20th Nov2017

Digital Shorts: ‘Maria the Witch’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Maria the Witch, another of the many indie games now making their way to the Nintendo Switch.

maria-witch-switch-screen

Looking at the screenshots of Maria the Witch you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s yet another cute ‘em-up, a side-scrolling shoot ‘em-up under the skin of a cute witch flying her broom through a world of Pokemon-esque villains. However this is one thing the game is most definitely not… No, this game’s closest gaming relative is in fact Flappy Bird, the tapping-frenzy mobile game that took the world by storm in 2014 (has it really been that long?). I say closest, as both games feature the same simple mechanic – tap a button and keep the character afloat as you traverse each level, dodging scenery and enemies alike.

The story (told in four quick comic-like panels at the start up of the game) sees the evil Zaki and Mia steal all the mail(?) and spread them post all over the world. Your quest, as Maria, is to bring the mail back to their owners by flying through each level on your broom, not only picking up mail but also coins, which allow you to buy restart points throughout each stage.

The official line that Maria “is an amateur, and she still needs a lot of practice to master her broom. It will not be easy but she has to do what she has to do”. Which in laymans terms means that it’s going to be bloody difficult to maneuvre Maria through the game… Which is most definitely is. Some might say ridiculously, nay frustratingly so. Even more than Flappy Bird. Yes, I said it. Why you may ask? Well, unlike Flappy Bird where the aim was to keep the character air the air whilst passing through obstacles; in Maria the Witch not only do you have to keep afloat, you also must change direction from left-to-right (using the A button) to right-to-left (using the Y button) at times and, more trickily, move up and down using only longer button presses. Press the button for too long and you do a loop-the-loop, not long enough and you won’t change direction at all and undoubtedly crash into the ground.

What’s most frustrating about Maria the Witch though is how, just as you think you’re getting the hang of the controls, it turns out you’re not in control in the slightest! Thankfully you get infinite restarts to complete a level and, if you use the coins you collect wisely, that sometimes means only completely a small portion of the stage rather than starting from the beginning. And restart you will. Multiple times. Guaranteed.

Already available on iOS, Android, Xbox One and Steam, Maria the Witch is the latest in a long line of indie games to be ported to Nintendo’s handheld. Though judging by how badly received the game has already been on other formats, you have to wonder whether it was worth the hassle. There hasn’t really been any improvement in the graphics and the controls actually work better on a touchscreen device – in fact there’s ZERO touchscreen use here, which is surprising given that the Switch is a touchscreen console. The lack of such controls says pretty much everything you need to know about this port…

Maria the Witch is out now on the Nintendo eShop, priced £4.49.

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