Witcheye: Redesigning Platforming With Just One Eye
Platforms. Gaming has a long history of characters jumping between, off of, and onto them.
In the Super Mario Bros. series, you play as plumbers who jump on platforms and each other and weird little mushrooms.
In Crash Bandicoot, you play as a bandicoot that runs from boulders while jumping across deadly chasms — and, of course, much more.
However, Witcheye adds a little spice to the platformer cauldron by removing the ability to jump altogether! You're not a plumber, a bandicoot, a bobcat, a jazzy jackrabbit, or even a sentient ball of meat. You're a flying eyeball.
"That sounds like a hot mess," you're thinking (maybe). If so, you're wrong.
Witcheye is the latest release for Android and iOS by developer Moon Kid and publisher Devolver Digital. Moon Kid, also known as Peter Malamud Smith, created the mobile puzzle game Satellina. He was also half the team behind the Great Gatsby adaptation for the NES.
His knowledge and skills were put to good work when he created this new kind of adventure platformer. I say a "new kind" because no other game in this genre solely revolves around controlling a floating witch’s eye to fight bad guys and collect gems.
The goal of Witcheye is to control a witch who has turned herself into a floating eye as she tries to reclaim her stolen belongings from a klepto knight. It is also a platformer where you float – you do not jump. There is no jumping here.
Thankfully, the game’s controls are so simple and intuitive that you won’t miss jumping. Swipe to go in a direction, tap to stop. That's essentially it. Easy peasy.
The game’s challenge comes from avoiding attacks while killing enemies and traveling through levels. Some of the enemies are simple to kill, whereas others require you to perfectly time your swiping and tapping to kill them.
It's natural that enemies will repeat as you go through the game's various levels, which include beaches and an autumn setting for example. But luckily, each new area introduces new enemies with new attacks.
The game stays fresh by going at a quick pace. Unless you get stuck on a particular foe, you’ll clear each level before you have the chance to get bored of it. For players that might want to take their time, each level also has a subgoal: retrieving four gems by killing enemies (some of which are hidden). This adds a layer of replayability to the game, albeit a small one.
There are also two additional difficulties to unlock after beating the game on normal, so subsequent playthroughs should be more satisfying for players craving something more challenging.
On top of additional difficulties, the game has an unlockable speedrun mode, as well as boss rush and mini-boss rush modes full of tough enemies. In true old-school fashion, beating the game will also unlock a sound test tucked away in the options menu (which is a great bonus since the Witcheye soundtrack is awesome, complete with NES-era charm).
- Intuitive control scheme makes the game simple and fun
- Original character designs reminiscent of games from a bygone era
- Enemies, especially bosses, are fun to fight
- Great soundtrack
- Amazing price point
- Might be too easy for some players before unlocking harder difficulties
- Not fun if you don't like the eye gimmick
One of the most appealing aspects of Witcheye is its retro graphics. It's true that many games over the past decade have employed graphical styles from the 8- and 16-bit eras, and while some have succeeded in capturing the ethos of those eras and others have failed, Witcheye is of the former camp.
Witcheye is a good investment considering what you get for the price point. It's obvious a lot of thought went into every detail of the game, whether it’s the character and sound design or the extra features added into a game that only costs a few bucks.
In an era where console games are largely recycled AAA releases and most mobile games try to take every single penny they can, it is refreshing to have a complete, stand-alone retro-inspired “platformer” on mobile.
[Note: A copy of Witcheye was provided by Moon Kid for the purpose of this review.]