Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous Inc.
Review code supplied free of charge by the publisher.
There are many games from the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation that never made it to PC but deserved to. For example, despite the pleas of thousands upon thousands of gamers a port of Red Dead Redemption never happened. But when you consider the vast catalogue of titles itching for a PC port Bullet Witch is not something that would spring to mind. This 2006 game was released to fairly middling reviews back in the day, and while it managed to sell a little in Japan it flopped almost entirely in UK. Now, some 12-years later a PC port has been released onto Steam with absolutely no fanfare, little warning and almost nothing in the way of changes. In other words, this is a game that was made on a tight budget, didn’t do very well and has suddenly turned up 12-years later out of the blue. Okay then.
You’ll be put into the high-heels of Alicia, a sexily clad witch with the ability to fight the Geist, which are some sort of demon things that has somehow very specifically taken over the military and are now attempting to lay waste to the world. And that’s largely it for the storyline; Alicia herself says very little throughout the game, and which she does speak the lines are delivered with as much passion as a plank delivering a eulogy about another plank. She’s accompanied by something called the Darkness, which equates to a strange voice that pops up in her head to point out really obvious stuff or just be rather vague about some stuff. In other words, the story is largely non-existent, and when it does appear it’s instantly forgettable nonsense.
This all takes the form of a third-person shoot ’em up with some magic tossed in for good measure. It’s also a nostalgia-fueled trip back to the days of video game design where color code magic barriers that could only be removed by killing the matching colored bad guy were a thing. Hell, Bullet Witch reckons they were the pinnacle of clever game design because they’re freaking everywhere, funneling you from spot to spot so that you can mow down the floating-brain baddie currently barring your way.
As the titular Bullet Witch you have access to an extremely long gun that has a few spikes designed to make it look a little bit like a broom. This weapon can be upgraded to access four forms that equate to a machine gun, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and a mini-gun. Despite being a witch, bullets are you’re main way of dealing with the threats awaiting you, so let’s talk about the gun play first; it’s okay. In fact, so is everything else. Bullet Witch might be the most, “yeah, it’s okay, I suppose” game to have ever existed. The standard enemy type bumbles through the boring environments, just waiting to be shot a few times so that they can fall over. Maybe it’s just me, but with a controller, which is arguably the best way to play a game like this, aiming feels stiff and awkward.
Your magic abilities can also be accessed by tapping the shoulder buttons, but instead of a nice radial menu from which you can pick any of the available abilities you get a weird menu where a few of them are shown, and to find the rest you have to tap the shoulder buttons again up to twice. It’s a clunky system, and the game plays out in real-time while you’re fiddling with it, meaning you have to stand around like an idiot while you pick out a spell because anything you choose is immediately put into play. It would have been nice to be able to at least which spells go where in the menu so you can quickly get the ones you want.
A couple of the spells you get are pretty fun, though. There’s the Ancient Wall which provides instant cover, as well as spears wrapped in roses which sprout from the ground and impale any unlucky enemies in the area. Another spell lets you spew blood on allies to heal them up. But the showstopper is spending your entire mana bar on a massive lighting bolt that can take out APCs and big baddies in a single hit.
It’s just annoying that as a witch your primary method of dealing with stuff is shooting it in the face. Your magic is so much less useful and powerful as your gun is due to how slow and clumsy it is, and even when you get the hang of quickly flicking to the spell you need the results tend to anti-climatic. By the time you unleash your magic you feel like you could have done more by just shooting everything.
The Ancient Wall feels largely useless, too, because of how the game handles death. The common troops are no threat whatsoever unless you stand still for a while, but other things are capable of killing you in a single hit. A sniper bullet means instant death, as does being whacked on the head by a random bit of the environment being controlled by the game’s wonky physics system. It makes the health upgrades feel like a waste of time.
In terms of changes from the original 2006 version, there doesn’t seem to be many. Resolution options have been upped, although currently a glitch means many people aren’t able to select their native resolution. Plus there’s now support for a keyboard and mouse. Other than that nothing seems to have been altered, except for the baffling fact that you can no longer control the camera during the dodge animation. There may have potentially been some gameplay tweaks here and there, but without a copy of the original game to hand I can’t comment on this properly.
On the one hand there’s a good argument to be made for games to be ported over unaltered so that you can experience them exactly as they once were. Of course, the downside is that you get the game exactly as it was, 2006 era graphics and all. This wasn’t even a good looking title back in 2006 and the years have not helped it in the slightest. The environments are dull, bleak city streets colored almost entirely in grey, black and murky brown, the very same color palette that the bad guys have so they blend in with the background.
Maybe Bullet Witch has a cult following that I’m somehow not aware of, but I’m honestly baffled by its sudden appearance on Steam. Nothing about this game seems to justify a re-release some 12-years after its initial launch, and I can’t find much reason to shell out the admittedly small asking price of £12.99 unless you happened to be a fan of it back in the day, or perhaps if you’re morbidly curious about game design from back in the day.