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Developer: Peter Malamud Smith
Size: 402 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Starting with a set-up that casts you as a transformed witch seeking vengeance against an arrogant knight, Witcheye delights in subverting the norms of the 2D platformer genre.
Here’s another example: there’s no running, jumping, or even much in the way of gravity here. Rather than the usual anthropomorphic hero, Witcheye essentially casts you as a perpetually bouncing ball.
What might sound like a throw-away gimmick on the page turns out to be an inspired design choice. By making our free-flying hero respond directly to directional swipes rather than clunky virtual buttons, Peter Malamud Smith has solved a problem that’s as old as iOS gaming itself.
Swipe the screen in any direction and our floating eyeball will dart off accordingly. Tapping the screen stops you in your tracks. Any contact you make with one of the regular patrolling enemy will be deadly – for them, that is.
If this makes Witcheye sound like an unbalanced power trip, it really isn’t. Each enemy has a distinctive trait that forces you to adjust your approach, whether that’s a projectile attack, a large shield, or the disconcerting tendency to burst into flames periodically.
Clever touches abound throughout the stop-start levels, too. There are underwater sections where you’re constantly fighting against your ball-shaped hero’s natural buoyancy. Spider webs bind you up and require furious screen scrubbing. And there’s the simple navigational hazard of having a bouncy ball hero in a confined tunnel-like space.
You also have the side goal of collecting all of the coloured gems that dot each stage. Uncovering them by defeating enemies and busting blocks is only half the challenge, as you’ll need to swoop back and pick them up before they drop off the screen.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it might take a little time to really click with Witcheye. Its controls, while empowering, can feel a little twitchy when things get hairy. It’s a shame, too, that the game has thick borders on both iPhone and iPad.
But it’s well worth wrangling with these quirks. The level of attention and love that’s been poured into this 16-bit world is clear, with a bunch of distinctive enemies to trounce and satisfying locked room encounters to traverse.
Witcheye nods to the past whilst quietly treading a bold new path. It’s a properly native iOS platformer that isn’t afraid to turn convention on its head.
- Clever bouncing ball mechanic
- Lovely 16-bit aesthetic
- Lots of clever little touches
- Controls can feel twitchy
- Thick screen borders