The Xbox is right up there in and amongst the most popular choices in the console market, so it’s rare that Xbox One players miss out on a game that seems to hit most other consoles. Back in 2015 however there was one title that hit nearly every console in the market – even the Ouya – yet still happened to avoid a trip to the land of Xbox. Now though, things have changed, and Mystik Belle has arrived on Xbox One. Is the arrival something we should all be shouting about?
The premise of Mystik Belle is a rather simple one. You play the role of Belle MacFae, a freshman student at the Hagmore School of Witchcraft who has been wrongly accused of ruining the Walpurgisnacht Brew. After a meeting with the head witches of the school, it’s apparent that Belle’s innocence isn’t being listened to, with her only options being expulsion from the school or that she must find the main ingredients of the brew, so it can be remade. Belle decides that she has no option other than to take on a hunt through the school grounds for the elusive ingredients.
If you’re a fan of the classic Metroidvania style adventures seen in recent years, Mystik Belle will likely be something that will appeal to you. The Metroidvania roots are clear to see from the very start of the game, with exploration key to ensuring you find the valuable ingredients. It doesn’t take long at all before you find yourself arriving at numerous dead ends, or having to backtrack from room to room just in order to try and figure out where exactly you’re supposed to be. Now of course, this is something that many fans of the style will find the norm, but for me it feels a bit too much like a cheap way to extend the gameplay for longer.
To give you some chance of finding your way around the place though, there is of course a map that’s on-screen at all times, whilst also being accessible in a larger form via the opening of your inventory – a place where you can also find the essential items you’ve picked up on your travels. The map itself is not the most efficient of tools; it’s rather blocky in appearance and only expands upon entering a new room, but it does its job. Those paying attention will notice that the area they are currently in is highlighted by a red block, although when you’ve been searching for your next item for a while and entered countless rooms, it can be difficult to recognise where you are or where you’ve seen things simply due to each of the blocks on the map looking overly similar.
That said, variation isn’t something that’s lacking within Mystik Belle. Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of revisiting past areas in games, the thing that makes the constant backtracking a lot easier is the sheer volume of variety the game throws out. Whether it’s the countless different enemies that you encounter or the unique level design of each area, there is more than enough in place. In fact, most of the things I was seeing, even after many hours of gameplay, I had only taken in a couple of times previously.
Something else which makes Mystik Belle a little more accessible are the well-placed portal rooms. These rooms, as you can probably guess, contain a mystical portal in the form of a mirror and after finding two or more, you can begin to access other areas without the constant trek that you’d usually need to take to get there. They are great for saving time and a must for the impatient folks out there.
Within these rooms you will also find Portal Chests, and these allow you to store items whilst freeing up Belle’s inventory space, with items then able to be brought to a new area via access of any other Portal Chest. That is of course if you are playing on Normal, as the Hard difficulty level does away with these helpful devices as one of its few changes, something which does nothing more than simply create the need for extra travel and needless clutter.
Going back to the previously mentioned difficulties and it’s fair to say Mystik Belle isn’t really a difficulty game at all. Sure you’ll get lost – I got lost a lot – but given the vast variety of enemies there isn’t any real test to things, no matter which level you play on. In both normal and hard, Belle’s attacks of shooting fire balls and whacking enemies with her broom are equally devastating and the only real difference is that should you fall to a number of unlucky fireball hits from the enemies, the option to restart in your current room is taken away, instead forcing you to start back at the council.
There are a few other things that come with dying, such as losing all current EXP gains towards your next level, but given the easy nature of the game, there isn’t much chance you’ll be dying too much anyway – especially should you have managed to level up, seeing Belle’s attack strength increase and making your devastating fireball near unstoppable.
Control-wise and these can often be the make or break of a game, especially a platformer. Fortunately, Mystik Belle is rather simple on that front too, with just a few buttons controlling the jumping, whacking, shooting and movement. Now whilst many games would find movement delays the cause of lives lost, the slow natured pace of Mystik Belle means that the delay seen when turning, as well as the rather floaty jump, doesn’t really affect things too much. It just adds to the rather peaceful vibe the overly easy gameplay brings.
It has to be said that the exploration and general design are where you’ll find the most pleasure with Mystik Belle. The story, even though unique, isn’t all too epic and if you’re after a challenge then this really won’t be the one for you. If you’re looking for a casual platformer with some classic Metroidvania style elements and plenty of varied enemies to blast away at for a bit of afternoon fun, then there is no reason not to jump into Mystik Belle. I personally would have preferred a much harder challenge and a more helpful map, but it’s fair to say Mystik Belle is a decent way to experience the genre if you’re not a hardcore fan.