Mystik Belle

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Last Dimension for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2015.
Mystik Belle stars a young first-year witch named Belle MacFae who is studying at the Hagmore School of Witchcraft. One night, while practicing a fire spell, she is surprised by a shadowy figure running past her. Before she can react, one of the headmistresses grabs her by the ear and pulls her into a room to stand before a council of witches, accused of having ruined the Walpurgisnacht (Witches' Night) brew. The witches refuse to listen to her pleas of innocence and demand that she find the three ingredients for crafting another, or face expulsion.

Mystik Belle is equal parts metroidvania and point-and-click adventure, which is an uncommon amalgamation inspired largely by games in the Dizzy series, as well as Slightly Magic and Little Puff in Dragonland.

The game features a traditional metroidvania map, and players must explore the environment and gain new abilities in order to reach previously inaccessible areas, per genre standards. The way in which the player goes about this, however, falls firmly in line with the conventions of the point-and-click adventure genre.

As Belle explores the school and the surrounding lands, she encounters numerous items that may be picked up and stored in her inventory, and much of the player’s progress is made by solving inventory puzzles.

Simple puzzles involve carrying an item to a specific location or NPC and using it, such as the wooden apple-shaped hall pass that is given to the player at the start of the game. Without the hall pass, the hall monitor will not allow Belle to leave the room.

The hall pass also serves a some additional functions in the game, allowing the player to solve a minor puzzle, as well as staving off the approach of the Grim Reaper. If Belle wanders the school without a hall pass, the reaper may enter the room and slowly approach her, occasionally swinging his scythe. More dangerous is coming in direct contact with the invincible creature, which will drain Belle’s health quickly. (Fortunately, the reaper does not follow Belle into dead end rooms.)

Some inventory items must be “activated” in one location and used elsewhere, such as taking a spray pump to a tank full of weed killer, and then using said poison to get past a plant-based obstruction. The more complex inventory puzzles require that the player locate and combine numerous items in order to assemble an entirely new item. Sometimes this happens automatically once the player has all of the ingredients, and sometimes the player must complete an additional task in order to combine them. Unlike many games in the point-and-click adventure genre, the player is not able to use items on each other to try out combinations, which simplifies things somewhat.

There are dozens of items to be found around the game world, but Belle can only hold six at a time… or five when playing it safe and holding onto the hall pass. This means that Belle will frequently have more items at her disposal than she can possibly use at any given time, so players may opt to leave some items behind and collect them later. Item locations are marked on the map, but there is no indication of which item is in which room, so the player will need to keep track of this himself. Or, the player may use an old adventure gaming trick and drop unneeded items in a common easy-to-reach area, such as the warp mirror rooms.

Per adventure genre conventions, there are some useless items that can’t be used in any of the puzzles, but the game also features a trash dumpster that allows the player to discard items. Since required items cannot be thrown away, the player is able to manually remove (most) useless items from his inventory without feeling the need to try each one on every interactable object.

Interactables, NPC’s, and items are highlighted with an exclamation point appearing over Belle’s head, making it easy for the player to spot important elements. There are still some obtuse puzzle solutions that may require a bit of trial and error – or online FAQ checking – when the player finds himself completely stuck, but this isn’t nearly as intolerable as some early-era adventure titles.

Belle’s character sprite is large and detailed, but she also makes for a large target, so it can be difficult to dodge projectiles and other dangers. Getting killed returns Belle to the game’s very first room, standing in front of the council of witches who express their disappointment in the fact that she still has not completed her assigned task. However, getting killed also retains all of the player’s progress on the map, and retains any collected items in his inventory. Unfortunately, all progress made toward leveling up the character is lost upon death.

Mystik Belle features RPG elements in the form of an experience and levelling system. Beneath the player’s health bar is a secondary meter that fills as enemies are killed, filling faster when dealing with tougher foes. Once the meter is filled, Belle’s health is restored and her maximum health is increased slightly. However, the meter empties when she is killed. Since enemies respawn when she leaves and enters rooms, it is possible to farm for experience and extend this meter by grinding.

Belle gains additional firepower once she reaches level four, with a double projectile that moves outward at angles. At level eight – her maximum level – she gains a wide projectile that causes heavy damage. Once she reaches her maximum level, the experience meter is disabled, which removes XP loss as a penalty for death. From this point forward, the only penalty for getting killed is the fact that Belle must retrace her steps when respawning in the first room, but this is alleviated somewhat by the presence of mirrors that allow for fast travel between specified points on the map.

Belle has a 1x variable jump and moves slowly. From a level design standpoint, Belle’s jump is somewhat problematic because platforms are often placed at the absolute edge of her jump range, making it difficult to tell if a platform is truly accessible, and potentially resulting in multiple failed jumps as the player attempts to reach it.

Belle is able to fire off projectiles from her wand to hit enemies at a distance. Pressing the ATTACK button when standing close to an enemy causes her to swing her broom instead of firing a projectile, and melee attacks are stronger. Occasionally (and somewhat illogically), Belle uses her broom to destroy enemy brooms…

Belle also causes damage to enemies by walking into them, which kills non-boss creatures instantly but also drains her health in the bargain. Killed enemies occasionally drop hearts which may be collected to restore a small amount of health. Enemies tend to be large and detailed, although there are no death animations; rather, enemies simply break into squares that fall downward when they are destroyed.

There are eight bosses in the game, and defeating bosses grants the player new abilities, allowing him to return to previous areas to access new routes. The first new ability is an electrical charge that can be used to open special eyeball doors, but it can also be used in combat. The projectile is activated by holding the ATTACK button for a few seconds and then letting off. Charging this projectile also has the advantage of sucking in any nearby hearts.

The player can only fire a single electrical shot and it moves in a straight line, but it bursts into a ball of energy when it makes contact with an enemy, causing continuous damage in the process. When used properly, this ability allows the player to make short work of many bosses. Defeating bosses is generally done by hammering away at their weak points while avoiding as many incoming attacks as possible, and watching for shielded areas that deflect projectiles back at the player.

Additional abilities allow for increased mobility, such as an air-dash and double jump, while some allow the player to move past specific obstacles, such as breaking certain blocks or using transmogrification to enter small openings.

The player also encounters a number of underwater areas that quickly drain Belle's health meter, at least until the appropriate upgrade is earned. In addition, there are eight scrolls hidden around the environment in tough-to-reach areas, and collecting them all is required in order to reach the game's true final boss and ending.

Mystik Belle was developed by Andrew Bado, a.k.a. DarkFalzX, under the Last Dimension label, with music by Dan Rogers. Andrew has also worked professionally in the industry for many years, creating pixel art for numerous titles, including Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Pier Solar, Monster Tale, and GunLord.

Also developed under the Last Dimension label was Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge, which was inspired by computer-based action titles of the late 80’s and early 90’s, particularly Phantis (a.k.a. Game Over II), from which the game borrows many of its designs and level layouts. The game stars a scantily-clad spacer named Selena S who must fight her way through a number of colorful environments populated with large detailed enemies. Check our full coverage of Ultionus here.

Andrew is also responsible for the development of Legend of Iya, which was in development at the time that Mystik Belle and Ultionus were released. Some of the technology and gameplay elements in Ultionus were used to test elements that would be used in Legend of Iya. Andrew also previously developed a game called Maziac, and some of its design was also used to test elements planned for Legend of Iya.