Magic, guns, a post apocalyptic world and a female gunrod wielding witch is the star in Cavia’s first Xbox 360 game, Bullet Witch. While the game was released in Japan a couple of months ago Atari felt the title wasn’t up to par and asked Cavia to tweak it. The North American version of Bullet Witch has a number of improvements like better targeting and refined controls. Were these improvements enough to make Bullet Witch a killer action title?
I admit that I haven’t played the Japanese version of Bullet Witch, but after playing the US release I’m wondering just how many problems the Japanese game had. One of the early problems with Bullet Witch is the camera. When you’re firing rounds out of your machine gun you can press down on the right stick to switch to shooting view. This zooms in a little bit and places the camera right behind Alicia’s back. While you get a clearer shot at the zombie-like Geist soldiers, a third of the screen is blocked. It seems like Cavia is trying to mimic Resident Evil 4’s set up, but in reality it is more like Dirge of Cerberus. Another frustrating problem is navigating through Alicia’s spell wheels. There are nine different spells she can cast but you have to rotate through three different menus to get access to all of them. When you’re in the middle of doing aerials to avoid a hail of bullets you don’t have time to search for raven panic, which summons a team of ravens to distract soldiers. The worse part is Alicia’s ultimate spells are on the last menu, so when you’re in a bind and need to use lightning to fry a tank you have to stand like a wade through three menus and then spend time aiming the spell.
Magic is the original idea in Bullet Witch’s gameplay set up. Without it Bullet Witch would be a bland shooting game with four interchangeable weapons. Ancient wall protects Alicia from enemy fire by creating a wall with glyphs in front of her. Elemental shot changes Alicia’s bullets to fire blasts or lets her shoot blasts of wind if her gunrod is in shotgun form. Willpower lets Alicia push objects forward, but until this spell is leveled up you can only move objects like cars a short distance, which makes it useless at the beginning of the game. Later on you will unlock other great magic spells that let Alicia call a giant tornado and summon a meteor shower from the sky. When you use ultimate magic the ground burns and the level gets trashed. Actually you don’t need to use magic to blow the world around you up. If you shoot down a water tower it falls down and rolls over any nearby Geists. Instead of picking off Geists you can shoot a car at a gas station and blow up the area with a massive explosion. Be careful though, while Alicia can regenerate from a few bullet wounds, she dies instantly if you’re too close to a blast zone.
There are only six stages in Bullet Witch and each stage is a massive maze with colored force fields that prevent Alicia from getting to the end. The only way to move through a level is by shooting floating brains called “walnut heads”, which release magical barriers. The walnut heads are one of the enemies you really need to worry about, not because they are smart, but because they have a cheap way of killing Alicia. They have telekinetic powers to send cars, fences and any other debris flying in Alicia’s direction. If a car hits you or lands nearby you, you’re dead. Being killed by a flying oil tanker is the number one cause of death in Bullet Witch because the Geists aren’t much of a threat. The standard soldiers shoot and don’t move which make them easy targets. Even when they shoot Alicia can nimbly evade getting hit by hitting the left trigger to make her do air cartwheels. Even when faced with a group of soldiers Alicia can hide and recover her HP, which makes Bullet Witch easy to progress through.
One thing that Cavia developed and Atari plans to bring over are extra downloads for the game. There are new costumes for Alicia for you to choose from if you’re so inclined to dress her up like a catholic school girl or a pixie. Probably more useful are concept levels, which are bound to extend the replay value of Bullet Witch. There are three extra levels released now and Atari plans to release more. It’s going to be interesting to see what new content they are going to bring out, hopefully less maze like stages to give Bullet Witch some more variety.
With all of the control issues and shooting the same Geist soldier time and time again, Bullet Witch gets tired fast. Fortunately, just at the point where you think you’ve seen everything you already have. It takes less than ten hours to beat the game, minus any extra stages, which could make Bullet Witch decent Achievement point fodder. The real savior for Bullet Witch is the Witch Hunter Robin like character and the “wow” moments where you blow up the level. Something interesting to note is that Atari even changed the cover to highlight the explosions in Bullet Witch. The original Japanese art work has a serene background with Alicia and the moon behind her while the American cover art shows a burst of flame with Geists caught in it. If wanton destruction with magic is your thing by all means check Bullet Witch out.