- Developer: Alientrap
- Publisher: Whitethorn Games
- Release Date: 27/12/2021
- Price: £14.99 / $19.99
- Review code provided by Whitethorn Games
- Version reviewed: The review started with version 1.0.1 and finished with version 1.0.2.
Introducing: Wytchwood Review
Sometimes starting a new game feels like opening a book full of fairy tales. It’s immediately familiar because all the conventions of storytelling were followed, but completely new as well, because there are fresh twists concocted into the narrative. Wytchwood by Alientrap is such a wondrous crafting adventure game full of puzzles, stories and concoctions.
Everyone can have a bad day and this one is yours. A goat crashes into your little hut, literally gobbles down all of your grimoire but one page, and demands payment for a contract you can’t remember anything about. But that’s okay as you can only recall that you are a witch and not much else anyway. After a short discussion and a new haircut (for the goat, not for you) you accept that you owe twelve souls and set out into the world to collect them.
Bubble, bubble lots of trouble!
You begin at your house and start observing the surroundings with your Witch Eye. This way you not only discover ingredients to gather, remember recipes to craft, but also unearth the weaknesses of the other inhabitants of your wondrous world. This is important. Contrary to other adventure games, you cannot fight, at all! Instead, you find out what your target is weak against, e.g. goblins are afraid of dolls, and then craft that special item and use it to your advantage. This is a really nice concept and fits your character to a T. An old witch is no brawling knight in shining armour, but will still defend herself slyly and spew a few curses for good measure while she’s at it. Should you be too slow in figuring out what to do with an opponent, you’ll take damage and lose one of your three hearts. In case you lose all of them, worry not, because you’ll simply wake up in your armchair at home. You’ll lose some of your ingredients where you passed out, but can come back to collect them later.
Speaking of crafting, it is delightful! Identify what you need with the Witch Eye and then open the Grimoire. Here, you find the recipes you have already recollected and check whether you have the right ingredients. If you have them, crafting is as easy as pressing a button. If not, go out and search for the missing components. Hints of their whereabouts are shown right on the crafting page. Unfortunately these hints only tell you the general location and not the plant or animal the reagent needs to be taken from. But discovering that is part of the fun! Sometimes you have to craft something else to catch an animal whose parts you need for a recipe. Quite often, crafting is multi-layered, meaning that you need to craft one thing to be used as a part of a different contraption. So take a little bit of advice from this review: where ever you find yourself, pick up all resources, items and ingredients. You will need them, rather sooner than later!
So, now we talked about crafting, but haven’t stepped into the world proper yet. Well, from her hovel, our witch has access to a hub connecting to the different locations of her world for easy access. Unfortunately, only the forest can be explored in the beginning of the story. All other places have to be discovered by examining the woods first. In doing so, you will meet strange folks, beasts, and mythical creatures. Some will give you quests, some will have to be bested, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I won’t go into detail. Let it just be said that the world is well populated with life and never feels empty! Just make sure that you find and unlock all the portals of the different regions to make sure you can travel to them from the hub. This will save you a lot of time you would otherwise spend on running around. That’s the second tip in this review.
A word about the quests is necessary. Naturally, they drive forward the narrative, as in most adventure games. In Wytchwood they come in main quests that then spread out into sub-quests, which in turn will expand even further into several sub-sub-quests. This can be overwhelming, especially because your current quest is replaced with a new one the moment it is given to you. So, make sure to track the original quest again, otherwise you’ll end up in a witchy confusion. Also, it is generally a good idea to focus on only one quest at a time. All good things come in threes and this is the third and final tip in this review.
Eye of newt and ear of bat!
Have you ever opened one of those lovingly illustrated fairy tale books for children? If you have, the artstyle used by Wytchwood will be familiar. It looks just like one of these books. The lush environments teem with colour, sometimes so much that it is hard to take in everything with the naked eye. (That’s why the Witch Eye is so important!) Weather effects add to the feeling of walking through a pop-up-book fairy tale: there’s rain in the damp swamp and sunshine in the fields, the graveyard’s dark and creepy all day long while the market is lively and populated. The sound of the world injects even more richness into the brilliant tapestry. Wind, rain, steps, and other noises are present, but not omnipresent. They are noticeable, but don’t overwhelm. The music, then, is the last significant feature of the fairy tale world. It’s there, at times, prominent and dreamy just as location and story dictate. Sometimes fleeting, sometimes eerie, always fitting and well done.
Skeeters, dragonflies, leeches, you name it!
I’m really happy to report that Alientrap have an open ear about any critters shipped with the game. The version I started playing for this review (1.0.1) had a savegame issue, which I luckily never had to experience, and sluggish gameplay during handheld play. Both of these bugs were squashed with the update to version 1.0.2.
What’s still left is the annoyance of a too small font used in the crafting and inventory section of Wytchwood. This makes reading recipes and item properties rather difficult when playing docked and cumbersome when playing handheld. The recent update adjusted the font size a bit, but it’s still not ideal. The development team promised to listen to further requests, though.
Wytchwood gets a lot of things perfectly right: good story, great crafting, and wonderful art. There’s also a fine sarcastic humour blended into the narrative. Luckily, the technical wrinkles were ironed out in the latest update.
- Crafting system is cleverly thought out and delightful to use.
- Awesome artstyle and music.
- Humorous story drawing on old tales, but twisting them into a new form.
- Small fonts in the inventory and during crafting.