Game: The Legend of Gwen
Genre: Platformer, Action, Arcade, Fighting
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), PS4 and Xbox One)
Developer|Publisher: WiwiGameStudio | Flynns Arcade
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £17.99 | EU € 19,99 | USD $19.99
Release Date: February 16th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Flynns Arcade
Save the School
The Legend of Gwen is a cute-looking 3D platformer where you play as a witch on a quest to defeat evil. The game gives the appearance of a happy platforming experience. However, after playing it isn’t as magical as it first appears.
You play as the little witch Gwen; you’ve arrived at sorcery school only to have your welcome party interrupted by ‘The Evil.’ So it’s up to Gwen to save the school and learn a few spells in the process. This description I took from the games eShop page. When you actually start the game, it doesn’t really present with any semblance of what’s going on. Except for a small sketch which looked a lot like something I doodled from my youth. You’re then dumped into the game with the odd Witch NPC shouting the controls at you in text boxes while you attempt to navigate through the levels.
Seek the Stars
The general objective is to explore each level seeking out five stars, and then to find your way to the exit in one piece. If you take a fall or get eaten by a baddie, you warp back to the start of the level. You must complete the level within a set time limit, or you have to repeat the whole slog again. Each level usually has a few enemies to deal with, like spiders or ghosts.
Some can be dispatched by jumping on their head, while others you need to fire your wand at. Every now and then, you will be granted a new power signified by a change in dress colour. This might be a warp ability or a dash. The game has the right ingredients for a wholesome platformer, but things soon take a turn for the frustrating when you play it.
Adding to the Challenge
The controls of the game are uncomfortable. With the main focus being on platforming, it doesn’t help that it is so hard to get a footing. Your character walks very slowly, more like a plodding elephant than a whimsical witch. When you jump, your character doesn’t cast an appropriate shadow to indicate where you will land. It often feels like you’re constantly taking your best estimate with leaps of faith, only to often fall to your death and warp back to the start of the level time and time again.
You can alter the camera view, but only by a 90-degree swivel and for some reason, this doesn’t work on all levels doing little to alleviate the stress. It quickly gets old, and I found play sessions of this a real drag. You have to collect all the stars in a level to progress, which becomes very aggravating as it meant I had to backtrack to seek out the odd one I missed. With limited lives and a time limit, this all just added up to a recipe for disaster. I had little drive to explore the level looking for extras like chests or gems to unlock secrets. Instead focusing more on just survival with little intention to try a level again to do better.
The game occasionally presents interesting moments, such as when you take control of a scarecrow-like character which can fire projectiles but jumps like a literal lump of wood. You switch back between the witch on the fly to progress through the level. As much as I liked the design of these levels, it didn’t take away my fight with the controls.
The game also has boss fights. Of course, I have niggles here too. These follow the typical pattern of waiting for the boss to become vulnerable or stunned, then jumping on them. It’s very hard to tell where you jump on the boss to do damage. Even with a clear indication of stars around their head, it’s hard to tell where their hitbox is, and I often died instantly, warping back to the beginning of the level, my will to continue deteriorating.
There are some good points. The graphics are pretty cute. Characters have that cute chibi look to them. I did enjoy how your witch does a little jig (dance) when you complete a level and how some of the NPCs cheer at you as you pass them like you’re running some marathon. It made all that suffering slightly worth it. The levels themselves are colourful and appealing, and the performance was actually acceptable in TV and handheld mode. The soundtrack is ok; kind of a more chilled affair suiting the fantasy setting. I found it pretty odd when an enemy spots you, though. It makes the alert famously heard in the Metal Gear Solid series; it felt pretty out of place here since this is an entirely different game genre.
Before I conclude, I want to add some more positives. Legend of Gwen does have a beefy amount of content. This is a well-packed platformer with several worlds to explore, including secret levels and a boss fight to conclude. Each level also has hidden chests and a sub-mission to defeat all enemies, so if you are a completionist, plenty will keep you busy for a long time. Progress is saved between levels; most can be tackled a few minutes at a time, which is ideal if you’re short on game time.
Conclusion – Back to School
Legend of Gwen is a difficult game to recommend. Even if you really love your challenging platformers, you must contend with clunky controls and slow pacing to successfully make it through the experience. It reminds me a lot of those 3D platformers from the PSone era that could not quite grasp the move from 2D to 3D. There is, of course, a portion of gamers that will welcome the challenge of Gwen, but you will need a lot of time and patience, which I clearly lacked. A shame, really, because with a bit of tidying up to the design, this could end up being something quite magical for all audiences. In its current state, it feels more like a curse than a wondrous spell. That, or maybe I’m just terrible at games starring witches.
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure