The French retro game publisher Double Sided Games announced a Halloween Game Dev Competition in 2019. Among the 6 entries, the winner is remarkable in many ways. The developers of the gamecrossed the cult mobile game with Halloween elements and topped it all with a very special way of controlling the game. With their result, they trolled the mostly amateurish participants in an unprecedented way.
As already indicated, the player moves in the form of the typical broom-riding witch on an endless journey through the night sky. Past little baby ghosts, bats, pumpkins, lightning bolts and adult ghosts, she makes her way to all kinds of sweets scattered in the clouds, such as treats or candy canes. Collecting each piece earns one point on the high score list and touching the opponents ends in immediate death. You then start again at the beginning of the course.
The controls are the most exciting part of the whole story. The game only requires one button. When you press the button, Witchy dives down diagonally to the right. The longer you hold it down, the further it goes. When you let go, she then takes an upward swing. By pressing it in quick succession, you simulate a bird's flight, which also goes up and down in time with the strokes of its wings. A reverse gear is not built in. But since the screen with the ghosts keeps scrolling all the time, the witch automatically drifts backwards when it stops. If Witchy disappears completely from the screen, the game is over. In the same way, the upper and lower edges of the screen must not be crossed. Therefore the player tries to stay in the centre as much as possible, skillfully avoiding the approaching enemies and collecting the sweets at the same time.
The game action looks very decent due to the witch's and ghosts' droll animation of the flying movement. With the framing clouds, an impressive 3D effect is achieved through parallax scrolling. The continuous piece of music is quite animating, but can also be switched off. When entering the high score list, another piece can be heard, which in my opinion is even better than the actual in-game music. Because the second theme sounds a bit more gloomy in Halloween mood. But maybe they wanted to design the game as accessible and casual as possible. Sound FX can also be heard and when you collide with an enemy, a bang sounds and even the whole screen shakes briefly.
The one-button operation follows a steep learning curve: those who get the hang of the game after a few tries will be motivated to climb to the top of the high score table through constant successes. If you make a mistake, the game starts again from the beginning after only one keystroke. This has the effect of making you want to play the “very last game” again and again. The integration into the Halloween theme is memorable. The result is a timelessly good game and my happiness could only be increased by implementations on other 8-bit systems.
In every respect, this game was effortfully fine-tuned to achieve a great technical realisation of a nice little game idea. I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised to find such a candidate in an amateur competition. It is fair to assume that this was an action of pirate marketing with a product already waiting in the drawer. Because by winning, the game attracts the attention of a large circle of retro-game customers, virtually free of charge. To be fair, it should be mentioned thatis also for free.