Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Maria the Witch


From an economic standpoint creating games that can be played on both mobile devices and more robust platforms makes sense, in execution for what gamers get out of the deal it can be a mixed bag at best though. Banking on a pretty cute and light art style I’ve seen others compare to Miyazaki movies Maria the Witch has flown in on her broom to the Switch. Will it be a worthwhile purchase, keeping in mind the very budget-friendly price? That will be a matter of taste and your expectations.


There’s no mistaking that this began life as a touch-screen driven mobile game, as the controls are very basic. You can boost to the left or the right and if you hold down the button in either direction you’ll also change your angle, eventually doing a loop-de-loop. Once you’re in the air you’ll need to stay aloft, with basically anything you touch ending your run and taking you back to your last checkpoint. The simplicity in control is both a blessing and a curse, though, as doing seemingly simple things like pausing while elements shift out of your way can frequently become quite aggravating.

As you make your way through each level you’ll be tempted to try to collect letters and coins along your way in order to meet level objectives to get stars (which then unlock more sections and levels for progress) and to be able to pay to activate checkpoints. This is a bit of an odd mechanic but it does create a bit of a risk/reward situation where you can hold on to coins you’ve collected a bit longer in the hopes that you won’t have to track down others that may be tougher. A particular blessing is a slot machine of sorts you’ll be able to use for each level once you get rolling, the ability to retain any item you’ve collected even if you die, in particular, I’d almost consider mandatory.


It’s the exploration and finding all items that I actually find to be the most aggravating aspect of the game. There are hints of alternative ways to go along the main path and these can lead to portals to different and more challenging areas or hidden items. In some cases these are dead ends, sometimes even teasing you with a glimpse of what you were looking for you’d have to go another way to get to, but in many cases even early in the game these alternatives are just quite punishingly hard to get to and typically have no checkpoints tied to them. It seems to be a bit too extreme to either side in the early going, the main path generally being pretty simple with checkpoints sometimes oddly close together and the tough paths never really letting you warm up much, throwing you in the deep end without preparation.

Keeping in mind price, presentation, and the amount of content in Maria the Witch is appropriate and even pretty compelling. What it will likely come down to to the individual player will be the control and the pretty unforgiving big picture level design. Controlling Maria’s thrust and momentum, in particular, when needing to pause or maneuver can be a bit maddening, especially when paired with her pretty wide turn radius when looping. It just never feels very tight, though I’d imagine that’s the idea. Pairing that with a checkpoint system that can be hit and miss in sections you’ll either enjoy and embrace the challenge Maria the Witch presents or just move on and find something else to play since that’s all there is to the game.


Score: 6

Pros:
  • The game has a very polished look to it
  • If you’re looking for something to play in short bursts it could work for you
  • A budget-friendly price


Cons:
  • The game lives and dies by its control and whether you enjoy the challenge associated with it
  • Checkpoints can both be too close together and too far apart at times
  • Hunting to find everything, even early on, is a bit too unforgiving. A slower difficulty curve would have been appreciated


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