She Got the Moon in Her Eye
Everyone enjoys a classic story of heroism from time to time, myself being no exception. Complex narratives can be great, sure, but sometimes all you want is an easy-to-follow tale of a powerful wizard sending a brave knight through many perilous lands to collect treasure and defeat the evil witch that awaits him at the end. But what would happen if an adventure like that wasn’t so clear-cut in terms of morals? Simple, you’d have a game like Witcheye; an arcade-like adventure that shows just how beneficial viewing things from a different side can be.
She’s a Restless Spirit on an Endless Flight
Witcheye begins with the story of a knight, sent by a powerful wizard, traveling through many dangerous lands (sound familiar?) to defeat a supposedly evil witch in what is undoubtedly the most Wario-esque way possible; by stealing all of her ingredients and precious gems, and hightailing it out of there. The knight’s adventure has nothing to do with you, though. Instead, Witcheye places players in the ocular shoes of the victimized witch as she chases the gallant Sir Knight all the way back to the wizard’s tower by transforming herself into a very durable floating eye. No, I don’t get why she chose to become a giant eyeball, either.
Witcheye features a very arcade-y style of gameplay that feels like it’s one part Gradius and one part Kirby: Canvas Curse, which is one of the strangest game combinations that I’ve seen in a long time. The game is split up into levels, with the simple goal of controlling your magical eyeball protagonist from start to finish. I’ll admit that I was a bit worried about this being easier said than done at first, but that never turned out to be the case. The controls are not only incredibly simple, allowing players to stop and change directions with ease, but are also pleasingly responsive when using both a controller and the touch screen.
Despite this, however, I couldn’t help but feel like things weren’t quite as precise as they should have been. I do think that part of this just due to the fact that the game’s being played on something that’s not part of the Nintendo DS family (those handhelds had some seriously amazing touch controls), which is obviously something that can’t be helped, but it also felt as though the game was trying to force the player into only going one of eight directions. Fortunately, the precision issue wasn’t so bad that it drastically impedes your ability to progress. So long as you’re willing to put in a tiny bit of practice and take it slow when necessary, you should be just fine.
Dancing Shadows and Firelight
If the term “short and sweet” were ever to have a video game equivalent it would undoubtedly be something along the lines of Witcheye. I’m generally one of the first to say that graphics don’t always make the game, but in this case, they most definitely contribute to it. Witcheye has some of the most delicious-looking eye candy that I’ve seen in a long time (no pun intended). Each level within the game is its own wonderfully colorful, pixelated environment, and the many baddies getting in your way are not only almost too good-looking to kill but vary incredibly from level to level. Regardless of where you might be in the game, the overwhelmingly appealing visuals mean that you’ll always have something to look forward to.
Unfortunately, the levels themselves don’t measure up as much. Although it’s not the only thing that I factored in, I feel like a lot of the blame can be placed on level length. Or, rather, the lack of length. Had this game had an even more arcade-like setup—or at least a scoring and/or ranking system—I don’t think that this would have bothered me nearly as much. Seeing as that’s not the case, however, I really think that stretching out some of the levels would have done this game a service. I get Witcheye is most likely made to be a quick burn, and that it seems to favor speedrunning (which I personally have no interest in), but a little extra effort in this area could have gone a long way.
I also couldn’t help but be a little let down by the distinct lack of power-ups. Aside from this cool spinning sword that I got to use toward the end of a single level, my entire experience with the game had me “fl-eye-ing” solo. This could, of course, due to how short the levels are, but I’m not buying it even if that is the case. You’re literally playing as a witch, here. Sure, I’ll believe that this eye transformation is her most powerful spell or whatever, but there’s no way that this is the only thing that she knows how to do. It would have been so much fun to have the ability to shoot fireballs or sprinkle magic powder on enemies (that last one might be a little too Link’s Awakening-y). It also would have fit in perfectly, seeing as how this game plays a lot like a shoot-’em-up.
See How High She Flies
Simply put, Witcheye is a very cleverly created game about role-reversal, and what could potentially happen after seeing the credit roll and the quintessential “The End” at the conclusion of a game. Although I do think that more could have been done to enhance certain aspects of the game—namely in terms of level build—this bite-sized story of witchy revenge is still worth spending the few bucks that it asks for in exchange for an enjoyable afternoon of gaming.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Developer: Moon Kid; Players: 1; Released: August 27, 2020; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $4.99
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.