Witches & Woodlands 3.5 Review

Title: Witches & Woodlands 3.5
Release date: 2011-12-30
Developer: Jan-Poo
Publisher: Jan-Poo

"Witches & Woodlands" or W&W is the second of the two "Umineko" fan-made games in English known to me. I have played and reviewed "Seacats" and so it's time to conclude everything "Umineko" related and review this game.

Both "Seacats" and W&W are so different in presentation and tone, that it's a moot point to draw any comparisons between them. There is only one similarity - this is also not a standalone game, but a patch you apply to EP8 installation.

W&W was released in parts starting from 2010 and the complete product was presented at the beginning of 2011, but it's 2011-12-30 that saw the release of the final upgraded version 3.5 (coincidentally that was also the date that "Seacats", that was also released in parts over the years, saw the completion).

Jan-Poo himself is an author of a lot of short "Umineko" related comic strips (yonkoma), ending with the infamous USO DA!!! Some of those strips are unlockable as a bonus when you finish the game. Now let's talk about the VN itself. In order to set some common ground I will make a proclamation in red:
"Witches & Woodlands" is a VN made with "Rule of Cool" in mind and a tongue firmly in cheek.
Erika describes all moder RPGs.
W&W casts away any pretence of seriousness and insists to cram as much coolness into the game as possible. When reviewing Chiru I made a few proclamations that now are coming back to haunt me. Namely, I compared EP5 to a "Dungeons & Dragons" being played by witches and I mentioned a metafiction movie "Dorkness Rising". Actually I would be surprised if Jan-Poo has not seen the movie as there is an almost undeniable inspiration stemming from it.

The game is set during an alternate universe version of EP4. In other words, while Kinzo unleashes The Bunnies onto the family members in the dining room, the cousins are holed in their room and cluelessly playing a "Witches & Woodlands" P&P RPG. Battler elects himself the Game Master and starts the campaign whose main objective is to capture evil witch Beatrice terrorizing the Rokken Nation. However, the game soon devolves into an argument about rules until Beatrice herself arrives in order to forcibly take the GM mantle away from Battler. The game starts anew under a different leadership.
You'll get your wish.
In order to apprehend the evil witch our "heroes" have to pass seven trials, on the way fighting monsters their own ineptitude and their own secret agendas. The VN is just rolling-on-the-floor laughter inducing as it throws so many stark raving mad events at you that you are just gasping while holding your stomach. During the course of the game you will solve puzzles, beat up enemies, avoid cleverly placed traps, fight among yourselves and even enter a '90s video game. I shit you not about the last one! This is a comedy at its finest while at the same time being a pretty intelligent read.

The other thing that is thrown straight in your face on a regular basis are one-liners. Surely even Schwarzenegger or Stallone would be envious of the amount of those crammed in W&W and the queen of them all is Maria. Near the end of the campaign she proudly presents one such one-liner that made my jaw drop to the floor. The other highlight was Beatrice talking on the phone.
Some generic '90s cRPG.
The game is obviously shorter than Kinjo's, but I personally enjoyed it much more. The attention to details is also of the level unseen in "Seacats". The presentation shows our characters both in the "real" world, sitting in the cousin's room and playing the game, and in the fantasy world. Their fantasy counterparts each got a custom sprite that looks very professional and is indistinguishable from Ryuukishi's work. Some characters even get more than one custom sprite, reflecting the changes wrought by the journey. Moreover, the fantasy versions of the players also get detailed character screens denoting all of their stats. The VN has no OP video, but it's not really needed as I wasn't so hot about the videos introduced in "Seacats". It's better none at all than a half-assed effort.

Finishing the game unlocks both ???? and Tea Party (strangely ???? is unlocked before Tea Party unlike in the official games), also yonkoma and a memory minigame. ???? is a short parody of EP8 and is not very funny, while Tea Party concludes the game. Not only that, but the creator added three secrets into the game.
The Master of Fat Fist.
The first secret is mentioned in his website: if you also have EP4 installed in addition to EP8, one of the music tracks in the game will be different.

The second secret is hidden in the game folder itself. It's an encrypted archive named "extra". The password is gained after finishing Tea Party. You will notice that among the files that you extract from "extra" folder is another encrypted archive named "treasure chest" - that is the third secret.

The third secret is an insane and complex multi-step riddle that is very difficult to solve and that will provide a password for "treasure chest". Hint 1: among the pictures you extracted from "extra", there is one that looks like puzzle you have to put together in order to get a hidden message. Hint 2: the memory game is not only for your enjoyment. More detailed hints can be found here. The complete solution is listed here.
Right there, under "My Soul".
In the end "Witches & Woodlands 3.5" is an insanely entertaining story that doesn't take itself too seriously and gains strength from that. I would recommend it for anyone... as long as you finished the "Umineko" saga. Spoilers you know...

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official site

Final Verdict: 86%

1 comment:

  1. another umineko fan game... your killing me here.. god I love this so much