstacles, thus restricting your movement and allowing the AI a very cheap kill.

You spend most of the actual game play just dealing with your foes.  There’s very little to explore and only a couple of puzzles to attempt.  Certain key items are scattered through out the game and these items must be used in the final puzzle.  The game forces you to stay in a location until you've found the item for the area, not really giving you a chance to make mistakes or to explore.  The items’ significance is never explained and some items are never used even once.

One of the few upsides of this game is the graphics.   Unquestionably, Coffin Rock is a very detailed game, sporting some of the most realistic graphics on PC.  Buildings are lovingly rendered with little touches such as portraits and realistic wood textures.   Humans have very defined faces showing wrinkles, blemishes, and even little apparels like hats.  The forest is almost photo realistic.  A couple of quirks of the game engine pop up as well though.  The game picks the strangest camera angles to show the layout of the level to the point where navigation can be stifled due to lack of vision.  Also, the game throws in some nice looking special effects such as real-time shadows and billowing clothing.  I have no trouble with the shadows, but the fact that clothes billow outdoors and indoors indicate a poorly thought out feature. 

Aurally, the sound really helps the game out.  From start to finish, you’ll hear the rustling of leaves, the sound of your own footsteps as they walk from a wooden surface to ground to water, and even the distant wail of ghosts you may have to battle. Coffin Rock is musically sparse and features music that blends easily into the background and certainly nothing you’ll ever catch yourself humming when you’re alone.  Dialogue in cut-scenes is well spoken by quality voice actors, though Lazarus’ own voice can start to get a little grating after a couple of romps in the woods.  Some of the most memorable voices belong to the central villains whom I won’t reveal in this writing but all I have to say is that when the main villain speaks, you half expect it to say “Die, Autobot, die!”  Okay, gratuitous Transformers reference, but speeches in the game are very well acted.

All in all, Blair Witch Volume 2:  The Legend of Coffin Rock is a well-meaning game that  fails miserably in keeping the attention of the gamer.  With a poor story line and even poorer game play, Coffin Rock isn’t even worth the budget price it’s retailed.  Unless you have money to burn and three hours to kill (it’s that short), stay away from this title.

Levander Davis

Snapshot

Ups: Nice graphics and sound

Downs: Short story, sloppy controls, simple gameplay.

System Reqs: P II, 64MB RAM (96MB for 3D acceleration), 850MB disk space

 

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