Halloween 2020 Gaming Special, Day 7: “Barrow Hill: The Dark Path” (PC)

Wrapping up our Halloween gaming special week, Shadow Tor Studios‘ first-person horror adventure game Barrow Hill: The Dark Path offers more than a little bit of The Blair Witch Project dejavu moments.

Barrow Hill: The Dark Path (PC)
(UK 2016, developer/publisher: Shadow Tor Studios, platform: PC)

After 10 years since the ‘Barrow Hill Incident’, a group of people has disappeared once again, so it’s up to the player to lift the curse of a witch roaming the woods and saving the souls of them.

Back to the Druidic roots
Despite the Cornwall setting and focus on Druidic rituals, the story is clearly inspired by The Blair Witch Project and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (see both reviews in this movie special), as one soon learns that a group of teenagers have dabbled in something they don’t understand, leading to them being hunted and even being possessed by the witch Baibin. While the movies are lacking in explanations, the game offers more background information with documents, like diaries and historical accounts that are steeped in myths and legends. This adds to realism, but it’s nothing special, considering how various media have covered stories about witches in the woods.

Mild horror
This is also reflected in the scare sequences, as the sudden appearance of Baibin is spine-tingling the first time, but (except for one instance) it doesn’t make any difference if she’s on the same screen as the player. One can even walk around in the woods and miss her standing in the background, making this a fright gimmick that doesn’t quite work (although it’s an improvement over the monolith of the first game). The more subtle and effective horror doesn’t necessarily come from walks in the dark, but from reading documents and watching videos that bring the legend to life, althought it never becomes truly scary.

More characters, less story development
Despite having more characters than the first game and the player being able to communicate with them (or rather be contacted by them via electronic devices), they’re not more memorable or fleshed out than cut-and-paste slasher horror teenagers. One finds out about each individual’s motivations, strengths and weaknesses, but these characteristics don’t make them any more interesting, which is also down to the writing, as conversations are too long. The unnamed player character who is just caught in the middle of a mystery and tries to get out isn’t much better in this way, which is no surprise, as he doesn’t comment on any event.

As the game offers a non-linear approach to the order in which one collects clues, saves people, and does one’s best to get rid of the witch, there isn’t much of a story development. One finds SIM cards providing video material that has to be assembled in the correct order, while phone calls and CCTV cameras make the player piece together past and present events. The latter is also part of a stealth section in which the player has to instruct a character to move around without being seen by Baibin. As tense as it sounds, it turns out to be less exciting, because one isn’t punished for any mistake, making the only short connection with a real person a missed opportunity.

Standard puzzle fare in non-linear exploration
Puzzles don’t deviate much from the tried and tested formula of picking items up in one place and using them in another. As one doesn’t carry too many objects and their usages are mostly logical, solving individual problems isn’t particularly difficult. There are a few conundrums that require clicking on candles in the correct order or operate a few machines and gadgets, but there are usually enough clues that prevent trial-and-error moments. Only a few mini-game cases involving a fishing magnet are annoying, as controls are rather fiddly and make picking up items more tedious than necessary.

Not really lost in the woods
As one has to collect all sorts of items that are related to each character, a lot of backtracking is involved, so one spends quite some time walking around with only a very loose sense of direction. The first-person perspective results in confusion and disorientation, as various angles and close-ups make it easy to miss objects or points of interaction. Fortunately, a compass and map help finding one’s way around. Of course it would have been more convenient to simply click on locations on the map, but it’s a good compromise of exploration and realism.

Terrifying in looks and sounds for good and worse
With 10 years passed since the first game, it’s only logical that the graphics look better, especially the higher-resolution videos. Environments are less static and livelier with a few nice animations, while lighting effects are convincing as well. However, the individual characters’ artwork is terrible, and the few times one sees them up close, it becomes clear that not much work has gone into animations, with lips and head movements making them look like ugly dolls. There’s also a bug that makes a certain number graphic carry over to each screen and even the menu, corrupting some savegames, forcing the player to try again in the hope that it doesn’t happen anymore. On a positive side, voice acting is generally good and the music and sound effects are great to listen to, adding to the creepiness of locations that would otherwise not be that scary.

A return to classic and forgettable horror
Barrow Hill: The Dark Path slightly improves on its predecessor with some prettier graphics (except for those awful characters) and better navigation tools. However, it’s still rather light on the actual story and character development and only immerses the player by making him or her uncover an old myth by reading a lot. The open-world nature of puzzle solving invites exploration and experimentation, while the sound design makes for a nice chilling atmosphere, although one shouldn’t expect too many frightful moments. All in all, the mystery adventure entertains for its short playtime of 5 hours, but is easily forgotten afterwards.

Score: 6.5/10

Buy the game for PC on

Official website

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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3 Responses to Halloween 2020 Gaming Special, Day 7: “Barrow Hill: The Dark Path” (PC)

  1. Pingback: Overview of (blog) life in October 2020 | Emotional Multimedia Ride

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  3. Pingback: Halloween 2022 Gaming Special, Day 6: “Dark Fall 2: Lights Out – Director’s Cut” (PC) | Emotional Multimedia Ride

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