Not Everyone Will Like This Odd Couple
Most gamers aren’t going to like the Hero & Witch series. Unlike most contemporary efforts that flaunt intricate storylines, modern game mechanics, or cutting-edge visuals, the series has demonstrated none of those qualities. Instead, Hero & Witch is a simplistic throwback that can feel like a shallow mobile title. However, if you’re the type of person who has ever been become obsessed with a ‘clicker’ game- where uncomplicated play feeds into the gradual strengthening of stats, the franchise can be oddly addictive. More than once, I had to force myself to stop playing.
2013’s Hero and Witch established a simple setup, where you needed to protect the eponymous sorceress positioned in the center of the screen. Stages would release an army of different creatures, each inching toward the Witch in hopes of wearing her health down. And if her health was depleted, the game ended, although players got to keep any currency collected on the level.
More Action than Role-Playing
Opposition came in the form of the Hero, who would bump into enemies, trading damage. Similar to the combat system in the original Ys, no button presses were required. Merely making contact with enemies pushed them back, at least until the Hero ran out of health, which put him out of play for a few, tense seconds while he automatically recovered.
Expectedly, levels increase the number and durability of monsters, leading to defeat. In order to offset this, you used collected currency to power up your attack, shielding, and speed, which fed into the core gameplay loop. There was scant strategy, but that was intentional, separating Hero & Witch from the complexities offered my most modern games.
Witch Magic to Use?
For better or worse, the recent Switch release of Hero & Witch 2 makes few changes to formula. The largest amendment is that the Witch can be moved around with the right analog stick. It’s a seemingly insignificant tweak, but one that endows the follow-up with a few new tactics. When she’s adjacent to the fallen Hero, he heals faster, so there’s incentive to keep the duo close together. But she also cracks open treasure chests much faster than the Hero, allowing for the quick gathering of coin or even vials of monster blood. Simultaneous controlling both characters, who often move in different directions never quite feels natural across the game’s thirty stages.
Blood collection feeds into the Witch’s spell cast ability. Once a gauge is maximized, she lets loose with a glorious display of spellcasting. You can opt for two different type of offenses, one that scatters cyclones in random directions or an aimable stream of fireballs. Targeting processions of adversaries can whittle down the numbers, but you’ll temporarily have to freeze the Witch’s position. Unsurprisingly, these skills can also be upgraded, increasing the effectiveness of your magic and often helping you escape from near-certain death.
Appreciate a Bump and Grind?
Stages are brief, helping fights against superiors and a final boss showdown avoid tedium. Beating a level is contingent on how powered-up your characters are, rather than reflex or tactics. While this provides incentive when tackling the title’s branching lines, it can also disruptive, bringing attention to the game’s core grind. But if you do appreciate the game’s simple charms, an Advanced Mode lets you confront tougher creatures while the Time Attack adds a bit of additional urgency. There’s also a bestiary with pages to unlock, providing some additional incentive for grinding. But that said, Hero and Witch 2 respects your time a bit more than its predecessor. With this iteration, there’s less of a need to replay levels.
Although the game might be too simple for some, fixation can be found in Hero & Witch 2. New stages don’t deliver much novelty, save for new backdrops and monster types. But the drive to save the duo and defeat an evil king is palpable, especially in short doses. But the port from 3DS to Switch is competent, making it seem like the title was designed for a solitary 16:9 screen. The game’s five-dollar price is equitable, at least for players who aren’t resistant to what ends up being a long, mildly gratifying grind.
Hero & Witch 2 was played on Switch with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: Switch, previously on 3DS
Developer: Flyhigh Works
Publisher: Flyhigh Works
Release date: January 16th, 2020
Price: $4.99 via Nintendo eShop