Witcheye

A game by Moon Kid for PC, Switch, iOS, and Android, originally released on mobile in 2019, and released on computers and consoles in 2020.
Witcheye is a retro-style actioner set in a colorful world that is filled with cute but deadly creatures. The wizard Senexis has hired a brave knight to help him gather up the ingredients he needs to create a potion. But rather than embarking on some grand quest to retrieve these items, the knight is instead tasked with stealing them from a witch named Mabel. The wizard promises to reward the knight with great power should he complete his mission.
Meanwhile, Mabel is in her witchey lair, minding her own business, when she decides to whip up a potion of her own. But when she turns her back to the cauldron to gather up the ingredients, the knight sneaks in and opens a huge sack. As Mabel tosses the ingredients (and gems) nonchalantly over her shoulder, the knight catches them in his bag and then runs away. Angry, the witch transforms herself into a giant floating eyeball and gives chase. The player takes on the role of this floating eyeball on a journey through more than 50 levels spread across six themed environments.
The game was originally developed for mobile devices with a simple control scheme where swiping sends the eye flying in that direction and tapping causes it to stop in place. For mouse-driven play, players may click and drag to launch the eye and click to stop it, and with an analogue controller, players may flick to send the eye in that direction, and any other button stops the eye in place. The control scheme is a bit unusual for mouse- or controller-based play, but it doesn’t take much effort to grow accustomed to the controls, and the game is generally forgiving of mistakes. The eyeball moves in a straight line unless acted upon by something in the environment, and it bounces off of any solid objects.
The player starts out with five units of health, with hearts occasionally appearing from broken blocks or defeated enemies, and these each restore a single unit. If the player is killed, he is returned to the start of the level, but the player has infinite continues and levels are very short – often around a minute in length – so the penalty for death is low. Additionally, the game is quite easy on the default Normal difficulty setting, which is the only setting available by default. Hard mode unlocks once the player completes the game, with Severe unlocking after that. Skilled players can expect to breeze through the Normal mode in a couple of hours.
In each level, the player is tasked with finding three green gems and one blue gem. Similar to the golden coins in the Super Mario Bros. series, an indicator on the HUD shows which of the gems have been collected and which remain to be found. Each world also contains a single hidden item that is not indicated on the HUD, leaving players to look for clues in the level design as to where these items may be, and some of these hiding places can be quite clever. Sometimes gems are hidden as well, often behind foreground objects or just off the edge of the screen.
Gems are generally found by breaking blocks or defeating enemies, but the player won’t know which blocks or enemies contain gems until he destroys them, so it’s generally a good practice to destroy them all just to be sure. The blue gem is usually the toughest to find, often hidden or requiring that the player defeat a more difficult enemy to collect it. Once revealed, gems fall slowly down the screen, so the player must move quickly to avoid missing them. The player is free to navigate the world map and replay levels to collect any gems he may have missed, and it is not necessary to collect all gems in a single run in order to 100% a level.
The game's low default difficulty, short levels, and the fact that most enemies can be defeated in a single hit help to keep the pace quite fast, despite the treasure hunting aspect. While the simple control scheme means that gameplay remains fairly consistent on a minute-to-minute basis, there is an incredible variety to the enemies that offers some added nuance. Including bosses and minibosses, there are 100 unique enemies in the game.
Early on, the player encounters basic patrolling enemies or flying enemies that are easily dispatched, but he soon discovers shielded enemies that can only be attacked from behind, spiked enemies that must be attacked from below, and eventually more complex foes that require the player to lure them to attack in order to open them up to counterattack. Some enemies can hinder the player's movement temporarily, some can shoot through walls, and some will charge quickly toward him. As a result, the player is constantly encountering new enemy types along with some fun surprises as enemies offer unexpected attack types and enemy variants gain new abilities.
Of particular note are the boss and miniboss encounters, of which there are many. Some levels have multiple miniboss encounters, some have only one, and some have none at all. Many minibosses are just variants of basic enemies, and many of these die in a single hit, but others offer unique and more complex movesets that require the player to develop some strategy to overcome. The player never knows what to expect next, which keeps the experience engaging... Sometimes a miniboss will show up later in the game as a regular enemy, but often these minibosses are one-off experiences that the player never experiences again, harkening back to some of Treasure's classic games.
Minibosses of note include a huge variant of a regular patrolling enemy is walking across some destructible blocks, and the only way to defeat it is to break these blocks, but as you do, bats fly in and drop more pieces in place. In another battle, the player engages three different snakes in succession. In one battle, you attack the snake’s head to cause damage, but you can attack its body to cause it to split in two. In the other two battles, you’re looking for a small opening to hit the snake’s weak point, but the weak point is a single segment along its otherwise deadly-to-the-touch body.
Standalone boss encounters occur at the end of each world, and these are similarly interesting. Each of these battles involves performing multiple attacks against the boss’ weak point, after which the boss enters its second phase, becoming more aggressive and requiring different tactics to defeat. These encounters often require fast movement on the part of the player, and it’s here where the flick-to-move control scheme shows itself to be somewhat less than optimal compared to direct control, but boss battles are similarly short so a few replays will see the player through these encounters eventually.
Level elements help to add some variety with the inclusion of water, wind, and lava. Of course, these are traditional offerings in retro games, but in this case, they require the player to think somewhat differently about the environment given that his character moves entirely in straight lines. So, in water levels, the player must contend with the fact that his character will float slowly upward without his input, forcing him to consider how this will curve the character's trajectory. In one area, rising and falling water allows the player to take advantage of changes in enemy behavior as they are moved in and out of their preferred ecosystems.
Wind is mostly in place to push the player back, which impacts the character's otherwise unlimited forward movement. Moving against the wind adds a bit of extra challenge when attempting to defeat enemies or navigate around spikes, although a later level offers wind that presses the player forward instead. Lava is the only insta-kill obstacle, and it’s usually just placed along the bottom of an area, but the player can knock some enemies into the lava to kill them, and he must lure some enemies to jump out of the lava so he can attack them and collect their gems. There are also some high-speed sequences late in the game where the player must pass through rising and falling lava while dealing with obstacles and enemies, and a chase sequence that requires the player to think a bit differently about how to navigate the environment.
Aesthetically, the game is quite charming, offering cute enemy designs, occasional surprising moments, and humorous cutscenes to introduce each of the boss encounters. The minimal narrative is lighthearted, with the witch being mostly frustrated at having to chase down her ingredients and gems. The soundtrack is similarly lighthearted, offering upbeat and optimistic retro-style tunes (plus an unlockable music player) that are fitting with the 8-bit console classics from which this game draws its inspirations. Once the player finishes the game, he may take on a Hard Mode that features remixed enemies and levels, or take on the boss rush, miniboss rush, and speedrun modes.

2D CRED
Witcheye was developed by Moon Kid, a 1-person studio headed by Peter Malamud Smith, based in Brooklyn. Peter previously co-developed the faux-NES game The Great Gatsby, alongside Charlie Hoey, and he also developed Satellina and Satellina Zero.
The game was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie games including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Luftrausers, Broforce, Foul Play, Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike, Hotline Miami, Hotline Miami 2, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Ronin, Downwell, Enter the Gungeon, Mother Russia Bleeds, Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour, Minit, The Swords of Ditto, The Messenger, Crossing Souls, Gato Roboto, Katana ZERO, and Carrion.


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