How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Weebish Mines is less about ability gating and hunting bosses and more about open exploration and finding specific objectives.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~4 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Weebish Mines was provided by the Developer.
Buy Weebish Mines if you like…
- Discovering a world bit by bit
- Tons of optional bosses and content
- Completely open world
- Permanent consequences
- Simplistic NES style design
▼ Review continues below ▼
Hidden Gems come in all sorts of forms and sometimes they can be misunderstood if the right expectations aren’t set before diving in to the game. The store page Weebish Mines states that you explore the underground in the “Metroidvania Fashion”, however it’s pretty far removed from the pattern you may have come to expect from the games that make up the genre name. Being different isn’t necessarily bad, you just might be a little disappointed if you went into this expecting a typical mini-metroidvania. The whole experience is intentionally oldschool, which includes relatively simplistic gameplay and obtuse mechanics that can’t be understood without reading the manual first – it’s likely going to be a turn off for many. There is a niche for the kind of game Weebish Mines is though, and while I’m not going to pretend there’s not a lot that can’t be improved, it’s still unique enough to warrant some investigation if it sounds interesting to you.
The store advertises Weebish Mines mines as a spiritual successor to Legacy of the Wizard which I’ve never played, but I can see some of the similarities looking at some gameplay videos. I think a core difference from this inspiration is that Weebish Mines isn’t really a traditional RPG, but more of a puzzle platformer of sorts. The game it reminds me of the most is A Boy and his Blob on the NES. You’re thrown into a world and simply tasked with finding a number of treasures using a limited number of consumables to traverse the game’s terrain. The treasures you’re looking for in Weebish Mines’s case are the family’s four pets. You need to place ladders, use umbrellas to slow your descent, mining picks to break down walls, and other tools in order to achieve this goal. Every one of these items is either one-time use, or is limited by a specific colored gem that prevents you from spamming their effects. While there are a specific and limited number of these tools hidden within the mines, an interesting part of the design is that everything you do is permanent. So any ladder you place will be there for your entire playthrough, and any enemy killed is killed forever. While it’s a little frustrating to find out you’ve run out of tools and thus made your playthrough uncompletable, the permanent effects of your decisions – and the relatively short length of the game when you DO figure things out – keeps the otherwise punishing nature of the systems fair to the player.
Adding another layer to the dynamic, you also have four characters to choose from, which you can switch at any time by going back to the cabin. Each character has different costs for using items –for instance, the first character has a reduced red gem cost, allowing him to use the mining pick and other “red” tools more efficiently than the other characters. As you defeat monsters, the whole family also gains experience and levels, providing useful bonuses like reducing the gem cost for using tools. Once the gem cost is reduced, three of the characters have a gem color that they can just use for free. Besides that, they each have different attacks, and different defense values. Each character is therefore useful for different tasks that you can plan ahead for, which makes for some interesting decision options.
The dynamic of limited resources and character differences really helps to make the exploration a treat, and the permanent effects of your decisions really gives you this feeling that you’re conquering the game’s world gradually as you play. Since the world isn’t procedurally generated, even if you completely fail, you can start to piece together the different biomes and really plan for what tools you want to bring into the mines for any given run. That planning is crucial too since not only do you need to dive into the mines, but you need to be able to route your way back to the beginning again lest you lose all the tools you worked hard for. Dying causes your character to turn to stone, which loses any tools that they’re carrying – a devastating penalty – and you also lose control of that character until you can use another item to break them free of the stone.
There is a small flaw in this design though. Since the game doesn’t save automatically – only when you quit the game – it’s pretty easy to just ALT-F4 any time things go south, and then start over your run again from the last time you quit. This also lets you to do suicide runs just to explore ahead, and then when you reset, you can bring along the exact tools for what you discovered. The ability to do this will no doubt help players that find the death penalty too punishing, but it might stifle the fun a bit for those looking for the intended challenge. I personally would have preferred this be a menu option or something, since it’s a pretty tempting exploit regardless of your skill level.
Aside from that technical weakness, the combat itself is a bit wonky overall. Most characters have pretty close ranged attacks, and enemies all deal contact damage in the true retro fashion. The AI is about as simple as it gets, with most foes walking in simple back and forth paths. You can exploit their stupidity pretty easily by finding a safe spot in the terrain, but that’s also not particularly interesting. There are quite a few optional bosses to fight, but the player’s overall range weakness becomes extra frustrating against foes that move through the air in unpredictable patterns. I personally just avoided the encounters entirely, which is an option. The best thing I can say about the combat is that at least you don’t have to fight enemies after they’re killed – but basically saying “less is more” doesn’t bode very well for the quality of the game’s battles. I personally think the exploration is worthwhile on its own, but some may decide combat is a deal breaker here.
If you’re someone who likes a good exploration puzzle, you may be able to look past the less polished parts of Weebish Mines and enjoy it for what it is. Conquering the world of Weebish Mines, and making it your own, was a pretty fulfilling endeavor for me by the end. For better or for worse, there isn’t a huge amount of content to be had here, but it’s a unique enough experience at an appropriate price point that it gets my recommendation.
Very simplistic. Most enemies wander in a set and predictable pattern which coincides with your basic ''Hit the thing'' attack options
Platforming gets more interesting when you use things like ladders, but for the most part it's not really a ''Challenge''
It is rewarding to gradually conquer the bizarre world beneath your cabin, though you wonder why the Weebs don't just move
Resource management is the primary quest of this game. It can be frustrating at first, but solving what to use and where is rewarding
It's intentionally tongue in cheek - the theming could have been anything really. Just barely engaging enough to hold it all together
The pixel art is fine, but sprites tend to overlap with eachother in unusual ways. It works well enough
8-Bit music is catchy but slightly forgettable
The world for the most part doesn't seem to change save a few random drops, but you can tackle your goals in any order you choose
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