Maria the Witch is a more in-depth Flappy Bird clone with less intuitive controls. In this game you control Maria, a mail-carrying witch who must return all the letters that were stolen by the main protagonist, Zaki (absolutely not Hayao Miyazaki). Joking aside, there is a considerable Miyzaki influence in the art style in Maria the Witch, not to mention Maria herself being based heavily on the protagonist of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
My mind instantly thought ‘Miyazaki’ when I opened up this game on my Switch, however, when I started playing I was let down. I had to do a little testing to see what was safe to pass through and what would kill you. There are a few things like spikes and fire which give themselves away as dangerous, but soft white clouds give Maria a shock which will push you back to your last checkpoint.
Later, I realized I had entirely skipped the tutorial world when I first booted the game up. That first time I started playing it set me on the world 1 map, so I just started off from there. The reason for this is that there is not enough text to guide the played through this game. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely abhor games which hold your hand around every turn, but some is necessary to explain what is happening in the game. I ended up playing the tutorial levels and to my surprise, you’re able to skip to the end of the tutorial that teaches how to deliver letters without even delivering a letter. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp without the tutorial, but it just came off as a lazy oversight.
Multiple times throughout the game I noticed there were large gaps between the sprites in the layer just over the background. It was another oversight that–yet again–could have easily been fixed had there been more attention to detail. Also, when using one of the power-ups it gives an on-screen prompt to press the Y button to activate it, but of course in classic Maria the Witch style, it didn’t work. The activation button for that power on the Switch controller is X, which on the Xbox controller is the location of the Y button.
At the start of most levels in Maria the Witch you’ll get a spinning slot with three randomly chosen power-ups, one of which you can apply for the level. I’m not going to cover each one because they’re mostly useless, except for the treasure chest. That power-up actually made this game playable, or better yet made it finishable. Since you need to get enough stars in the game to proceed to new worlds, the treasure chest is a must as it makes it easier to get at least 2 stars on every level. Without the treasure chest, crashing leads to the loss of all the coins and unsent letters you’re carrying.
The best part of Maria the Witch has got to be the control scheme. Who needs pro controllers, sideways Joy-Con, GameCube controllers, or Mario themed USB controllers when you have the right Joy-Con and two buttons? I’m not quite sure what NAPS Team was thinking with limiting the control options to one vertically held Joy-Con for the entire game. Since Maria the Witch started out as a mobile game I figured that maybe it would have some touch-screen controls, but of course that would be too much to ask. I must say though I have not played a game on this console before now where I played with only one Joy-Con attached to the grip. The other odd thing with the controls is that you’re told early in the game that Maria moves based upon how hard you press the buttons, which is extremely unlikely considering the Joy-Con face buttons are digital. This means the buttons only register 2 states: pressed or not pressed. In order to register how hard a press you would need a controller with analog buttons. Also, I’m sad to say that you’re not able to play with just one Joy-Con attached to the console in handheld mode, which would have been something unique.
I have no problems with this game existing, I just feel like it didn’t necessarily need to come to the Switch. Maria the Witch is one of those games that is perfect for the mobile phone platform, but does not translate well to a home or portable console. If the controls were tied to the control sticks or had they incorporated touch-screen controls in the vein of Phantom Hourglass it could have been an overall better experience, however the imprecise controls and lack of attention to detail were its downfall.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Maria the Witch was provided by Naps Team for this Maria the Witch review.