Nine Witches: Family Disruption is a game from Argentina-based developers Indiesruption. This Indiecade 2020 nominee pushes the charm and challenge of old-school favorites like Day of the Tentacle and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Nine Witches explores an alternate reality, with the Nazis recruiting supernatural powers on their side of the war. It’s up to your team to foil their dastardly plan through a weird, wacky, and toilet humor-laden romp in the creepy Scandinavian town of Sundäe. Do you have what it takes to fight against ruthless Nazis and otherworldly creatures from beyond?
Story – Dark and Disgusting for your pleasure
Through a pixel-perfect lens, the game’s story reimagines WW2 history with the Third Reich deploying a top-secret Okkulte-55 division to harness supernatural powers in Norway. The game is separated into nine parts depending on your progress through the story, offering a new cutscene about the villain Colonel von Darka’s scheme.
The game’s main setting – Sundäe, Mylkshake, Norway – is a quiet, unfortunate town invaded by the Okkulte-55 to hold their celebration of the Eklipse Fest. Weird occurrences abound through the town as you explore the sites and interact with its inhabitants. Around every corner is a hint about the sinister things happening in this otherwise humdrum village.
Nine Witches has a linear story with decent pacing and a sense of progress, enough to push players to care about and unravel the game’s mystery. The setting worked well to give an air of mystery and curiosity to the players. I played through to the end, interested in how everything ties together. The balance of dark themes and, frankly, juvenile humor did work, though some of the gross-out jokes elicited groans rather than laughs. While the build-up was strong all the way through, the payoff was simpler and more straightforward than I expected.
Throughout the game, you’ll be able to switch through Alexei Krakovitz, a renowned academic of the occult, and his loyal assistant Akiro Kagasawa. I realized that no matter who you play, the dialogue with the NPCs and flavor text remains the same. The excitement of playing two different characters is wasted because there’s no difference between them, narrative-wise. There are glimpses of impulsiveness from Akiro’s personality and genuine concern from Krakovitz. These instances were not enough to set the two characters apart – which was a shame because they both had the potential to be bigger personalities.
Overall, the story has a good hook and a simple, straightforward narrative approach. Its content, I noticed, has an extremely specific target market in mind – it appeals to the nostalgic gamers of the nineties. The blend of toilet humor and sexual references can run dry as the story goes on, and this includes the game’s own self-awareness. It’s a good thing that the game’s pacing manages to package it into an enjoyable experience.
Gameplay – Snoop and Shoot your way to Success
Nine Witches: Family Disruption’s gameplay is presented in two distinct halves: its traditional point-and-click adventure phase, and its action shooter segments. Let’s talk about them separately.
First off, the adventure phases are also split into two characters – Akiro is in charge of the grunt work in terms of exploring the scenes, picking up clues, and solving puzzles. Krakovitz is in charge of the paranormal investigation, where his spiritual form can communicate with ghosts and phase through locked doors. Together, these perspectives create an interesting puzzle-solving dynamic, which is a relief to the mundane backtracking and clicking everything to make sure you didn’t miss a clue, activities typical to this niche genre.
Next, the action scenes which involve the two characters. You get the opportunity to point a pistol and shoot at enemies, but there’s a catch. Akiro is the only one who can play both offense and defense, as Krakovitz cannot do anything in these scenes but follow you around. Lining up Akiro’s gun with the enemies, fleeing when the gun jams, and making sure Krakovitz isn’t in the line of fire is a struggle to juggle, especially near the end of the game. You are given the option to adjust the difficulty settings that will help you skip through these segments altogether and get on with the story and puzzles.
The puzzles here can be tough, but not to the point that you’d want to tear your hair out, like its 80s and 90s counterparts. As a long-time adventure game player, it was nice to endure some of the silly puzzle solutions that do make sense – within the universe of the wacky fictional village of Sundäe, that is. The action segments are also enjoyable and give a fast-paced, blood-rushing break to its slower exploration phase. I felt that there was a good balance between the two.
Audio and Graphics – Did We Mention this is a Pixel Art Game?
The game loves to remind you that this is in fact, a pixel adventure – lots of in-game jokes poke fun at it! But the pixel art was done in a fantastic, simple yet sleek manner. The character sprites blend in seamlessly with the background. You won’t have any trouble recognizing the items, as these assets have been thoughtfully designed. Overall, the game employs high-quality pixel art, from the settings, the characters, and the collectible items.
It’s also pretty impressive that the pixel art could keep up with the action portions of the game – the movement is dynamic and isn’t flat and boring. Now, this art style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it will appeal to and delight those who grew up on point-and-click adventures. However, it will alienate those who don’t like pixel art at all.
The songs and sound design were good and added to the atmosphere of the game. It switches up to signal the lighthearted comedy shorts and the hair-raising exploration portions. Shout out to Schmidt’s signature chuckle, feeling genuinely creepy as you try to unravel the mystery behind him, and then increasingly memetic as Akiro and Krakovitz make fun of the quirk. However, with the length of the game and the number of characters, it could have actually benefitted from voice acting. Sound clips took the place of laughter, screams, and other cues, but the voice acting would have significantly improved and polished the experience. It would also have added more personality that I found was already lacking in the characters.
Nine Witches: Family Disruption was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a key provided by StridePR.