Turns out I am a monster: I really like cooking kids. Sadly, the kid-cooking fun of this dark indie game is not sustainable.
You know how creatives are going through this phase where we rewrite traditional stories but flip them so the former antagonist turns out to have been the good guy all along? Wicked, Maleficent, and so on? Well, the team at VaragtP miss the good old days—days when men were men and witches ate kids, damn it. This is a classic tale of, well, a witch that wants to eat kids, but this time you get help her do it. Grab your brooms and your child hooks because we are going to review the amusing—but fatally short—Cooking Witch.
There is no official story here, and it isn’t really necessary given the simplicity of the game. VaragtP instead relies on fairy tales to inform the setting. You are a witch, and what do witches do? Eat kids, of course. That is a pretty well-ingrained concept in fairy tale lore from Hansel and Gretal to The Witches circa 1990. A far more compelling question in the Cooking Witch is why this town has set up a fairground only feet away from a massive cauldron?
Cook kids. It’s that simple. Just fly over, grab ’em, and drop ’em in your big cauldron. The game is entirely controlled through the mouse. You drag the pointer to set direction and speed, click to pick up or drop them, and then fly over items to collect them. Each round is limited by either time or health. You only have until dawn to murder all these children, and once you’ve started their daddies will show up and try to blow you out of the sky (don’t worry—they aren’t that good at it). You can zip around them and even drop children on them to knock them out. Which is more fun than it should be, perhaps?
Dropping them in is also surprisingly satisfying as well. Maybe I am just messed up, but that plop and then the instant gratification of stars, meat, and hearts is fun. It gets particularly good when you have upgraded your broom to carry the maximum number of kids and your cauldron to maximize your return. There is a little more complexity here in as much as different kinds of kids provide different items when cooked. For instance, green kids will generate more stars which add time to the clock, and big kids will provide more meat which is basically the currency for buying upgrades in the game.
There is only the one stage; however, the game does provide a series of challenges to complete based on cooking a certain number of kids or collecting specific resources. Unfortunately, where this recipe falls short is how easy it all is. Goals can be completed over multiple plays which means there is not a lot of skill required. Rather, you will find yourself just grinding away—although not for long. I had completed most of the challenges in the first two hours, and it only took me a couple more to grind and get that “unlock everything” final goal. After that, you are just doing the same thing over and over again. Some may enjoy it for the sake of challenging your own high score or those on the leaderboard, but for me, it lost its appeal pretty quickly.
Performance & Graphics
Cooking Witch is a 2D side-scroller and it offers a simply painted backdrop to support action. Visually it is colorful, and the changing colors of the sky as your time runs out is a particularly nice touch. The sprites offer a surprising level of detail that gives them each a little character; as you carry children off you can see them becoming scared and crying, and I know this makes me sound like a monster, but that only make me want to carry more of them off.
I didn’t find any glitches per se, but there are a few design decisions that were confusing. For instance, you can not pause or return to the main menu until the round is over. The leaderboard also seemed underdeveloped. VaragtP is trying to promote continued playability by offering prizes of Steam games to those who make the leaderboard, but it fails to tempt me and I imagine it won’t attract too many others. Part of the issue I had was the lack of user-friendliness in the leaderboard. You can see the top players, but it’s difficult to understand where you stand, and as far as I can see there is no way to compare with specific players like your friends.
The sound caught me off guard at first. It’s classical, like Beethoven classical, which is an unusual choice in this medium. There are two possible reasons for this. This could be a link to the classical era of Grimm fairy tales—the iconic early 19th century sound, as it were. Or it may just be easy to get royalty free classical music. Either way, the soundtrack is limited and can get old if you find yourself on a long streak. The audio is redeemed somewhat by the various sound effects included. The sounds of the wailing kids and the plop they make as you drop them in are fun and feel rewarding.
Overall, Cooking Witch was very amusing. It only took me a few minutes to understand how to play, and dropping kids in that cauldron was fun. Sadly, the fun is short-lived. The entire game can be beaten in a few hours and it offers little challenge beyond your stamina for grinding. It’s only a couple bucks, but I would not push it to the top of anyone’s list. Although Cooking Witch does what it promises, there just isn’t enough content. I will give it this, though: if the witch from Hansel and Gretel just had a hook and grabbed her meal from the local fair, it would have ended so much better for her.
Cooking Witch is available on Steam for $1.59.
This article first appeared on DVSGaming.org