My Mom is a Witch gives Castle Crashers a Roguelike Makeover

Developer Bigosaur had an idea in mind when he created My Mom is a Witch. He enjoyed the co-operative fun, side-scrolling action and aesthetic appeal of Castle Crashers but found there wasn’t much incentive to keep playing once finished. So Bigosaur took further inspiration from The Binding of Isaac and other roguelikes to create a game which, in theory, will have a much more lasting appeal.

My Mom is a Witch has just began a year-long Early Access period so, as expected, not everything is yet available – but there’s enough to sink your teeth into to get a solid look at what to expect. It has all the roguelike mechanics you would expect: procedurally generated levels, a wealth of items and weapons and of course, permadeath. And as with any self-respecting roguelike game: you will be dying quite often in the early hours.

There are three main ways to play My Mom is a Witch, although you’ll quickly begin to learn to mix and match if you want to succeed. While there are seven planned characters, only two are currently available: a basic mage and knight. Each character has different stats in melee, magic and ranged and you’ll find combining a ranged playstyle with a melee one will work best.

“Combining melee and ranged playstyles along with the use of pets, items and scrolls offers a lot of variation in each playthrough.”

Inevitably, as you make your way through the various randomly-generated rooms and deal with its dangerous denizens, items, gold and other goodies will be found. You can come across new weapons, magic scrolls and potions as well as being able to buy pets from vendors. Unfortunately, My Mom is a Witch‘s inventory space is a little too limited. You’ll often find yourself stopping practically every room to switch out and examine the numerous items available – made harder by a rather awkward control system.

Talking about the control system, it needs work. On pretty much all fronts. Barring the Xbox controller – which the game has been obviously tailor-made for – both keyboard and the PlayStation controller have problems. In fact, I couldn’t get my DualShock 4 to work at all – even with DS4Windows. Keyboard users will have issues moving accurately and navigating through items. Some genres do just work better with a controller, and this is one of them.

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My Mom is a Witch does have potential however, especially if focus is kept on co-op. Combat can have some real depth. Combining melee and ranged playstyles along with the use of pets, items and scrolls offers a lot of variation in each playthrough. While many potions and pets only offer up generic stat boosts, some do provide fun bonuses such as teleporting, keeping enemies peaceful or raining down meteors on enemies. And as always, playing with friends causes more havoc – inevitably with more fun.

While a staple of the genre – and of Castle Crashers – some may be put off by only being able to attack left or right. Everything can feel a little slow too, especially if playing solo. Base enemies just take too much damage: ranged fights inescapably turn into walking backwards and holding the attack key, while melee consists of getting close and mashing the attack key. Some variation would be nice. Items and abilities do add a once-in-a-while powerful attack, but My Mom is a Witch needs some other form of mechanic to keep things fresh and responsive; a dash or parry wouldn’t go amiss.

“As always, playing with friends causes more havoc – inevitably with more fun”

As time goes on in the development process, more variety will be added (currently only two of seven areas are available). For now, everything feels a little too barebones. While aesthetic enemy designs are nice, they currently all feel mechanically too similar. The cartoon-like graphics are immediately appealing, but again, there’s too little variation in the procedural-generation which quickly takes the shine off.

Still, My Mom is a Witch is good start for a combination of two great games – and Bigosaur promises many improvements over the next year. The developers are very active among Steam discussions, proving how devoted they are to receiving player feedback and making the game as good as it can be. It’ll be interesting to see how the next year of development pans out, and I’ll be looking forward to trying the finished product.