When you look at a Metroidvania game that has an adventure puzzle element, it's definitely a promising premise. However, does Mystik Belle deliver solid 2D gameplay and a rewarding puzzle-filled journey?
Enter the Hagmore School of Witchcraft where Belle MacFae is on an adventure to collect the ingredients of a magical brew. You control her by running around, jumping, and attacking. Pushing the attack button makes her fire a projectile but if she's close to an enemy then she'll give it a whack which deals more damage. In addition to these basics, you'll also have to pick up items and use them in specific situations. This is handled intuitively as one button picks items up and another is used to open a menu that displays your entire on-hand inventory. The gameplay basically involves exploring the school while fighting off enemies and figuring out how to progress by solving puzzles that range from straightforward to frustratingly vague. Thankfully, the controls are simple which makes learning how to play Mystik Belle easily digestible for gamers of all ages.
One thing that Mystik Belle does very well is include a memorable and delightful cast of characters. Whether it's the cheerful Belle herself, the goofy Science Ninja, a depressed bald old teacher, or the handful of kooky bosses, you're bound to enjoy interacting with the oddballs of Hagmore. The characters and enemies look great, too, with bright and detailed sprites that jump off the screen. On the other hand, the environments are pretty generic for the most part. Almost all of the campaign takes place in dimly-lit areas and it all comes together to create a world that you'll probably forget about shortly after you complete it.
As you progress, Belle will level up which increases her maximum health and firepower. You'll also collect an assortment of upgrades that allow you to shoot lightning, dash, double-jump, and survive underwater. Experiencing how much Belle's abilities grow throughout her journey is very rewarding indeed. That being said, the platforming and combat aren't very satisfying. Until you get the double-jump and dash abilities, trying to make some jumps is just plain irritating. Even after you get those abilities, the platforming still feels stiff. Combat is similar in that you never really have to strategize because mindlessly shooting tends to do the trick.
Finally, let's discuss the puzzle elements. If you've ever played a graphic adventure game like King's Quest, Maniac Mansion, or Monkey Island then Mystik Belle follows a similar formula. You pick up items as you explore then use them to progress. However, two problems prevent this aspect of the game from being wholly enjoyable; limited inventory space (which forces you to keep depositing items into a chest) and the fact that you'll wander around aimlessly not knowing what to do most of the time. This is one of those games that requires a guide so good thing I already wrote one. Sure, you get hints from characters and sometimes they blatantly tell you what to do but there's no denying that even the cleverest gamers will find themselves wandering around a lot as they play.
Another quick note that I wanted to discuss before wrapping up this review is that the world is extremely small. When you compare it to the average Metroidvania game, it's a fraction of the size. There's even a trophy for finishing the game in under an hour so you can trust that it's not a large game by any means. It took me only a few hours to complete and I wrote a whole guide as I played.
If you're looking for the next great Metroidvania game or a rewarding adventure puzzler then Mystik Belle unfortunately falls short in both regards. That being said, it is a clever blend of genres so hopefully we see a sequel that isn't as rough around the edges.
- + Simple controls are easy to learn
- + Enjoyable cast of characters
- + Rewarding upgrades and level up system
- - Complicated adventure puzzle element makes using a guide almost mandatory
- - Platforming and combat are unsatisfying
- - Small and mostly unmemorable world