Game: Witch & Hero II
Genre: Tower defense
Developer: Flyhigh Works
Publisher: Circle Entertainment
Release date: 2016
Witch & Hero II doesn't offer up the most positive of first impressions.
Early on, it’s nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor in the looks department. It sounds a lot like that lovely eShop title from 2013 (read my review of it here), too.
In fact, the only aspect of Witch & Hero II that alerts you to the fact you’ve booted up the sequel instead of the FK Digital-made original is its main gameplay hook, which lets players control both of the titular characters rather than just one of them.
Unfortunately, that change isn’t as thrilling as it may seem--at least initially. At first, it’s actually kind of annoying, as keeping track of the hero and the witch (one is moved using the 3DS’ circle pad, while the other is moved using the system’s A, B, X and Y buttons) is quite a hassle, especially when the screen is swarming with enemies.
(If you’re still a Witch & Hero virgin, both games are twitchy takes on the tower-defense genre and task players--after plopping them into the shoes of an adorably Dragon Quest-esque knight--with protecting a magic-wielding witch from hordes of similarly retro-inspired baddies. Oh, and you off those pixelated foes by bumping into them, preferably from the rear, à la classic Ys.)
Thankfully, controlling two characters at the same time quickly shifts from being a nuisance to being a blast. It changes up the formula just enough to make Witch & Hero II's multi-screen trek a lot more interesting and thrilling than it would have been if developer Flyhigh Works had whipped out a sequel that simply tossed a few new enemies and music tracks on top of the first title's gameplay and called it a day.
As for aspects that could be considered less positive than the one discussed above, an obvious candidate is the massive slowdown that pops up in its latter stages.
Another is that the game can become a cakewalk around the halfway point if you aren't careful about doling out armor, weapon and magic upgrades. This is easier said than done, unfortunately, as Witch & Hero II's early levels mean business, and your immediate reaction to them is likely to be to buff up your pint-sized adventurers as quickly as possible to ensure their survival.
My advice: only increase the speed, strength and defense of the witch and hero enough so they won't be slaughtered. Do that, and you won't waltz through this game's second half as I did.
One last comment before I stick a fork in this review: if you haven't played the first Witch & Hero already, I'd highly recommend doing that before jumping into the follow-up. It serves as a great introduction to the second title's gameplay, plus it helps you fully appreciate the "throwing off the shackles" sense of freedom that's at the heart of the sequel.