Mystik Belle (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Belle is a first-year witch student at the Hagmore Academy.  Late one night while practicing fire magic outside her room, a mysterious stranger crashes into her and runs away, and next thing she knows, she’s in trouble for spilling a special brew.  Now she must find ingredients to make the brew again and find out who really spilled it in the first place.  Mystik Belle is a 2-D side scrolling platformer that also has elements of point and click adventures, as you must find items and combine them to bypass obstacles and progress the story along.  The game’s graphics and style look like a 16-bit title, although it also makes me think of something that could’ve been done on the GBA.  With its spooky settings and bosses that include Frankenstein-like monsters, werewolves, and giant spiders, it’s also a good pick to play around Halloween.  Mystik Belle was originally on PC, but WayForward published it to download on PS4 and Xbox One (PS4 version reviewed here).  WayForward didn’t actually make the game, but it does feel like something they would’ve done.

Belle can run and jump, as well as shoot fire spells to attack enemies.  As you play the game, you’ll learn new spells and abilities to help you bypass obstacles.  Hold down the button to charge up a lighting spell, which has various uses.  You’ll also learn to double jump, dash, and more.  As you defeat enemies, you’ll earn experience points and gain levels, which will give you more energy for your health meter as well as sometimes even powering up your fire spell.  You’ll explore the witch academy as well as the Detention Dungeon, spooky forests, caves, and more.  The game’s map is interconnected, so it plays a bit like a Metroid title.  Scattered about the areas are items that you can combine and use in certain screens to help you bypass obstacles.  The game places such a heavy emphasis on this aspect that it’s a lot like a point-and-click adventure, too.

This game has a few problems here and there, though.  One, goals and objectives aren’t very clear, so it’s tough sometimes to know where to go and what items you need and where to find them.  Don’t feel bad if you have to use a guide for this game.  Also, like a Metroid game, you have to do a lot of backtracking.  Normally I don’t have a problem with this, but Belle’s movements and jumping feels a bit sluggish, even with her double jump, so backtracking doesn’t seem as fun.  Even worse, you can only hold a limited amount of items and some of them aren’t even used for anything.  You can put items in a chest to take out later, and these chests are scattered about the map.  But it just adds even more backtracking to the process.  Some may also find this game a bit too short.  There is even a speedrunning trophy you can earn for beating the game in less than an hour.  And even if you take your time like I did, you’ll still be able to beat it in a handful of hours.  Although I didn’t have a problem with that, as the game still felt very fulfilling at such a short length.

But even with those problems, I still played the game all the way through and got all but one of the trophies, so it can’t be THAT bad.  The retro graphics are charming and the lighting effects are neat.  Plus the 8-bit music has a spooky fun vibe to it.  Retro game fans who enjoy books like Harry Potter or even anime like Little Witch Academia will appreciate the game’s themes.  If you are patient enough to overcome the game’s shortcomings, you will want to check out this title.  Good pick for Halloween gaming, too.

Kid Factor
Mystik Belle is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence and Crude Humor. You can blast enemies with fire and lighting spells, but downed characters just explode into pixels when defeated.  The games references to things like cat poop, and Belle causes all sorts of mischief on her adventures.  She even has to gather materials to make explosives at one point, but luckily the professor of the school mixes it for her (he’ll even scold her for suggesting she do it).  Reading skill is a must, and younger gamers may find the game too difficult and obtuse.

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