The filmmakers behind The Blair Witch Project created a lengthy and involved history regarding the mysterious goings-on in Burkittsville (also known as Blair), Maryland. Of the many supernatural events they concocted, the creepiest is the story of Rustin Parr. According to the fictional tale, seven children disappeared from Burkittsville during the early 1940s. In 1941, a hermit named Rustin Parr left his house in the forest, walked into town, and said to a local shopkeeper, "I'm finally finished." Six of the children were found murdered in Parr's basement; one child, Kyle Brody, was still alive and standing in the corner.
The story of Parr will be somewhat familiar to those who saw the film. Parr's house was the site of the final scene, and it's the key to the film's cryptic ending. The murders are also the subject of Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, the first entry in Gathering of Developers' three-game Blair Witch series.
The game was developed by Terminal Reality, whose Nocturne tread similar ground. In fact, Rustin Parr is a sort of sequel to Nocturne. It uses the same engine and the same characters. You play Elspeth "Doc" Holliday, who was only a bit player in Nocturne but gets the starring role in Rustin Parr. Holliday is an agent of Spookhouse, a government agency set up to investigate the supernatural, and she is sent to Burkittsville to see if there is any truth to Parr's claims that he was under the influence of otherworldly forces when he committed the murders.
It's a good premise, and the pairing of the Spookhouse agents with the Burkittsville legend seems like a perfect match. And, for the most part, it works. Rustin Parr manages to pack in some really scary moments. However, as in Nocturne, the reliance on gunplay and monster killing takes away from the more subtle tone of the game. The Resident Evil-like monster infestations in Blair Witch Volume 1 seem out of place. The game - like the film - is at its scariest when there is merely the suggestion that something supernatural is afoot. When it's blatant, it just gets silly.
Before heading to Burkittsville, you must go through a training session. Here, all of the Nocturne engine's shortcomings are in full effect. The shifting third-person perspective can make the combat frustrating and difficult, as in most every other games of this type since Alone in the Dark. The designers have but one suggestion: Find a better camera angle when fighting. This is actually a "technique tip" in the training mission, and it makes you wonder why the designers didn't follow their own advice and replace "fighting" with "designing."
This tip actually won't work when combat becomes constant later in the game, as moving to a new location simply means finding more enemies and a potentially worse angle to fight from. Moreover, the game's auto-aim feature in inconsistent, and it's hard to keep a bead on incoming adversaries. Luckily, combat is an optional element throughout most of the game, perhaps unintentionally. It's quite easy to just avoid most enemies altogether and run past them. You'll have a huge train of undead beasts on your tail as a result, but not fighting them can save you some trouble.
Rustin Parr picks up once the training mission is over, when Holliday goes to Burkittsville and begins investigating. There's more of an adventure element in Rustin Parr than there is in Nocturne, and Holliday keeps excellent notes so that you stay on track. However, this adventure element isn't very pervasive, and you'll probably wish you could interact more with the townies, but you'll still get a good deal of interesting history and friend-of-a-friend anecdotes about the evil that lurks in the woods.