Human Head Studios' Blair Witch Volume 2: The Legend of Coffin Rock is an action-adventure game that was inspired by last year's film, The Blair Witch Project. The game recounts a story that happened more than a hundred years before the events in the film; it's about a soldier that served in the American Civil War. Volume 2 is a rather short game - comparably so with Blair Witch Volume 1 (the previous game in the three-part series) - and it uses the Nocturne graphics engine. Though Blair Witch Volume 2 is not particularly scary, it has a fairly interesting story that's paced briskly. It also has excellent sound.
As mentioned, Blair Witch Volume 2 is powered by the same graphics-rendering engine as the one in Nocturne, another horror-themed game, which was released a year ago. Unfortunately, time hasn't been especially kind to the engine; Blair Witch's graphics look rather plain, and in some cases, blocky and pixelated. But even though the game's graphics don't look impressive, they're more than sufficient for the game's alternately dreary gray and full-color backgrounds, and they actually allow for some detail on the game's characters. For instance, the game's protagonist - a pale-faced, amnesiac soldier named Lazarus, who's seemingly risen from the dead - wears a loose tunic and a pair of pants that billow in the wind.
Blair Witch Volume 2's sound is quite good. That is to say, though the game's voice acting is generally mediocre, its sound effects are great. As you progress through the game, the ambient sounds around your character tend to become increasingly spooky; at first, you'll simply hear the whispering of the wind as Lazarus explores a country road on the outskirts of town. Later on in the game, as you explore the mysterious woods, you'll hear disembodied, sibilant gibberish; faint tappings of stone on stone; and the genuinely creepy alternating laughter and horrified weeping of a small child.
The game's graphics and sound complement its story well enough; your character has been awakened by Robin Weaver, a young girl who lives with her grandmother in Burkittsville, Maryland - a town that's also known as Blair. But Robin disappears into the woods - which her grandmother believes to be haunted - and it's up to you to rescue her. Over the course of your journey, you'll have to traverse each area twice. That's because Blair Witch Volume 2 uses an interesting device to drive both the story and the game forward; each time Lazarus explores a new area, he'll also remember it in a flashback sequence, during which you'll play through a much more brightly colored version of the same area. Through these flashback sequences, you'll learn that Lazarus was a military officer sent on a routine mission into the woods of Blair - a mission that went horribly wrong. Each sequence is fairly short and, for the most part, relatively easy to solve - and each is punctuated by a brief in-engine cutscene. For the most part, the game's sequences are structured in such a way that you'll find yourself solving them and moving on to different locales at a fast enough pace; you'll make progress without seeming rushed.
In many of these sequences - in both the "present" time and in Lazarus' memory - you'll have to fight with enemy soldiers, rabid dogs, and other hostile characters and creatures. Lazarus is equipped with a handgun, an officer's saber (and later an axe), and a mysterious glowing cross; you'll need each of these weapons to fight off different enemies in the game's action sequences. You may initially have trouble making effective use of the game's unusual control scheme, since the game requires that you use both the keyboard and mouse (the keyboard to move forward and back, and the mouse to turn to the side and look up or down) - especially since the game takes place on area maps that are entirely static and may not be rotated or panned to afford a better view of the action. However, the game has an auto-aim feature that points Lazarus in the right direction by default when he's holding a pistol, which makes many of the combat sequences much easier to deal with - though it also tends to remove what little challenge or excitement these sequences might otherwise have offered. And it's true that your character can die if he's wounded badly enough. Yet the game's auto-aim feature, as well its liberal placement of twana dolls (the Blair Witch equivalent of health potions), ensures that you'll rarely have to retry an action sequence - if ever.
As with the game's combat, Blair Witch Volume 2's puzzles are fairly straightforward. Most aren't really frustrating - the game's simplest puzzles are rather easy to solve, while others may simply require a few tries to finish. And, unfortunately, though they're generally not terribly difficult, most of the game's puzzles aren't very interesting. One of the more exciting scenes in the game is a confrontation between Lazarus and a hideous creature. This creature is powerful enough to kill him with a single blow - but once you get past the initial excitement, you'll find that defeating the creature is simply a matter of reloading your saved games until you deduce the simple pattern that you need to kill it.
Blair Witch Volume 2 doesn't look terribly impressive, and its lackluster voice acting detracts from the otherwise spooky atmosphere that its excellent sound effects create. None of its combat or puzzle sequences are very frustrating or very intriguing. The game itself is not only brief, but also completely linear, so it's got little to no replay value. However, it's got a well-structured and interesting story that's presented in a distinctive way.