Wendy: Every Witch Way – Review
- Disclaimer and introduction to the review
- The review itself
I know of the origins behind this game, being a spin-off starring a character from the Casper the Friendly Ghost series. That said, I didn’t grow up with this series of comics- and cartoons, and have also never bothered to catch up when I got older. If that’s still something I should or shouldn’t do is not something I can answer now, as it’s kind of tough for me to find out if this series is solely for kids. Not like that stops me since I love Hamtaro, but back on track. Given that I don’t have any experience with the series, this review is set up to find out how enjoyable or not the game is for someone unfamiliar with the series. I’ve beaten the game on both normal- and hard mode, as well as on the Gameboy Advance to check out the exclusive bonus levels.
Wendy: Every Witch Way… normally I would be anything but interested if I saw this title when browsing the shops. But surprisingly, this game was developed by WayForward, the same studio who also made Shantae. I believe I first learned about this game in a video by Nintendrew, who covered the rarest games on the Gameboy Colour. There were some titles on there that didn’t surprise me (such as the before-mentioned Shantae), but I never expected a spin-off of the Casper the Friendly Ghost series to also be one of the rarest games. I didn’t really pay it much mind since, despite being a collector, I don’t really go out of my way to purposely buy the rarest games out there. But then, I went to a retro gaming convention and there it was: a loose copy of the game for a very reasonable price. My inner collector could not ignore this of and from that day onwards, Wendy: Every Witch Way was part of my collection.
Actually, let me drop another fun fact on you before I move on to the review. I’ve actually played this game while my good friend was farming achievements on me in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. I just needed to be there and he needed to kill me, so I grabbed my Gameboy Advance in the meantime. I also beat the game for the first time during that grinding session. Whether that is good- or bad news… that’s what the review is for. See you there!
Wendy: Every Witch Way was originally meant to be a tie-in game for a planner animated series reboot, which unfortunately never saw the light of day. This game, alongside some promotional art are the only remnants of what was supposed to happen as a result. This of course did not stop publisher TDK Mediactive from continueing with this project. They wanted to publish a game that would appeal to both girls and boys, and tasked WayForward–Matt Bozon in particular–as the development studio in charge of this project. The same game engine that WayForward has used for previous projects was also used for this game, including releases such as Xtreme Sports and Sabrina: The Animated Series. What’s interesting here is that a direct inspiration for Wendy: Every Witch Way was a little action-platforming game on the NES, namely Metal Storm. The defining feature of this game was the ability to change gravity and indeed, the inspiration was clear. Wendy: Every Witch Way was met with an overall positive reception, but due to it being released late in the Gameboy Colour’s lifespan, the copies sold were limited and the game has therefore become one of the rarer games for the handheld. For your random trivia of the day: the developers took the Wendy game as a direct inspiration for a spiritual successor on the DSiWare, called Mighty Flip Champs which is coincidentally also the first game in the Mighty series.
The game starts with Wendy finding magical stones that look more like cabbages to me. Then she pulls a reverse Sonic move on us and low and behold, a floating castle crashes into the ground while the cabbages are drawn inside! Now it’ up to Wendy to find the cabbages and have the castle blasting off again. It’s a simple setup for a plot and one perfect for a game like this. As I’ve stated in the introduction, I am not really familiar with the story of Casper the Friendly Ghost, so this is all someone like me needs. There are no other characters to keep in mind either, though there are a few random splash screens of Wendy’s aunties that appear throughout the game, but more on that later.
I love how the game started and the art style immediately said to me “Yep, this is WayForward alright”. I bet you could point a gun to someone’s head (who is, of course, familiar with the GBC version of Shantae or the Sabrina the Animated Series games), show them a screenshot of the gameplay and ask who made it, and they’ll most likely all give the same answer. The HUD displayed at the bottom of the screen, the cartoony graphics with vibrating colours; it’s all here. All the characters–including enemies–look very expressive, yet again enforcing how defining their style is on the Gameboy Colour.
Wendy: Every Witch way is another good example of teaching how the game works by just throwing you in there and letting you discover everything by yourself. There’s a ledge you can’t reach pretty early on because it’s too high, so the only logical thing to do is to press random buttons until something works. There is an enemy shown traversing the ceiling just a little bit before that obstacle to already give you an idea of what you will be doing and indeed: Wendy is able to manipulate her own gravity at will. She can walk on the ground or on the ceiling whenever she wishes to, and this is also what she’ll be doing for most of the game. There is a slight delay when you hit the ceiling or back to the ground, but overall it works very well.
The gravity switching is used quite cleverly because it’s not just Wendy’s gravity that changes, but also that of the enemies. Some enemies will just travel with you and continue their original pattern, while others become more aggressive due to it. An enemy with a shield just needs his head to hit a ceiling and voila, he’s vulnerable, while a skeleton just grabs the floor so that he won’t be on the ceiling when you are. How everything works regarding gravity switching isn’t really rocket science since it’s still a game for kids, but I do appreciate enemies having different behaviours depending on the change in gravity. The same goes for world-specific obstacles like a pool of acid that also travels to the ceiling for whatever reason. I have no idea how this works, but we’re playing as a red witch in her pyjamas who can alter gravity so I’m not questioning it.
How everything works regarding gravity switching isn’t really rocket science since it’s still a game for kids, but I do appreciate enemies having different behaviours depending on the change in gravity.
