Review: Witch’s Cat (Nintendo 3DS)

Witch's CatWitch’s Cat (Nintendo 3DS)
Publisher: Agetec Inc.
Developer: Silver Star Japan
Genre: Action/Adventure/Puzzle
Release Date: 01/31/2013

Witch’s Cat is a single-player spin-off from the Rabi Laby series. If you haven’t heard of Rabi Laby, don’t feel bad; I hadn’t either. From what I can gather, Rabi Laby is about a girl, Alice, who really likes her rabbit, Rabi. Rabi jumps down a hole near a tree a la Alice in Wonderland, and they go on a magical adventure in a land called–you guessed it–Wonderland. In Raby Laby 2, an evil queen has ordered her minions to capture Alice and Rabi. They succeed, but one of the cats, Alicia, helps them escape. This game continues that storyline: the queen figures out someone betrayed her, knows it’s Alicia, and decides to outcast her from the kingdom, because really, who wants to be friends with an adorable little blonde girl who likes animals?

Witch's CatAlicia wakes up in a box in the middle of the forest and laments the fact she’s a cat and not a human, because Alicia can’t understand her in her cat form. On a side note, as a cat owner, I have absolutely no idea why any cat would want to be a human. The busiest times of my cat’s day are when she’s cleaning herself, begging for food, or kicking litter out of the box. She will never have to run research, go shopping, do homework, get a job, or anything else. Just saying.

In any case, Alicia is sad that she can’t talk to Alice, and a witch, Dubois, comes out of nowhere and offers to turn her into a human. Alicia agrees and finds herself as a human, but with cat ears and a tail. Together, they decide to try to leave Wonderland and go to the human world that Alice went back to. Alicia has decided to trust Dubois, despite the fact that her reputation (Dubois is almost certainly a play on “dubious”) apparently precedes her. She’s been granted the use of different kinds of magic and the ability to switch between a human and cat form. You find out Dubois–surprise!–has other motives in mind for helping you, and things get more complicated as the game goes on.

Witch's CatThis game just might take itself a bit too seriously. On the game’s official site, the description states, “Witch’s Cat is not only a puzzle game, but Alicia’s personal journey of faith, courage and betrayal. Will Alicia dream become a reality and will she make it to the human world to find Alice? Or will she be forever lost and forgotten in the world of Wonderland[?]” In game, the dialogue is a bit forced (“Big ears and a tail are no big deal. People in the human world will think it’s cosplay.” “Cosplay? Like costume play?” or, better yet, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Ugh.), and things are a bit more dramatic than they need to be. Thankfully, the story honestly isn’t that important to gameplay, so really, if you want to skip past all that, go ahead.

Your job is to use magic in fifty levels in your attempt to get out of Wonderland. The game is set up like traditional 2D side-scrollers, minus the scrolling. Each level is more like a puzzle, where you have limited access to magic and must maneuver around obstacles, including enemies and environmental elements like ice or large gaps. The controls can be a bit difficult to remember, but essentially, you’ll use the D-pad to move left or right, A to jump, B to switch spells, X to switch between a cat and a human, and Y to use your magic. The circle pad is not used at all, and the only use for the L and R buttons is to pause the game if you hit both of them at once. Why you would do that instead of pressing Start, I don’t know. The Start menu allows you to either retry the level (say, if you get stuck or run out of magic) or quit the level. For the most part, your character is incapable of dying, unless she hits spikes. Enemy cats just kind of push her around, though I like jumping on them for a boost. Depending on how quickly you get through the levels, you get a statue in bronze, silver, gold, or platinum. If you’re really into getting platinum on everything, this will add replay value, but if you aren’t particularly interested in it, there’s no real reason to go back to any level.

Witch's CatGraphically, this game is very appealing. The character design is adorable, and the level design is clear and fresh. The only issue with how the game has been designed is that there are times during cutscenes that you will have absolutely no idea who is talking, because there’s only one speech bubble and, for some reason, the developers didn’t see a need to have tails on the speech bubbles to let us know who is talking. Other than that, though, this is probably probably the cleanest, cutest downloadable 3DS game I’ve seen. There really isn’t a point to having 3D on this game, but it does not detract from the overall experience to have it on. The music, as well, is fine. I found it to be pretty enjoyable and not at all annoying, which is unusual for these downloadable titles. It sounds kind of medieval in a sense, which is interesting enough

My main issue with this game is that the difficulty doesn’t steadily increase, like one would hope and expect a game would. Instead, it’s easy for a while, maybe even decreasing in difficulty, then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the difficulty spikes something fierce and you’re left going, “What the–?” I would highly recommend reading the manual by clicking on the game on the 3DS’s main menu and, instead of opening the game, clicking “Manual,” because the in-game “tutorials” are practically worthless and there are no hints to be found. Be warned, however: that doesn’t mean the game is necessarily going to be any easier for you when you get to the later levels. It seems that, for the most part, there’s only one way to get to the door in each level, and experimenting in order to get to that door is going to take time, time some people might not feel compelled to spend on the harder levels. There’s no way to restore your mana within the level, so if you screw up a spell, you’re probably going to need to start over. Yes, even if you’re only one or two steps away from the end. I think the developers might have overestimated the patience of kids, who seem to be the primary target audience for the game. I know I found myself saying, “Screw it,” a couple times and putting the game down in frustration.

The game is cute and enjoyable, with the exception of the difficulty spikes. If you or the person you’re intending to give the game to gives up easily or doesn’t deal well with frustration, I would steer clear of this title at all costs. If, however, these types of arbitrary challenges inspire you to keep on keeping on, this might be the title for you. Either way, it’s incredibly cute and if nothing else, fun to look at and listen to.

Short Attention Span Summary
Witch’s Cat is very appealing on visual and auditory levels, but can be extremely frustrating, as the game randomly jumps in difficulty. If you or whoever you want to give this game to gets frustrated easily and/or doesn’t handle that frustration well, you probably want to steer clear of this title, lest you find new and inventive ways to destroy your 3DS. If you’re up to the challenge, however, this isn’t a bad time waster… you just might find yourself wasting more time than you anticipated.





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