Uwu I may be but smaww, but I wiww die a cowossus
If Code Vein already has ‘the anime Dark Souls’ brand trademarked, then Little Witch Nobeta is ‘the Uwu Dark Souls’. Playing as the titular little witch and making your way through a haunted castle with your faithful cat, you face off against a modest array of enemies and a handful of intriguing bosses. The aesthetic is a strange but surprisingly successful mix of gothic staples and sugary cuteness, and the combat system, while flat, is fun to get to grips with. It doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre, and the enemies are occasionally infuriating for all the wrong reasons, but all things considered, it’s a solid riff on the Dark Souls formula.
The game offers both melee and spell casting combat, though the incessant swarming from the enemy AI means you’ll rarely get to clobber them. While you start with just one spell, the option to hold for a more damaging spell or fire off less powerful ones more rapidly still gives you some degree of control. Mixed with running and diving, the combat feels fun and intuitive without ever requiring much thought.
Not all who wander are lost
The enemies themselves are essentially bullet (or mana) sponges, and while it’s fun enough to run around and fight, victory never feels all that rewarding. They start off as generic black shadows, though once you progress and start to fight the mannequins, a bit of flavour returns. Some mannequins will charge at you, flailing and headless, while others writhe on the floor, legless, and toss damaging spells at you. Though the shadows are very generic, they at least fit the castle setting, and as you venture further into stone caverns, mushroom illuminated caves and fire pits, the atmospheric settings make up for any shortcomings.
You’ll get plenty of opportunity to explore these settings too, as the game leads you through a variety of twists and hidden passageways. The platforming sections, where Nobeta must run, double jump, or use mid-air melees to hover, offer a much-needed break from the increasingly samey fighting, but unfortunately, they’re few and far between. The enemies revive themselves after you leave the room too, which can be useful if you want to farm XP points, but is needlessly irritating when you take a wrong turn and have to clear out the same room three times over just to move on.
The camera occasionally struggles when Nobeta is backed into a corner too; especially problematic considering that’s the AI’s tactic of choice. If a few get too close, you can often find yourself trapped, as the camera wobbles leaving you with no way to know which way to dive, and the attacks knock you back down as soon as you get to your feet.
Come at me, nee-chan
Despite the fact that the combat is the majority of the game, these are minor quibbles. Most of the time, it’s okay. Nobeta is powerful enough to take any of the non-bosses on toe-to-toe fairly easily, and if you’re quick and target your spells, you won’t get swamped. The hoard attacks never feel cheap either, as they only really happen if you try to outrun a combat situation and end up roping too together. When you fight more powerful foes, like the doll with a sword who pops up sporadically, the game strips the number of enemies back and lets you duel.
In true Dark Souls tradition though, the real combat comes when you face the bosses. These are far more varied, both in terms of design and approach, and haul the game up from being a middling hack and slash fest into a much more rounded experience.
Who’s the boss?
The first boss you face is a haunted suit of armour, but from then on out Little Witch Nobeta heads in a completely different direction. This battle is a good enough start, teaching you that you must aim you spells at specific body parts, that you need to run and keep your distance, and how to deal with the various supercharged attacks the bosses throw at you. But… it’s a big suit of armour. In a castle. Not the most inspired choice.
The second one you meet, however, is a dark but lonely soul, currently inhabiting the body of an old doll, whose bow sprouts giant skeleton fingers to grab you and consume your soul so your body can be its vessel. Now we’re talking.
There’s more inventive bosses to be found later too, as well as the suit of armour coming back in more interesting ways. It’s reductive to suggest Little Witch Nobeta is just you running around, busying yourself between each boss battle, but they are undoubtedly the best part of the game. Its pacing is off, and the base game combat hasn’t got that much going for it, but it’s well worth picking up to test yourself against Little Witch Nobeta’s headline offerings.
[Reviewed on PC]
Jason is the Editor of The Indie Game Website. He’s a lover of roguelikes, soulslikes, and other kinds of likes. He basically spends a lot of time getting beaten up in games and seems to enjoy it.