Molinike is in a bit of a pickle. All she wanted was to learn how to be the best sculptor ever, but instead, she’s got snakes in her hair and turns everyone who gets close to her to stone. Molly Medusa: Queen of Spit starts with a fun concept but it strains against its own ambition in almost every direction.
Coming from Neckbolt, the solo developer of Yono And The Celestial Elephants, first impressions mean a lot and the first few moments you spend in the game have plenty of charm. Molinike – Molly for short – is an apprentice sculptor whose teacher sends her out for a new chisel so he can finish his current piece. Molly, like many young artists, wants to make great art right now without learning the essential tools of the trade. The tinkerer offers her the chance to unlock the infamous witch, Circe, who grants her a single wish.
Circe, as wish-granters often do, twists Molly’s words to curse her, turning her hair to snakes and making everything that gets close to her turn to stone. There is a great moment shortly after where Molly wanders into the clearing and the pigs turn to stone when she approaches. Butterflies fall to the ground, seemingly lifeless. It is startling and highly effective at bringing this terrible curse to life.
Unfortunately, Molly didn’t seem to react to it. Even when she returned to her home village and inadvertently turned her mother and friends to stone, the game didn’t give us any indication that Molly was affected by any of this. No little cutscene where she tried to explain what was happening or lament her plight. More importantly, there is no indication of how to fix it. The game simply expects you to follow the proverbial breadcrumbs without actually laying them out for you.
There is something to be said for subtle storytelling, but Molly Medusa: Queen of Spit is a bit too hands-off, particularly in the opening moments. We wanted to see Molly wrestle with her loneliness and isolation a bit more. Aside from adopting a pet rock named Mr. Rockface, she doesn’t seem upset about the curse as she goes about trying to lift it.
Lifting Circe’s curse requires Molly to steal a sandship and traverse the dunes just outside her small village. This portion, along with the art design of the game, is designed to give players the strongest possible Wind Waker vibes possible. The Legend of Zelda influences don’t stop there, either. Molly must travel to a series of dungeons, each with their own map, boss, and key item to collect, and the first one you get is essentially the Hookshot.
The main gimmick of the dungeons is Molly’s ability to walk on almost any surface. It isn’t explained how this happened and Molly doesn’t seem to react at all when it first happens, but you learn to go for it once you enter the first M.C. Esher room. It is a neat concept, though there are a couple of wrinkles that make exploring the dungeons more frustrating than enjoyable.
The camera, which isn’t under the player’s direct control by default, tends to jerk from one perspective to another. This caused us some light motion sickness when playing, particularly in docked mode, and sent us missing jumps that otherwise should have been simple to make. Moving feels imprecise, which is annoying when you factor in how fragile Molly is. You tap down on the right stick to activate free camera mode, but it resets every time you go to a new room.
Spike traps are a deadly foe in this game and we ran blindly into them on more than one occasion because of the camera. The developer suggests that restricting camera control by default and preventing you from swinging it around "just because you can" means you're less likely to miss important objects, visual clues, and puzzle elements designed to appear naturally as the camera drags behind you. We understand the intention was to emulate the control and camera style of older games like The Wind Waker, but it's a flawed design decision that seriously detracted from our enjoyment here. Going against the grain of modern game design in this way results in a frustrating experience.
Most of Molly Medusa’s puzzles are relatively straightforward, focusing either on using the most recently obtained item or Molly’s strange ability to walk on walls and ceilings to advance. Combat is light since most enemies turn to stone when they approach her. We encountered a handful of bugs during our playthrough, such as Molly flying through the first boss into a void, forcing us to restart the dungeon. It is a shame that the game plays so poorly since the core concept is great. It just needed a bit longer to develop and a bit more plot to prop it up.
The sound provides some other uneven moments. Most of the time, audio is passable but forgettable background fare, only to switch to an absolutely rad and completely out-of-place metal mix complete with shredding guitars when Molly gets into her sandship. The change-up is almost startling and adds to the sense that the game is unfinished. Rather than switching things up a gear, it gives the impression that only one track was completed and everything else is placeholder filler.
The sailing portions of the game are probably the most enjoyable in Molly Medusa: Queen of Spit. The ship moves swiftly and takes to the air over the dunes that cover the terrain. It reminded us of Sail Forth, another Wind Waker-inspired game that sought to capture that sense of exploration. However, the world is so empty and barren that it almost doesn’t feel worth it to do anything but travel directly to your next objective. Another homage to the relative sparseness of Hyrule's Great Sea, perhaps, and another design misstep.
We spent about 15 hours making our way through the game, although that number was inflated by the number of times we died. We wanted to like Molly Medusa: Queen of Spit more than we did, but the frustrating controls sapped any enjoyment we got from the unique concept and the dearth of plot undermined the charming visuals. It's not impossible that things could improve with patches, so hopefully pushing it out in this state won't have set its fate in stone. It really feels like the game needed another year of development time before it hit shelves.
Molly Medusa: Queen of Spit takes a great idea and, unfortunately, fails to deliver on its promise. The throwback camera is a mistake and needed far more refinement, and the controls feel clumsy as a result. Molly's lack of reaction to her curse takes away any emotional impetus or impact from the plot. There is a potential gem here, but despite a handful of inspired ideas, it feels antiquated and is very difficult to recommend, at least in its launch state.
that's a shame I was looking forward to this
Absolutely love the art so was curious about this one; it's a pity its sub-par, but thank you for the review.
Ah yes, the recurring enemy found in endless video games, always waiting to strike - The Cameraman
But still. Shame to see a game with actually pretty graphics instead of "retro pixel I-didn't-feel-like-doing-graphics-for-my-game" do so poorly.
But seriously, what's up with the title?
Queen of ... Spit? 😶
“Great art direction and character design”
That’s awfully kind
Story telling reminds me of NES games where you’re just in it with no idea why.
Bummer I hope this sees a good price drop eventually because the art direction wants me to give it a go, but it sounds like it would be difficult to get $40 enjoyment out of it.
i don’t get the praise for the art , the looks been done to death
Queen of Spit may be my least favorite title in recent memory.
Ouch. I was hoping this would be interesting.
Probably not a good idea for these indie studios to try an ape a successful game. Rarely works in 2D, let alone 3D. Be original.
Was it supposed to be Queen of Stone but then autocorrect kicked in accidentally...?
Do you guys need to compare every game released to a Nintendo IP?
There are homages, ‘inspired by’, etc.
Then there’s blatant clones.
@blindsquarel I agree they do this, but in this case it’s completely valid
It’s a shame to hear this game doesn’t succeed. Yono had charm although overall was pretty rote. I was hoping this more ambitious game could be a solid next step. Perhaps it will gets some patches.
Like a spit of land...?
@Specialstreamcannon On a somewhat related note, there has been a Zelda like called The Last Dragon Slayer out for a few weeks, and I can't find any reviews online. Watching the trailer, it looks to be at least worthy of a mini review.
... even SPITE would make more sense...
Is it really spit? Am I reading that right?
... like, WHOSE spit? 🧐
Don’t ask, you don’t want to know.
Am I the only one who thinks the art direction looks worse than WindWaker’s style? The main character looks like a kindergartener designed it
@blindsquarel It is annoying but this one is pretty blatant.
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