I’ve already mentioned enemies being in the game so of course, the other side of Wendy’s skillset is her ability to use spells. She can shoot a sparkle from the magic wand, which can evolve into five different- and better variations depending on how much stars she carries at once. They’re scattered throughout the stage, and also function as her health bar. Enemies always die in one hit though, so it’s not like the upgraded magic is really that necessary. There’s a bigger spread on the later ones, but that’s also only seldom useful since you’re almost always on the same height as the enemies as the corridors aren’t very big. I guess it’s useful for the slimes that jump around, but they too only appear every so often. It’s not a bad feature or anything–quite the opposite since it doesn’t do anything wrong, but the game doesn’t really take advantage of it in the normal stages. Foreshadowing…?
The stages themselves don’t take enough advantage of the gravity switching either if you ask me. They’re fine stages on their own that try to be mazes–but there is really just one way to go so they’re actually not fine. Well, that opinion turned 180 degrees real quick. Joking aside, there are no branching paths anywhere that lead to one- or multiple goals, meaning that this cool feature that could be used for exploration isn’t used in such a way. The gravity switching is actually a requirement to pass obstacles, therefore creative use of the feature isn’t really taken advantage of either. This would easily have been the case if there were actual branching pathways or if the stages had secrets in them, which they don’t. The only thing you’re able to find that aren’t necessarily on the road you’re travelling are the stars that function as the health bar, but they’re so extremely common that you won’t need to bother going out of your way for them.
Every world ends with a vertical shmup level where the upgraded weapons actually have more use since this time, you’re not always on the same height as the enemies so having a spread shot will make that easier. The stages are pretty basic, but I enjoy them for what they are. As an outsider to the story of Wendy however, it’s weird to see a splash screen of three different witches before each shmup level. The witches serve no purpose in the game, and neither does the game tell me who they are so I expected them to be a boss battle, but they’re not. Apparently they are Wendy’s aunties which… still doesn’t explain why the splash screens are there but oh well. There’s actually only one boss battle in the game who is pretty fun to fight and uses the gravity switching mechanic as a means to hurt him. Seeing how fun this one was, I really wanted to see more boss battles.
There is a pretty major elephant in the room however. Everything that I’ve mentioned so far… that’s it. That’s the game. If you’re a slow reader who needs about 5 minutes to read every parapraph of the review excluding this segment, then you could also have finished the game in that time. Playing this game for the first time on hard mode still only took me half an hour, and I was having Youtube on in the background. This is an extremely short game and while I most definitely had fun during that half an hour because the gameplay is solid, that also makes it a hard game to recommend considering its price. If you’re playing on the Gameboy Advance you’ll have a few extra levels, but that still only expands the game by 10 minutes or so.
It isn’t helped by the game being almost pathetically easy as well. And I know what you’re going to say “But Nepiki, you’re an expert gamer who can speedrun Hamtaro games blindfolded, it’s unfair to compare your skills to ours!” which is not false, but I didn’t need my Gamer™ skills for this playthrough. It all comes down to stuff I’ve already mentioned before: Stars being very common, enemies dying in one hit etcetera. There is a hard mode as well but the only thing it adds is Wendy dying instantly to spikes, whereas normal mode would just give her one star of damage. Nothing else changes, and this is slightly disappointing. If the enemies didn’t die in one hit or the stars being far less common, hard mode would have already made the game just a bit more challenging. And I know this game is made for kids so I can’t complain about the difficulty too much but I digress; even children won’t have trouble with this game.
Wendy: Every Witch Way is a game that can be enjoyed easily for people unfamiliar with the source material, since it’s a simple story everyone can understand with no other characters than Wendy herself. The game is also very accessible with easy-to-understand gravity switching gameplay that overall works very well. That said, it’s also a bit too accessible for its own good, being far too easy even on “hard” mode and far, far too short. This is the definitely the worst part about the game because despite the stages themselves not being too special, it’s still a solid framework that also has a lot of potential that remains unused due to the ridiculously short length. I did enjoy my time with the game and I wanted more, but unfortunately I didn’t get more–aside from the extra levels on the Gameboy Advance of course.
Final Score: 6.5/10
Thank you for reading! It was a little bit tougher to write this review in the new review format since the game is literally half an hour long, but I tried my best. I also hope I wasn’t too harsh on the game but despite the game being made for kids, I feel that even for them it’s way too easy and short. I have enjoyed many games that have children as the main audience, and they had a better balance on both sides of the spectrum. The potential was definitely there though, and I would love to see an Indie game attempting the Metalstorm/Wendy: Every Witch Way gameplay style again. Maybe it exists already? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. I know Curse of the Crescent Isle DX has a segment where you can mess with gravity, but I don’t count that one.
Next time I’ll be reviewing another game, called Underhero. You may have already seen that I’ve been playing this game recently if you follow me on Twitter, and I can’t wait to share my full review on this game. That’s the plan for right now! I also still need to work on another review of a game I’ve played before the rework of the site, though I might have to play through it a bit again because I’m amnesiac and already forgot a lot.
What is a game that is too short for your liking, and would it being longer affect your opinion on the game? And if you were put in the director’s role, what would you do to make the game longer without it becoming worse?
I have a weird pick today, but I would say Sonic Forces. The only problem with Sonic Forces is that I don’t know if making it longer would make it better or worse, because some fundamental design choices need to be fixed first and foremost. I like Sonic Forces don’t get me wrong, but it has a lot of missed potential that could actually be fixed with the game being longer. I’ll probably talk about this game more at a later date though.