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May 2024


Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Moon Kid


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Switch Review - 'Witcheye'

by Cody Medellin on April 12, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Set off on an adventure as a mild-mannered witch who transforms into a flying eyeball of vengeance after a smarmy knight and wizard steal her spell ingredients.

There are expectations when you're told that the game you're about to play is a platformer. Most have enemies that need elimination by a simple bonk to the head or something more elaborate. There may be a few puzzles and bosses of the mid-level and end-of-level variety. More importantly, you'll likely make your way through a stage via running and jumping or some combination of that and more. Witcheye is technically a platformer, since it meets some of that criteria — except for the actual running and jumping parts of it.

In a faraway castle, a wizard promises to grant a knight great power, but first, the knight must venture to the residence of a witch named Mabel and take her precious belongings. The knight does that, and Mabel gives chase, but after some time, she realizes that it would be much faster to transform herself into a floating eyeball to get back what's hers and get some payback on those who stole from her.

The core game will be familiar enough to platforming fans. Most of the levels have you going from left to right, bopping into enemies to kill them or blocks to clear them out of the way. Some enemies leave behind hearts to refill your collection of up to five hearts, while some leave behind gems that you can optionally pick up. Occasionally, you'll be locked in rooms where you need to defeat everyone to get the key and escape. Levels follow a familiar pattern of using different biomes, while mid-level and end-of-level bosses are prevalent, complete with the familiar task of learning which weak spots to hit so they die.

The gimmick, of course, is that controlling Mabel in eye form isn't exactly traditional, especially when you consider the game's mobile roots. When playing in docked mode, you flick the analog stick in a direction to make Mabel go there. She only has one speed, so you never have to worry about whether you're going too fast or slow, and bouncing off of objects doesn't change the speed, either. You can stop by pressing any of the face buttons, and much like Mabel's movement speed, stopping is immediate. If you're playing the game in handheld mode, you have the option to use the system's touch-screen, similar to the mobile version of the game, where swiping the screen makes Mabel travel in the direction while tapping on the screen makes her stop.

Coming to grips with the controls is perhaps Witcheye's biggest challenge. Using the touch-screen is fairly accurate, but it means you'll be blocking your screen for a decent amount of time. The system also isn't that comfortable to hold for touch-screen use unless you take out both Joy-Cons and hold the system like a tiny tablet. If you choose to use physical controls again, you'll find that using the analog stick is a little less precise and, unlike the touch-screen, simply flicking the stick in a different direction doesn't immediately change your flight pattern, like the touch-screen does. The scheme allows you to easily start and stop movement, so you must determine which trade-offs you're willing to live with.

Once you get acclimated to the controls, you'll find the rest of the game to be quite manageable. There's an old-school feel to both the level design and enemy patterns, so you're encouraged to getting good at controlling your character over cheap deaths. You have infinite lives, and even though dying means getting sent back to the beginning of the level, the levels are rather short, so you don't have a long slog to get back to where you died. Load times are pretty much nonexistent, and you never really evolve past your initial state. That means that you really won't power-up with things, like having more health or more speed, but it also means that you won't have to deal with new abilities beyond learning when to move and stop.

The campaign is relatively short. Even if you're trying to scour every nook and cranny of the 50+ levels for secrets, you'll still be able to get to the end of the campaign in a little over two hours. You can go back and try to finish all of the levels with the gems obtained if you want to go for 100% completion, and you can play the game again on Hard mode. You can also go for a Boss Rush and Mini-boss Rush. For speedrunners, there are timers to activate and ghosts to help map out optimal routes, but that's really it as far as extras go.

Your appreciation of the game's presentation will be heavily dependent on how much you love the SNES aesthetic. Ignore the 16:9 screen ratio, and you'll see that the graphics are modeled after a SNES game with the same 256-color limit on display, and there's a limited but good-looking animation set on display. The characters have a cute aesthetic, even if they're supposed to be menacing. The sound also follows the SNES template, as it sounds like synthesized sampling going on with the same limited instrument suite that delivers a bouncy soundtrack. In short, you could easily fool someone who isn't familiar with the SNES lineup into thinking that this was a game on the system that simply flew under the radar.

Witcheye is one of those games that lives and dies on how much you love its quirk. The controls take some getting used to, and it is frustrating to see yourself miss on some easy gems while you're learning things. Once you get everything down, you'll find the game to be pretty short but very enjoyable. Considering how cheap the title is, fans of non-traditional platformers shouldn't be afraid to try Witcheye.

Score: 7.5/10

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