The Knight Witch Review On Nintendo Switch: Fantastical Charm And Harrowing Adventure

  • Hand-drawn game art is stunning
  • Map is complex but easily navigable
  • Perfect balance of shooting and sorcery
  • Campaign is engaging and well-developed
  • Not much for side-quest lovers
  • No avatar customization
  • Sorcery elements are a bit too passive

Back in April 2022, Team17 and the Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team announced a game that I have been not-so-patiently waiting for all year. Considering the awesome developer-publisher partnership that this game comes from — Team17 is one of my favorite indie developers, and is responsible for the old smash hit "Worms" —  my expectations were high and my hopes higher. 

"The Knight Witch," which is now available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, PS4 and PS5, and the Nintendo Switch, is a fast-paced bullet hell that takes place in the underground city of Dungeonidas. Our protagonist, Rayne, is a sort of elvish-humanoid-looking gal who finds herself unexpectedly tasked with getting to the bottom of an attack on the city. The unfriendlies, as you quickly find out when the story kicks off, are familiar; they're the same robotic killing machines, Golems, from a war that predates the timeframe of "The Knight Witch." 

The sudden hostile takeover of Dungeonidas is a massive mystery — as is whoever the villain behind the attack is — because the machines should have fallen extinct when the people of Rayne's underground community fled from the uninhabitable environment that the war left behind on the surface. For a decade and a half, Dungeonidas had been a sealed fortress of peace. 

But with the Golems taking everyone that Rayne cares about as captive and the sworn protectors — the Knight Witches — nowhere to be found, the city finds itself facing threats from every direction: the fractured sky and lethal air above ground, monsters and ghouls escaping from the catacombs, bloodthirsty robots on the streets. The forgotten Knight Witch trainee stumbles into being Dungeonidas' only hope — and we encounter so much tragedy and triumph along the way.

We were given a download code for the game for Nintendo Switch for the purpose of this review.

Navigating the world of Dungeonidas

Being 18 turns deep into the labyrinthine twists and turns of a dark cavern in a fruitless search of your next mission checkpoint is one of the most frustrating things that can happen in a game, especially a Metroidvania-type game that is checkpoint dependent for progress. That is why I appreciated the easy navigation of the terrain in "The Knight Witch." In your menu, there's a map of whichever region you're in that shows bosses, threats, and ambushes (if you've already encountered them at least once, that is), locked and unlocked doors, portals, and where the main objective needs you. 

But the game makes quick navigation even easier with an ability bestowed upon Rayne by her loving husband — the Akai Bond. If I ever lost my way, a simple press of a button invoked a luminescent gust of wind to reorient me to the main objective. Switching between RPG story following and boundless exploration was never a hassle thanks to this. In addition to the Akai Bond, Rayne gets other abilities from the people that trust her — but more on that later.

Don't think the many, many corridors and chambers of Dungeonidas are infantilized for your convenience, though. The map spans seven distinctive regions, and the compartments of each aren't visible until you discover and open the doors to them. While the game design takes care to prevent you from getting lost, it doesn't exactly lay out a cushioned carpet to your destination, either. Many doors are locked, and you must venture out to find the key. Others are one-way entrances only — and you're more often than not on the wrong side. Some are disguised and only noticeable if you look closely. 

These are just a few of the obstacles that'll thwart your path — laser beams lurk around many corners, too, which proved to be my ultimate bane — but it wasn't an annoyance for me. It was just enough carrot-and-rabbit to keep me deeply interested in exploring the map, even outside of the campaign's bounds.

Peak indie style in beautiful storybook visuals

The lovely jewel- and earth-toned palettes of "The Knight Witch" are pleasing to look at and easy to become immersed in. The fantasy-inspired flairs of the game's NPCs — some with ram-like horns, others with a single huge cyclops eye, or Rayne's pointed elvish ears — are an excellent contrast to the futuristic machines that are hungry for your demise and steampunk-adjacent touches throughout the game design.

