For Abigail Blackwood, all is not as it seems. As the deceased former resident of a desolate town, you will be revisiting and exploring a once tranquil mansion and township on a quest to recall memories from nearly 40 years ago to figure out just what happened to you after you fell out of a window and were inexplicably brought back.
Goetia is a 2D, point-and-click adventure set at the turn of the 20th century (and during the 1940s). As intimate and melancholy as it is dark and bleak, Goetia utilises its muted colour palette with Gothic architecture and sparse lighting to create an atmosphere akin to the works of Edgar Allen Poe. You are represented on-screen as the spirit of Abigail, a set of crosshairs and a glowing orb that can be dragged around the screen by either using the touchscreen or the right stick. In practice, using the stick feels a little sluggish and using the touchscreen controls is more responsive and quicker, but both are adequate.
In order to uncover the mystery and of what happened to 12-year-old Abigail some 39 years ago, you’ll be exploring more than 100 rooms and interacting with different objects to decipher symbols and solve puzzles. In addition, you’ll collect journal entries that serve as both hints and exposition regarding Abigail’s interpretation of events leading up to that fateful day. In any given area, with a press of ‘-‘, a series of magnifying glass icons will appear indicating which objects you can interact with. From there, you potentially have three options. Either examine, use or possess. While the options are straightforward enough to use, with 'A' to interact and use objects, 'X' to view 'Y' to possess, 'B' will drop an object you have taken. It is here that a minor annoyance occurred, as pressing 'B' to get out of the codex menu automatically dropped the object, sometimes through a floor, resulting in having to look for and retrieve it.
A puzzle may involve possessing an object in order to move it from one room to another, such as using powder on a seemingly blank sheet of paper to expose a door code, or a number of keys to unlock doors or passageways. There will also be a few audio clues here and there, but these instances where you must rely on them are very seldom. There are one or two ridiculously obtuse puzzles, which really bring the whole expression down somewhat, but on the whole everything fits together pretty well.
It is definitely worth putting a pair of headphones on, as both the beautifully illustrated claustrophobic interior and spacious, lonely outdoor sections are complemented by a fantastic minimalist soundtrack and effects. Off-key piano cues, subtle and sparse noises such as the scraping of metal, a ticking clock or creaking of doors really add to the atmosphere, before you even reach the more surrealist imagery or delve into deciphering more demonic insignia. Goetia looks undeniably lovely too, with a slightly kooky impressionist painting style and sparse yet striking lighting effects to create a spooky atmosphere, disturbing in its loneliness yet begging to be explored. Candle light flickers, tree branches dance in the wind and mist blankets the moonlit grass.
There are also a few different abilities to gain in order to solve certain puzzles in a different way which adds a light Metroidvania feel to proceedings. Areas that are inaccessible are clearly marked with glowing blue or yellow sigils, and solving certain puzzles in turn allows access. The hand-drawn map to help you along is stylistic rather than solely functional, with your current location not shown or any points of interest not documented, but the log of all potential clues are archived quite tidily, broken down by the games five areas in your codex. The puzzles work well within their environments, are plentiful and creative yet challenging, but may result in more trial and error, rather than sleuthing skills.
What Goetia lacks in character development outside of Abigail herself, it makes up for in back story. Layered and engaging, yet intricate and complex, there is a lot going on- dealing with themes of family, loss, war, mortality and there’s also an exploration of the dark arts. The history of the town and its inhabitants is presented in a fragmented and abstract manner, and information about Abigail’s almost aristocratic family is initially hard to come by.
The protagonist's personality is well-explored, having a curiosity and innocence appropriate to her age before her untimely passing, and she provides a running commentary as well as sharing fond memories of her family throughout the game's 12-hour-plus duration (closer to 20 if you complete all of the optional puzzles). Likewise, once things get going, all the documents, journal entries and other evidence all come together to build a rich and rewarding narrative. It’s a lot of text to digest, but it creates a creepy and absorbing experience.
The only other character of note that you’ll regularly talk to called Malphas. To describe its physical form would spoil the surprise, but suffice to say that the ‘Prince of Hell’ is secretive and cryptic to the point of frustration. You get the impression it can help more than it is letting on, but the contrast between the main characters makes for a decent platform for the twists of the story to unfold, and you’ll ask about where everyone went, but maybe more importantly, why? There are many mysteries to discover in a gorgeously realised world, but unfortunately, a few of the puzzles severely affect the games pacing.
Goetia is a flawed yet engrossing point-and-click-style adventure for those looking for a challenge as well as an interesting story. Aside from the lack of a hint system resulting in the odd infuriatingly obtuse puzzle, it's a bleak, beautiful experience. It’s certainly slow and more text-heavy compared to other titles in the genre on Nintendo Switch, but it’s well-crafted and worth a look.