For nearly six months, the videogames community has been captivated and aww’ed by a Twitter account called “Can You Pet The Dog?”. Documenting the canines met across videogames of every genre, the account has accumulated over 300,000 followers, inspiring a few developers to issue updates specifically to include this beloved detail.
Well, consider this a new entry in the series. Blair Witch has a leg up on them all. In this latest horror game from Bloober Team, dog petting is a feature, not an afterthought. Starring Ellis and his dog Bullet, it makes collaboration with your canine companion a key part of how the Black Hills Forest is searched and navigated. As they hunt together for signs of a missing young boy, Bullet can be directed, through a five-part command wheel, to stay, keep close, search for clues or receive a scolding, a bit like the system in games like Haunting Ground and Rule of Rose. But most importantly, you can pet Bullet, and when or how often you do (and your general treatment of Bullet in general) may affect your ending of the game.
More than just an appeal to fan service, interacting with Bullet will reward him or calm him in times of trouble, but also comfort the player as well. At one point, after one of Ellis’s violent hallucinations, the game lets you hold Bullet for several minutes as Ellis pulls himself together. I didn’t want to let go. There’s something so comforting about the unconditional love of a dog, and in that moment, even I could feel the bond. It made me want to protect him just as much as he’s protected me.
Blair Witch is an appealing mixture of the movie’s most iconic elements reimagined in a virtual setting. But its best feature is one that all its own.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.