There are so many gorgeously drawn backdrops and scenes that I don't want to spoil, so I'll be very stingy in sharing, but there are many times that you'll want to just stop and take in the artwork. I think it's pretty obvious that the designers weren't going for a realistic aesthetic, but the otherworldly artwork and impressive attention to detail deserve very high marks.

There's nothing to be done to customize Rayne's eye color, hair, or clothing, though. The shops in the game manned by cheeky skeleton cupcake bakers sell armor, but it's temporary and not really visible. But that, to me, isn't much of an issue with how the developers from Super Mega and Co. took such meticulous care to put gorgeous embellishments throughout the game and create characters that really take the whimsical experience to a new level.

General campaign, gameplay, late-game impressions

The campaign of this game felt really well thought out to me. At no point did I anticipate who was going to be the ultimate villain, and the final battle was completely different than any of the preceding ones. The primary way to increase the strength is to grow your Link — that's the bond of trust that connects Knight Witches to the residents of Dungeonidas. The more trusted a witch is, the stronger she is, and in Metroidvania fashion, you are given some choice in how to grow that Link. 

There are a couple of opportunities for side quests throughout the game, but not much to encounter while out on the campaign. A few NPCs are caught and caged by the Golems that you can seek out and rescue along the way, but otherwise, any side missions come from having conversations with the NPCs in the castle, which is not where the majority of the campaign takes place. 

There are several cheats that can be loaded into the game with different four-part color sequences. I spent quite a bit of time uncovering as many as I could. Some make gameplay easier, some make it more of a challenge. 

It took me just over 20 hours to complete the story in a quite leisurely way — taking time to discover as much of the game as possible. By then, I'd uncovered about 80% of the map. 

Once the final boss is completed, an end scene is triggered and the credits roll immediately after, so don't feel like you need to rush into the last leg of the mission. I came back to the game after the credits to see if I could explore, but it seems there's no open-world exploration of "The Knight Witch" post-campaign. My progress with the final boss was gone despite having saved the game — I'm not sure if that was supposed to happen or if it was a glitch.

Shoot-em-up combat in close quarters

There are a couple of scenes in "The Knight Witch" that are straight from the seventh circle of bullet hell. This is definitely structured like a classic shooter game, in terms of combat, but the layout in the small, closed-off chambers where fights occur leaves you very vulnerable: some enemies are peppering you cluster rounds, some lob slow-moving projectiles that'll knock you flat, some deal damage just on contact, all in the midst of a fray so thick that you can't see is the little Rayne avatar just trying to make it out alive. Retreat is mostly impossible thanks to the forcefields barricading any entrances. Really, there was a multitude of instances where I couldn't see where I was, just laying on the trigger and hoping for the best.

Some of those bosses and ambushes were absolutely awful in the best way.  I had really wished there were a couple more static objects to shield me from the barrage while I took a breath. However, the variety in hazards — certain environmental elements in the map can hurt you, too — kept my interest, and oftentimes frustrations, high. 

"The Knight Witch" combat engages most of the Switch controls (only the arrow keys are left out since those navigate through maps, stats, and inventory), so you'll be white-knuckling your way through and have to shake your hands out after each boss. There are some battles that you may return to 10 or more times, but it makes the victory that much sweeter.

Also, "The Knight Witch" battles are intense, but some players may take comfort in knowing there's no actual gore, not even bleeding. One nice touch from the devs that makes the game more accessible to beginner gamers is the auto-aim function which, while it slightly reduces the damage done by your ammo, fires continually at the nearest enemy.

Rayne's spellcasting makes the fight interesting

As a witch, Rayne carries a deck of spell cards. The magical element and mixed combat style are nice for breaking up the gunfire. The spells are capable of everything from stunning enemies to supplying you with mana. Establishing a new Link with someone is one way a new spell can be discovered –  defeating a boss is another. Spells are cast through the use of mana, and the easy process of maintaining mana was nice, but the game's approach to its sorcery component isn't my all-time favorite. You may have 10 or more spell cards in your inventory but are only given access to three at a time, and the order is always random, so there's not really an opportunity for strategy when you're trying to overcome a difficult boss.

