Nine Witches: Family Disruption is a charming, off-beat point and click adventure game set in an alternate history where a WW2 division, dealing with dark magics of the occult, releases an ancient curse upon the world. Starring the quadripelegic professor and occult science extraordinaire, Alexei Krakowitz; and his more-abled-but-much-more-gassy assistant, Akiro Kugosawa. They are sent to the isolated, rustic Norwegian town of Sundäe in order to investigate a secret division of the Nazi army.
Nine Witches takes its alternative Nazi history timeline – something which has been done quite a bit – and injects a surreal comedic twist that is straight out of left field. The story is propelled by clever, snappy dialogue and atmospheric pixel art, fostering a sense of curiosity. You genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next, like the developers were basically having an improv session after watching Iron Sky and eating too many blue Smarties.
Protagonists Alexei and Akiro complement each other very well when it comes to progressing through Sundäe’s twists and turns. Alexei is able to enter a non-corporeal state where he can transcend his earthly form, becoming a spirit in order to ping useful objects in the environment and talk with other ghosts. He is also able to pass through closed doors, eventually learning to bend the minds of weak-willed or distracted individuals. He is also “confined” to a wheelchair, which is where Akiro comes in, saving the day with his fully operational arms and legs.
As a result, Akiro does most of the interacting and busy work, occasionally wielding a gun when he isn’t laughing like a demented clown or literally sobbing like a baby. Or hanging out with the devil, or burning communist literature, or catching hens for a man who may or may not be a Jedi Master. Humour seems to be Nine Witches’ big focus and it leans heavily enough on the fourth wall to obliterate it entirely.
There are times that the gameplay’s quality doesn’t live up to the dialogue’s wit, handing you an endless list of fetch quests which can start to feel menial when you want to progress with the plot. It essentially drip feeds you these little crumbs of plot like it’s trying to lead you to a gingerbread house in the woods, where it promptly chucks you in a hot oven of pedantic box-ticking. It certainly has its moments, but they rarely stand up alongside the dialogue.
The moody colour palette sets an dark, threatening tone. Each background consisting of interesting features that make you all the more inquisitive – there’s usually something to stop and make you look, pondering what could possibly come next. One forest contained a combined minefield and Viking graveyard – and all these little background details quietly build Nine Witches’ world up in a relatively short space of time. This is not “lazy” indie game pixel art by any means, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, it adds a lot of flavour to the mix.
Nine Witches is one of those games that I enjoyed, but it’s hard to put my finger on why exactly that is. There are some stellar comedic moments, but they’re equally balanced with excessive toilet humour. Some of the puzzles are clever, but just as many of them are guessing games or fetch quests. It trembles on a line between mediocrity and excellence, it’s just really hard to quantify what would have to change to push it over. Despite this, Nine Witches has a ton of heart and is clearly a labour of love – Indiesruption have done well to create a unique and well thought-out game. I look forward to further titles from them in the future.