When I first saw the artwork for Maria the Witch I instantly thought of a popular anime, Kiki’s Delivery Service from Studio Ghibli. In the anime, Kiki is a young witch who flies around on her broomstick, once she has learnt how to ride it, delivering parcels and mail for her own courier service. In Maria the Witch you are tasked with the job of delivering mail whilst riding a broomstick, as well as picking up lost parcels and coins along the way. That’s where the similarities end though as NAPS Team has created a kind of unique aspect of the game which feels like the mechanics of another rather popular mobile game, which in turn makes this game a lot more difficult than it first appears!
The premise is simple, Zaki and Mia (our antagonists) have stolen all of the townsfolk’s mail and decided to spread it out all over the world – not exactly an ‘end of the world’ storyline, but I imagine it got Maria pretty annoyed! In comes Maria, our young amateur witch who doesn’t know how to fly her broom properly (yet another similarity to Kiki). She has been tasked with the job of not only finding all of the pieces of mail but also delivering them to various towns/checkpoints without crashing.
Seeing as Maria doesn’t know how to fly her broom correctly, this isn’t going to be a walk in the park as you are given controls which feel like they came out of Flappy Bird (which I’ll get to in a minute) and a claustrophobic play area which will have you hitting the top or bottom of the area more often than not. The game is super addictive as it has that ‘one more try’ feel about it and it’s easy to just pick up and play for a few minutes then come back to it later on – which made it perfect for a mobile game, the question is, did it transfer well to a home console version? Also, another question is, why didn’t they do a Vita port as it would be perfect for this game!?!
The controls are what makes or breaks a game like this and I have to admit that I didn’t like the controls at first as they are clearly the ‘tap the screen’ mentality – which is why a Vita version would be great. However, after playing for a while I started to get used to them and it became a lot easier yet still frustratingly hard! You control Maria with two buttons, one moves her left and one moves her right – simple… The issue here is, the longer you hold the button, the more she will thrust to that direction, which in turn causes her broom to spin upwards and in on itself.
Basically, say you hold the button to move right down for a second or two, she will move right then proceed to spin upwards, then upside-down back into herself then circle around and down. So, we are looking at Flappy Bird style controls – tap the direction you want to go and she will rise, don’t press anything and she will fall. Like I said, takes a while to get used to it as it’s not too difficult but clearly ‘tapping on a screen’ re-mapped onto a controller.
One of my biggest issues is the claustrophobic play areas, as I mentioned above. With the precise controls you have to use, having low ceilings, small gaps you need to fall down, some sprites which you can’t tell if they are foreground or background, and enemies floating around which you can’t kill, really adds to the difficulty. I found myself crashing all over the place many times as I played through the game and some of the deaths felt cheap due to the placement of the various boundaries. I did manage to overcome all the ones which got in my way, it just takes a bit of practice.
The enemies aren’t too hard – they are simply creatures who move in a set pattern, so your only objective is to avoid them and collect whatever coin or piece of mail they are guarding. That being said, let’s talk about the coins and the checkpoint system…Throughout the level, you have towns which serve as checkpoints. If you don’t land at one of these after picking up some mail (without crashing), then you lose the mail when you respawn and must get it again. So you want to aim to collect things and then land so that it saves your progress – however, you can’t just use one as a checkpoint, you must first buy it with a coin. This means you have to be sure to pick up all the coins, otherwise you won’t be able to unlock the checkpoints and you’ll be at a serious disadvantage. I honestly thought this was pretty good as it gave you a reason to collect the coins for something useful rather than just a cosmetic item.
Graphically, the game is very colourful and has a nice art style. It’s very simplistic, but you do get a good variety of backgrounds and obstacles. The tutorial levels, for example, appears to be made up of Playmobil figures and bricks along with pencils and other items which implies you have been shrunk for some reason. The music is always chirpy and happy even though you will be constantly dying over and over again. The sound of the broom sparking everytime you press a button gets a bit annoying but the sound of Maria screaming as she hits things never grows old!
Regarding the trophies, there were issues on launch with certain ones not unlocking – I can confirm this isn’t the case anymore as a patch landed and it resolved all the trophy issues – people have already begun to get the platinum now with the fastest one being within five hours.
One thing with really annoyed me was the constant pop-up of help and tips. I know they are there to help you but say you run into a spot where it tells you to do a flip – the game pauses and a giant help screen comes up. Then you go back to the action but you have lost some of your momentum. If you die and return to the same spot, the same things happen again and again until you have got past that point and saved at a checkpoint. It’s only a small thing but it did annoy me a lot in the earlier levels – as you get further you get less of these as you already know the mechanics.
Maria the Witch is a decent mobile to console port, it works just like the mobile and the Steam version and holds up well with the enlarged graphics. The game can get challenging and be frustrating at times but that’s all part of the package – with it’s quick respawns and fast gameplay, the game wants you to give it ‘just one more try’! It’s clear some inspiration may have come from Kiki’s Delivery Service, but Maria the Witch is its own thing with its own simple little story – Try and get the mail back before you go postal (irl). Who would I recommend this game to? I think casual gamers, those who liked Flappy Bird, people who like a challenge, and those who want something they can pick up for a few minutes at a time.
Maria The Witch$4.99
- Colourful and bright
- Decent music
- Fun in short bursts
- Has a 'one more try' vibe about it
- Can get very frustrating until you are used to the controls
- Not much depth in the gameplay
- Nothing added from the port over from mobile/PC
- The tips that pop up are really annoying and distract you
- no Vita version...