I would have loved to be able to designate the order that my spells appeared in the deck, or at least be able to toggle through them all and pick what I wanted. Being able to stack the spells for some sort of combo attack would have been great, too. I understand the challenge posed by random luck of the draw, though, so this is more of a personal preference and not a flaw on the part of "The Knight Witch." I just felt like the game was a touch more "knight" than "witch."

My chief complaint

My most significant complaint — and it really is more of a gripe, because I still adored "The Knight Witch" overall — is the first battle. Here's a recap (minus some expletives) of my impression of the game within the first 30 minutes or so: "Oh, I think I'm going to really like this game! Oh, that's not cool. I like this game a little less. Alright, I hate it. I hate this game." 

But as this review should very clearly indicate, my agitation quickly dissipated — only after I was about ready to walk away less than 30 minutes in. What rubbed me the wrong way initially happens after the standard introductory storytelling and before Rayne is introduced, when you temporarily control the avatar of a legendary character that battles an unfriendly in a behemoth, cannon-studded robotic suit — this first scene is actually the last moments of "The Knight Witch's" prologue war.

From a storyboard perspective, I saw the value in this, but this was an incredibly OP boss-level battle after barely five minutes of gameplay. Granted, I'm far from a master gamer and I knew this would be a bullet hell game, but I'm not entirely helpless. I firmly believe that I only made it through this initial standoff off of sheer luck and many, many failed attempts, given that I only had entry-level spells, life count, and abilities available despite the character's legendary strength and "Angel of Death" reputation.

I saw a bit of irony in that since Rayne actually finds herself head-to-head with this character later in the game, and at that point, the character has much more to offer (but this time to the opposition) in capability, strength, and spells than I was given when the character cameoed in the beginning. It was a bit overkill, in my opinion, and I didn't understand the intention — it complimented the campaign but it was like bringing a plastic knife to a shootout. 

Being so early in the storyline, there wasn't a strong enough sense of sunk cost (fallacy) at play to keep me engaged. If I were just a casual gamer looking for something new to preoccupy me, I wouldn't like the tone that the first match set. It didn't even set an accurate gauge of difficulty for the upcoming combat in the game, because Rayne quickly accumulates more spells and capabilities that make bullet hell battles more of an even match. So if you start "The Knight Witch" and are ready to give up because of this first boss encounter, don't!

A few others

One way that I would have really loved to see this game designed differently is a meter of health rather than individual lives. Especially when you're trying to dip around hundreds of bullets and you've got just five hearts — what a massive frustration that often was, especially because opportunities to refill the counter are few and far in between, and you often have a gang of smaller enemies to blast your way through to get to the big boss, so you best make sure none of the little guys take a life from you. 

In terms of bugs, I encountered very few. Most of them were because I was lurking on the fringes, trying to find the disguised doorways or some hidden items, and getting the avatar ensnared in some greenery or stuck behind something in a way that the game's schema apparently wasn't prepared for. Twice, in the middle of one of the ugliest combat frays I came across in the game, the software suddenly quit. Not something you love to see when you're having a good run trying to defeat the boss, but one glitch per every 10-or-so hours of gameplay isn't all that bad.

Is 'The Knight Witch' worth it?

Is "The Knight Witch" worth its cost and its chaotic battles? I'd say that's a resounding yes. The game design elements that I wasn't a fan of are things that others might enjoy, but in any case, the options to vary the game's difficulty (there are opportunities for invincibility, to make Rayne "glass," which means she'll be taken out after one hit, and the auto-aim feature) mean that the Witch holds a ton of appeal for gamers of all skill levels. The game's storyline framework is similar to a few other Metroidvania games that you may be familiar with: "Alwa's Awakening," and "Hollow Night" come to mind. 

Despite the few things that I would have liked to see differently, I adored this latest project from Super Mega and Team17. There's witty humor in the characters' dialogue, we see friends to enemies and enemies to friends, we explore everything from a desolate wasteland to city streets to beneath the surface of the lake, and the resolution of the story will leave you feeling wholesome and complete. If you crave a little bit of magic and a whole lot of adventure, "The Knight Witch" will not steer you wrong.