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Review

Review: Bullet Witch

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The announ­ce­ment of a Bul­let Witch PC port ear­lier this month was a pret­ty big sur­pri­se. After more that 10 years sin­ce the ori­gi­nal Xbox 360 release, the decisi­on to release the game on PC now is a litt­le stran­ge. And after finis­hing the game, we’re still not real­ly sure why this was deemed worthy of ano­t­her release at all.

Bul­let Witch’s plot is incredi­b­ly sim­plistic, detail­ing the witch Alicia’s jour­ney to defeat the demons that have dri­ven huma­ni­ty to near extinc­tion. Ali­cia as a cha­rac­ter is incredi­b­ly bland, some­thing that is not hel­ped by the mono­to­ne voice acting. Out of the ent­i­re cast, the­re are only two cha­rac­ters that have had any sort of effort put into their voice-overs. The­re is litt­le rea­son to care for any of the cast during the sto­ry, some­thing that the game’s incredi­b­ly short length makes even wor­se.

Game­play fares litt­le bet­ter, offe­ring an incredi­b­ly bland third per­son shoo­ter with a useless magic sys­tem tacked on. Alicia’s broom-the­med gun has mul­ti­ple dif­fe­rent forms, though the default machi­ne gun form is the one you’ll use for most of the game. Shoo­ting is simp­le enough, hel­ped by the addi­ti­on of com­pe­tent key­board and mou­se con­trols. Ammo is rep­le­nis­hed using magic, which con­stant­ly rege­ne­ra­tes when not in use, lea­ving you with an infi­ni­te amount of bul­lets to mow down enemies with.

The big­gest pro­blem with the guns is that shoo­ting enemies is just not par­ti­cu­lar­ly satis­fy­ing. Bul­lets lack much visu­al impact and it can be hard to tell if you’re even hit­ting an ene­my at all. The sni­per-like gun form is the big­gest offen­der here, sin­ce its bul­let move at a snails pace for some rea­son. Most enemies also have incredi­b­ly long death ani­ma­ti­ons that also cau­se them to fire their wea­pons, making them seem like they’re still ali­ve for a few seconds.

On the sub­ject of enemies, Bul­let Witch only has a small hand­ful of ene­my types, none of which are inte­res­ting to fight. Demon sol­di­ers are the most basic and fre­quent ene­my type, offe­ring litt­le resis­tan­ce thanks to their bad AI. They’ll often get stuck on objec­ts or buil­dings, and most of the time they will just stand the­re wai­ting for you to kill them. The other enemies don’t fare much bet­ter, rare­ly mana­ging to get an attack in befo­re being kil­led.

Asi­de from being used to rel­oad your wea­pons, magic can also be used for various ele­men­tal attacks and effec­ts. Light­ning is the one that ends up being used the most, main­ly becau­se it is the easiest way to des­troy tanks. The big three spells you unlock all suf­fer from extre­me­ly long cast times that beco­me annoy­ing to sit though after the first time. Mete­or, the last spell you unlock during the sto­ry, is more likely to kill you befo­re any enemies thanks to phy­sics objec­ts kil­ling you instant­ly if you’re hit by one.

The smal­ler spells you can unlock have litt­le real impact eit­her. The­se ran­ge from giving your bul­lets dif­fe­rent ele­men­tal pro­per­ties to thro­wing debris at enemies. The main issue with using spells is that none of them are more effec­tive than just using your gun. You’re bet­ter off just using magic to rel­oad and only using light­ning when you’re forced too. If spells were fas­ter and had more impact the­re would actual­ly be a rea­son to use them, but as it stands even on har­der dif­fi­cul­ties the default machi­ne gun is the most reli­able wea­pon for most situa­ti­ons.

As we men­tio­ned ear­lier, com­bat lacks any real punch thanks to the game’s weak visu­als. This is some­thing that app­lies to the game as a who­le, as every sta­ge is incredi­b­ly bland and looks dated even for a 360 game. Many are­as feel like they took a gene­ric map from ano­t­her game and then just threw in enemies and bar­ri­ers in at ran­dom, lea­ding to some con­fu­si­on when going through some are­as. Having to fum­ble through poor­ly desi­gned sta­ges with litt­le to no sign­pos­ting isn’t fun.

If there’s one “posi­ti­ve” fea­ture of Bul­let Witch, it’s that a sin­gle play­th­rough only takes around 3 hours. This means that the game ends befo­re you real­ly get tired of it, but even then the abrupt ending with a poor final boss just lea­ves a bad tas­te in our mouth. It feels like Bul­let Witch never real­ly goes any­whe­re during its short play­ti­me, only offe­ring a hand­ful of sta­ges of bland shoo­ter game­play. The­re are extra dif­fi­cul­ty modes to unlock, and a set of extra sta­ges that just repur­po­se exis­ting levels with new ene­my pla­ce­ments, but the­re is litt­le real incen­ti­ve to play though the game again.

The port its­elf is… ser­vice­ab­le, offe­ring only a hand­ful of gra­phi­cal opti­ons in the game’s laun­cher. Mou­se and key­board works well, though some of the spell key­bin­dings are a litt­le clum­sy. Some­thing that is noti­ce­ab­le ear­ly on is the extre­me­ly low reso­lu­ti­on 2D spri­tes, which haven’t been updated at all. The spell menu also only shows 360 but­tons, some­thing that can be a litt­le con­fu­sing to start with.

Conclusion

Bul­let Witch is obvious­ly a game made with a small bud­get and has a small pri­ce tag to match. But even then, it’s are too short and gene­ral­ly unin­te­res­ting to be worth a purcha­se. Tho­se that want a bud­get third per­son shoo­ter would be bet­ter off picking up any of the Earth Defence Force games, which do a bet­ter job of making a fun expe­ri­ence wit­hout any fan­cy visu­als. At the end of the day, Bul­let Witch is not a game that deser­ves a second chan­ce on the PC.

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