How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Mystik Belle is a bit of a hybrid between Metroidvania and Point and Click, with an emphasis on the Point and Click adventuring aspect. Moving around the castle will be familiar to Metroidvania fans, but you’re going to need to enjoy both genres to enjoy this title.
Primary Challenge: Riddle-Solving Puzzles
Time to beat: ~4 hours
Review Info: Mystik Bell was played on Steam.
Buy Mystik Belle if you like…
- Point-and-Click adventure games
- Quirky Characters
- Hint-Based Riddle Solving
- Spamming Attacks and Explosions
▼ Review continues below ▼
Some of the earliest games I played were Sierra Adventure games. As a child I thought the puzzle solutions were clever, and the idea using the tools you’re limited to in unusual ways has always pervaded the way I think about game design and how I approach games. In many ways, that out-of-the-box thinking isn’t too far removed from what makes the Metroidvania genre appealing, so combining Metroidvania with the point-and-click adventure game genre seems like a natural fit. Mystik Belle is a strong example of how well this can work. It’s not nearly as challenging as something like La-Mulana, as its puzzles lean more towards item hunting and heavily hinted applications rather than critical thinking and riddle solving. But, it works very well as a charming entry point into either genre depending on which side of the hybridization you’re familiar with.
The Metroidvania aspect of the game is fairly standard – but fun. If you stripped out all of the puzzle elements and left only the exploration, you’d have a fairly competent mini-Metroidvania; one that isn’t too challenging, but also not frustrating. It’s the kind of candy gameplay that makes for a relaxing evening. Your main attack is to spam fireballs, so wandering around the halls is a matter of button mashing your way through whatever random ghouls and ghosts happen to be in your way. You can also whack enemies with your wand at close range, and this surprisingly seems to do the most damage. Later on you get a charge attack that mixes things up a little, but outside of bosses it’s generally better to just mash away. Enemies are never a major nuisance even if they’re not particularly interesting. Occasionally the game’s cool looking pixel lighting effects can be frustrating as you bumble around dark areas wondering if there’s a platform off in the distance. Overall though the action aspect of the game is pretty basic entertainment – with perhaps just enough twitch reaction skill required to keep the more hardcore adventure fans away.
Exploration is either enhanced or bogged down by the puzzle aspect. While you do find the ability upgrades that allow you to get through gates that are the hallmark of the Metroidvania genre, your main goal is to find inventory items to deposit into their respective puzzle locations. Like many 90s adventure games, the way you use these items is either clever or obtuse depending on your attitude toward the game defining its own rules of physics or how objects should interact. Thankfully, since Mystik Belle takes place in a school, there are a lot of teachers and fellow students more than willing to fill you in on what those rules are. This allows the game to heavily hint at what you’re supposed to do next, but it also means that if you’re diligent in talking to everyone the puzzles quickly become more similar to an MMORPG fetch quest situation rather than a riddle you’re solving on your own. While that aspect is at your election, one annoying thing the game does is disallow you to collect certain items until some events have passed. If you try to pick up some background objects your main character will say “I have no reason to pick that up” only for her to change her mind sometime down the road. I personally wrote off several items like that as not being part of the game only to waste tens of minutes wandering around until I randomly tried it again.
Perhaps in an attempt to force the player to think about how they use their inventory, rather than just trying everything on everything, they also force an item limit on what you can carry, along with a pile of red herring items that don’t do anything at all. That “brush every object with every item” strategy that adventure game critics love to bring up is still viable with Mystik Belle’s rules, it just takes a heck of a lot longer. Personally I think it’s a little unnecessary since the game will usually just tell you what to do if you ask around enough; and there doesn’t seem to be any achievement or penalty to persuade you to do otherwise (other than the speed run that requires you to know exactly what to do and route it anyway.)
Mystik Belle is ultimately a fun if not mostly simplistic take on either genre it’s trying to be. It’s got a charming – albeit also simplistic – story to uncover, and none of its aspects are going to be overly challenging regardless of where you’re coming from as a gamer. I think if you’re a fan of only one of the two genres, it makes for a pretty decent entry point if you’re looking to cross over – although my top pick for first Metroidvania is still going to be Symphony of the Night. If you’re looking into branching into much harder riddle-based games like La-Mulana though, this will give you a fairly decent taste of what to expect. It’s also fairly short, making it a very good pick if you just want an atmospheric game to try for the Halloween season.
Not particularly deep but also not bad. Most encounters are resolved through liberal button mashing, bosses being the exception.
Not a strong focus, but also not a detractor.
The School and outside areas are expansive and fun to traverse, and backtracking is easy - which is good because you do it a lot.
Puzzles have SOME logic associated with them, and aren't too frustrating because you're given a generous number if hints. Major focus is just finding the right item by wandering.
Very silly plotline is held up by some entertaining characters.
The lighting effects give this game's already appealing style a unique flair, though the Darkness can sometimes be annoying.
Very catchy SNES style music will likely be stuck in your brain for a while.
While there are two difficulty levels there isn't much to entice subsequent playthroughs besides a speedrun achievement.
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