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A Witch's Tale Review

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On 10/18/2009 at 10:24 PM by Chessa DiMola

Magic and fairy tales combine in this unique RPG that's mostly sweet but has a hint of darkness too.

Love Halloween, fairy tales, and prefer adventure games to traditional RPGs? Then here is the game you've been waiting for. Need some challenge with your RPG? Stay away.

I'll admit it; I'm not a big fan of RPGs. I don’t like being forced to spend hours upon hours fighting the same enemies with the same strategy just so I can level up to beat a boss, watch an over-the-top cinematic, and then repeat the entire process in the next area. However, I do like RPGs that don't just rely on battling, but instead require players to explore, strategize, and solve puzzles. I'm also the biggest sucker for Halloween and the dark, non-sugarcoated versions of most fairy tales. Taking all of this into consideration it's no wonder why A Witch's Tale by NIS, worked its magic on me so well I could barely bring myself to stop playing.

The story revolves around a young witch named Liddell who learns of an ancient magic greater than any she could ever possibly learn at the witch academy. One day Liddell asks the elder witch, Babayaga, about the magic and is told that it is locked away within an old mansion. Liddell convinces Babayaga to transport her to the mansion, and once inside she discovers a tome which holds the magic she is seeking. However, upon touching it, an ancient spell that had been locking the evil Eld witch inside, is broken, and the evil witch is released once again. After being chastised by Loue, the vampire who was supposed to be guarding the tome, Liddell very begrudgingly decides that she should probably clean up her mess. In order for Liddell to repair what she has done, she must seek magic sigils held by princesses within six different magical worlds.

While classified as an RPG, A Witch's Tale incorporates elements from a variety of genres to create an experience that is fun and unique. As players journey through a particular world, much more will be required of them other than simply leveling up in order to defeat a boss.

A Witch's Tale focuses very heavily on exploration and puzzle solving, and each world is very different. As players explore a particular area, they will notice that the majority of paths they may need to take are blocked by some type of obstacle, allowing them to access only one subarea of a world at a time. Within this subarea they will find a key item, which will allow them to access another area, and so on and so forth. The key item is typically acquired through completion of a sub-boss battle or a puzzle. Once players have acquired all of the key items that can be found within a particular world, they may bring them to Babayaga and she will forge a castle key, where players may then go to defeat the boss and save one of the princesses.

Exploration is without a doubt the highlight of A Witch's Tale; the areas are not only unique starring characters from beloved fairy tales, including the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Hansel, Gretel, and many more, but they are absolutely gorgeous. The puzzles players will encounter throughout the game are always unique, requiring players to do everything from figure out the significance of a set of numbers, to passing on a symbol of love between two deceased lovers.

Finally, there's battling, and while a simple system, it still contains significant depth. Players have four options similar to most standard RPGS: physical attacks, magic attacks, use an item, or escape. Liddell has an entire repertoire of spells including electricity, fire, explosion, water, ice, and several more. At the beginning of the game it may appear that the type of spell a player chooses to attack an enemy makes no real difference; that is only because Liddell's magical abilities are still at a very premature level. As she levels up, her magical power will grow immensely and it will soon become apparent that most enemies have a specific weakness to a particular type of magic.

Liddell isn't the only one to go into battle, in fact she can have up to two supporting characters at all times. These support characters come in the form of magical dolls, who each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Players will stumble across many of these dolls throughout the game and may switch the combination as often as they choose. One feature of A Witch's Tale that I simply loved is reminiscent of Super Mario RPG: all assist characters, even if they aren't active party members still gain experience points and level up. This allows players to level up underpowered dolls whose strengths are not refined enough for battle.

There are a few issues with the title though. The lack of transitional words in some spoken dialogue and a confusing map system are two of the offenders, but the biggest issue revolves around the occasionally unresponsive controls. This tends to occur most often when trying to cross a barrier in order to jump to another area. Many times Liddell merely stands on the border and no matter how many times I swipe my stylus in the direction I want her to move, she merely teeters on the edge of the divide. Although this alone is frustrating, nothing is worse than trying to control Liddell within a sliding puzzle. I'm referring more specifically to the ice sliding puzzle in Hansel's kingdom. Swiping the stylus up slides Liddell left or right, swiping down slides her up and swiping left or right…well you get the point.

When one wrong swipe can mean the difference between completing the puzzle or redoing it all over again, it goes beyond frustrating and straight to infuriating.

The controls are my only true complaint, but many gamers may find the difficulty level incredibly unappealing. A Witch's Tale is, to be blunt, the easiest RPG I’ve ever played. When a character levels up in a normal RPG, each stat increases an amount usually within the single digits. When a character levels up in A Witch's Tale, it’s not surprising to see a stat increase of anywhere between 9 and 75. Typically, a disproportionate number in comparison to the enemies you are faced with.

Boss battles are also unbelievably easy. In fact, it's almost nearly impossible to die if you possess the magical item known as a…tomato. Yes, a tomato. When Liddell has lost all of her life, the tomato revives her and her two assist characters, refills the magic gauge, and deals 3,000 points of damage to whatever a player is battling at the moment.

However, to be honest this is probably why I enjoyed A Witch's Tale so much. There is minimal grinding and the games' pacing is so perfect that it allows players to avoid the task consistently. Instead, I was able to sit back and enjoy the simply gorgeous presentation of every level and truly appreciate scouring for another key item, as well as solving puzzles.

A Witch's Tale is an incredibly unique title which strives to redefine what an RPG is. Instead of focusing on mindless grinding, the game tries to form a compromise between battling, exploring, and puzzle solving. While cutthroat RPG fans will most certainly be put off by the lack of challenge found in this title, those looking for an enjoyable experience will lose themselves in this magical tale of a bold little witch.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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