Developer: Last Dimension
Release Date: 03/10/2017 (Playstation 4, Xbox One) 2015 (PC)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Mystik Belle puts you into the shoes of titular character Belle: a young student Witch at Hagmore School of Magic who has somehow found herself in trouble after getting the blame for destroying the Walpurgisnacht Brew. What’s the Walpurgisnacht Brew, you ask? Well, it’s only an important concoction that makes up part of the School’s traditional ritual that is performed every year.
To save herself from expulsion from the school, Belle must gather all of the ingredients of the brew and re-create it. Nothing’s ever that easy though, and she instead finds herself facing off against plenty of deadly monsters and perplexing puzzles. It’s nothing that Belle can’t handle though…
I actually loved the premise of Mystik Belle. Whilst it doesn’t really do anything overly original from a narrative perspective, the creepy setting really resonated with me. I’ve always been a fan of mystical beasts and monsters ever since my younger years, so seeing a world full of them (both friend and foe) was a lot of fun. Add to that the fact that it also features a charming, well-written script, and it’s hard not to find yourself drawn into the magical world of Mystik Belle.
Another thing that really resonated with me was Mystik Belle’s visual style, with the game world full of colourful and creative visuals that reminded me of some of the classic 2D platformers I played in the early 90s. It’s not just the environments that stand out, but the actual character and enemy design too; everything about the game is simply charming, vibrant, and full of character (and also a little gross at times, but in a good way).
Despite having a nostalgic visual style though, Mystik Belle throws in a few modern elements to make it stand out a bit more. There’s some pretty slick lighting effects in place, as well as some shadows that’re ever-present in the background. These effects blend in well with the 2D style of the game, and actually make the world feel a bit more alive.
The meat and bones of Mystik Belle is found in its platforming and open-world exploration elements, with the game adopting the ‘Metroidvania’ approach of making certain areas inaccessible until you unlock the appropriate ability to progress. These come naturally throughout the story though, so you’ll never find yourself completely stumped as to why you can’t make it through to the next area in the game.
Actually traversing across the environment itself is a lot of fun, with the simplistic yet clever level design of the game providing plenty of enjoyable platforming segments. It all starts off pretty basic, but eventually you end up unlocking the sort of abilities you’d expect from a exploration-driven platformer – I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that Belle will eventually be double-jumping, breathing underwater for extended periods, and dashing around just to name a few of the tricks up her sleeve. Learning these new abilities doesn’t just help you progress through the game but they also make it more fun, with Belle’s new-found manoeuvrability skills making exploring the halls of Hagmore a more intricate yet enjoyable experience.
Naturally, Belle will have to take on countless monsters during her adventure, though unfortunately the combat mechanics of the game are a little bland at best. Outside of the boss battles, there’s never much of a thought process to taking out enemies; you simply mash the attack button to shoot them with your fire projectiles or bash them with your broom until they’re dead.
You can actually upgrade your projectile attacks which is neat, though they always feel the same – there’s just more of them, or they become a bit more powerful. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of potential for Belle to have a wicked selection of magical powers, but instead finds herself limited to shooting fireballs. Don’t get me wrong, combat isn’t awful, but rather a little bit unimaginative given the potential that the world of Mystik Belle offers.
At least the enemies themselves are certainly fitting for Mystik Belle’s magical world, with a myriad of different monsters to take down throughout your adventure. You’ve got the likes of skeletons, ghosts, bats, floating objects, and even just unidentified weird beasts that I couldn’t possibly describe with words. I really enjoyed seeing what odd little creatures the game would send my way next, with some truly horrific (yet oddly cute) monsters heading the player’s way throughout the whole of the game.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Mystik Belle was its puzzles. Rather than just relying on flicking switches and using your abilities to progress, there’s also a ‘point and click adventure’ element to the game where you’ve got to use specific items in your inventory on objects in the environment in order to make your way through. Some of these puzzles can be pretty obtuse too, but in a satisfying way; you’ll never pick up and item and be told what you need to use it for, but instead need to think a little. It’s a quality that isn’t seen in video games so often these days, so it was quite refreshing to see it was the case here.
The only real flaw with the item-based puzzles was that there were so many different items to find in the environment, but you could only only carry a limited amount at any time. This means leaving certain items behind when you fill up your inventory, which can be pretty frustrating when it’s not always clear what item you might need to progress through a particular puzzle. There were a few occasions in the game where I’d reach a puzzle and know what item I’d need to use for it, only to realise I left it behind a few screens ago – I know that backtracking is something that players might be used to in a Metroidvania style of game, but when it’s forced on you because of a restricted inventory it felt more like an intentionally designed hindrance.
It should only take players around about six hours to get to the end of Mystik Belle, which actually felt long enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly enjoying playing the game, but I could appreciate that it didn’t try to drag anything out – instead there was enjoyable level design and elements of progression in place that never felt like they were included as filler to prolong the experience.
The only disappointing thing about the length was that there’s nothing extra to do post-completion; there are no hidden secrets to find in the world or additional game modes, but instead a credits sequence that really does mark the end of your time with the game. You could go through on the harder difficulty, but the fact that it eliminates the option to fast-travel was enough to put me off – I’m sure that won’t be the case for everyone else though.
With its magical story and game world, neat puzzles, and enjoyable platforming mechanics, Mystik Belle has a lot of potential to stand out as a ‘must own’ Metroidvania style adventure. It’s just a shame that the combat mechanics let it down, with Belle’s uninspired moveset feeling a little bland in a world that feels so enchanted in almost every other aspect of its design. Don’t get me wrong, combat isn’t terrible; it’s just not particularly great, either.
The dull combat wasn’t enough to stop me enjoying Mystik Belle though, and I’d easily recommend it to fans of the Metroidvania or platforming genre. It’s simplistic in design and doesn’t break any boundaries, but all the things it does right come together to offer a thoroughly entertaining little adventure.