Episodic gaming isn't a new or very interesting concept anymore. The idea of partitioning a game's release into episodes for the sake of providing better content at the sacrifice of instant gratification is good in theory, but that's just a theory. In practice, this only works when a developer stays true to its promise of worthwhile content. Episodic gaming does not work when it's used as a cover-up for quickly pumping out content that doesn't compliment the previous releases.
The Legend of Dark Witch - Episode 2: The Price of Desire – which, from here forward, will be referred to simply as "Dark Witch 2" – is a hastily produced sequel disguised as episodic content. Rather than picking up where the previous game left off and building on its story, Dark Witch 2 goes back to the beginning, taking almost the same plot and inserting new enemies and maps in place of those from the previous instalment. Gameplay remains the same, your goals haven't changed, and it hasn't been improved upon in any significant way. If you're able to suspend disbelief and ignore all of the surround factors, then the gameplay here can be enjoyable, but there is almost nothing that can be said about Dark Witch 2 that wasn't said in our review of the original.
Upon loading the game and breezing through the nonsensical and poorly translated plot about magic Syega crystals that have gone missing and have nothing to do with blue hedgehogs, it's immediately apparent that Dark Witch 2 draws most of its influence from the Mega Man series. Not only is this a side-scrolling run-and-gun, but you also have the freedom to select which of the eight stages you want to play in any random order. Upon completing a stage and finishing off its boss, you will be rewarded with a new special attack that can be assigned to your character and upgraded. Unlike Mega Man, however, learning and utilizing new attacks doesn't present any significant advantage, and we were just as easily able to run through the entire campaign while upgrading the most basic projectile weapon. To be fair, the difficulty curve is significantly steep when choosing to play on a higher setting, and the additional attacks can be more useful when used strategically, but it's still disappointing that a major mechanic is barely utilized and ends up sidelined for the majority of the adventure.
Gameplay is relatively straightforward, sticking to fairly standard run-and-gun conventions. As you follow the path through each stage and blast enemies along the way, you'll be rewarded with in-game currency known as tres. Tres can then be used to upgrade your attacks and other abilities, such as gliding or running. There are four Syega crystals hidden in each stage that can also be used to unlock and upgrade abilities, but there's no punishment for skipping over these and continuing forward in the plot. That's right, the Syega crystals, the magic stones that the game's plot is based around, can be completely ignored as you work your way through to the end of the campaign.
The campaign can be completed in just around an hour, and a separate shop and new player character unlock upon completion. There's encouragement to play again in order to unlock more concept art and character upgrades, but it mostly just feels like fodder to pad an otherwise very short experience. For what it is, Dark Witch 2 plays well and isn't the worst game in its genre, but it is lacking in originality and features that might call its players back for a second round. This might appeal to the completionists out there, but the more casual players might have a difficult time returning.
One thing that Dark Witch 2 manages to get right is the presentation. The character sprites are detailed, the environments are colourful and attractive, and the soundtrack pumps energy into the gameplay. The stages themselves aren't particularly interesting in their mostly flat and linear designs, but the lively environments and distinctive themes make them feel unique from one another. The handheld's console's 3D display isn't put to any use whatsoever, but everything still looks good and compliments the tone of what is an overall lighthearted game.
The Legend of Dark Witch - Episode 2: The Price of Desire borrows so many great ideas from classic games in its genre, then does absolutely nothing with them. On top of that, despite the titling decision, this feels much more like a half-baked sequel than it does a second chapter in an ongoing story. The straightforward run-and-gun gameplay works well and is enjoyable when taken at value, but the campaign's short length, nonsensical story and unused core mechanics make this one difficult to recommend. It will feel familiar to classic Mega Man fans, especially when played on the higher difficulty settings, but don't expect those nostalgia pangs to be entirely satiated.