Mystik Belle originally launched back in 2015 on Steam, offering up a metroidvania-like platformer with a large emphasis on puzzle solving. Fast forward two years and it’s now primed and ready for Xbox One owners to get hands on. The game revolves around the titular Belle, a witch-in-training over at the Hagmore School of Witchcraft, and her quest to locate key ingredients for her Walpurgisnacht Brew. Belle takes it up on herself to explore the school in search for the ingredients, which means you’ll be fighting back a variety of enemies and solving several intricate puzzles on your way through.
It’s a very easy to digest plot that comes with equally as simple controls that even a baboon could master in 3 seconds flat. You have your movement, your attack, your jump and your interaction, it really is as straight forward as that. Does that mean that Mystik Belle is easy? No, but it does target a wide age-range for its audience in being so accessible, witch is a good thing, see what I did there? Hagmore isn’t just populated by all manners of nasty creatures, there’s a surprisingly well rounded cast of colourful characters to engage with. It helps that the writing is so well struck too, with wit and charm oozing throughout the entirety of play. This collectively presents you with an adventure that’s as endearing as it is intriguing.
The enemy and boss variants are just as commendable, dishing up a meaty portion of memorable encounters to bolster the fields of play. I cant quite praise the level design as all of the campaign tends to be dark, lacking both life and excitement. It’s a shame really because for a game that’s set within the confines of a magical school, this is one department that could have gone above and beyond to serve some truly interesting environments. The metroidvania elements are present via the gating of progression through certain sections of the game until you’ve gained the correct powers to proceed. This can range from needing a spell to further progress, to finding the double jump to reach new heights. It adds a blanket layer of meaning and succession, ensuring that you’re amply rewarded for your hard work.
On top of the added abilities that you can obtain you’ll also increase your maximum damage output and maximum health with each and every level-up you surpass. These changes are certainly noticeable as you crawl deeper into the game, but that’s not to say that it’s always enjoyable to execute, because it’s not. Until you access the new abilities, the jumping can feel a bit slow and restrained which does take some adjusting. Attacking on the other hand is fluid and fast-paced. You can use your broom to unleash fireballs towards whatever you’re aiming at, with an added melee attack that will hit anything that gets close enough. Irrespective that these attacks can be smacked out in rapid succession, due to only being able to use fireballs (or upgraded versions of the same attack), the combat can at times feel repetitive.
Levelling up is as easy as breathing, being that you simply and traditionally need to just dispose of whatever foe or distinctive boss steps in your way. In regards to the difficulty of the game, Mystik Belle rests most of it’s strength in the puzzle aspects of the adventure. Sure, the large variety of enemies and bosses can prove taxing and challenging, but perseverance and identifying their attack patterns is usually a sure-fire way of getting by. When it comes to solving the several puzzles, Mystik Belle channels the likes of Thimbleweed Park. You pick up objects and items and then use them in the correct place or situation to overcome the problem. There’s enough hints within to nudge you in the right direction should you get stuck, but if anything will barrier your progress here it’s the limited inventory space.
This makes item management a forefront issue as you constantly juggle what you need to have on your person with what you need to leave in storage. In any case I found the puzzle sections of the game to be thoroughly engaging and cleverly implemented, easily one of the better aspects of the overall package. You can indeed notch up the difficulty tier, but outside of making the game somewhat more challenging, there isn’t anything unique that you’ll get in return, not even an achievement. What struck me in particular is the fact that you don’t get any added extras once you complete the six hour campaign. Group that with the lack of collectables and secret areas, and there’s very little reason to return end-game. On the flip-side the campaign alone does just about justify the generous price-tag, but if you’re hoping for longevity, you wont get that here.
Mystik Belle will certainly scratch the itch if you’ve been longing for a metroidvania-like platformer, but it doesn’t do much to push out the boat. There’s little to no replay value to be found within, and despite the endearing cast of characters, the adventure is let down by bog-standard level design. It’s a very easy game to pick up and play thanks to the simplistic controls, but again this falls short due to floaty jumping and repetitive combat. In any case there’s enough content here to justify the price tag, with clever puzzles and heaps of enemy variants to hold your attention to the end-game. Mystik Belle isn’t a bad game, in fact it’s actually okay when you get going, it’s just a shame it falls short of greatness in almost everything it sets out to achieve.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.