Before Bayonetta came onto the scene with her slick moves and naughty innuendo, there was another witch who tried her best to engage us gamers.
Bound exclusively to the Xbox 360, her name was Alicia, and the game she found herself in, Bullet Witch, was a scrappy but enjoyable third person shooter. Of course, there were lashings of magic, too; Alicia is a witch, after all. Inexplicably though, nearly 12 years after its original Japanese release, Bullet Witch has somehow found itself on PC. It’s available on Steam right now for £12.99/$14.99, and while it’s dated, it still impresses in one area: destruction.
Temper your expectations
First things first; Bullet Witch on PC is more like a port than a remaster. PR blurb will tell you that the game has been rebalanced and that lighting has been improved, but unless you play the Xbox 360 and PC versions side by side I doubt you’ll tell a difference. Aside from a configuration launch tool that lets you change the game’s resolution and fiddle with a few graphical settings, nothing has really changed. And while Bullet Witch didn’t look too bad 12 years ago, it’s now a bit of an eyesore. Beauty is only skin deep, however, and if you scratch beneath the surface, Bullet Witch still has some charm.
Combining gunplay, melee and magic, Bullet Witch certainly plays better than it looks. At least after tweaking the game’s aim sensitivity to your liking anyway. A steady framerate helps too; something which the Xbox 360 version of the game wasn’t afforded. You can choose to cap the framerate at numerous intervals or leave it unlocked. Whichever you choose, unless you’re playing the game on a potato, you’re going to get a better experience than playing on Xbox 360 all those years ago.
Zombie, meet Broomstick
Starting out with with just a machine gun mode for your Broomstick, new firing modes such as shotgun and gatling can be unlocked and upgraded as you play. Even with the upgrades though, Bullet Witch‘s gunplay never really impresses even once you’ve maxed out your weapons. New spells can also be acquired and upgraded in a similar way, and thankfully they’re much more satisfying. As such, Bullet Witch‘s gameplay gets more varied and destructive as you progress. Basically, you get to have more fun.
Mission structure is fairly formulaic. In each small but often surprisingly open location you’ll be advancing until something blocks your path. If it’s something like a tank that’s in your way, then you can destroy it with a mighty bolt of lighting. If it’s a coloured magic barrier that’s halting your progress, then it’s a case of finding the corresponding floating brain and bringing it to an end. With their telekinetic powers, they’ll put up a good fight though. In fact, they’ll pretty much one-hit kill you if you don’t dodge out the way of any vehicles they send flying at you. Of course, there are some missions that break the mould, but Bullet Witch rarely surprises with regards to game design. Aside from the destructibility of its environments, it’s action game 101.
It’s actually quite amazing that in this day and age, most games still don’t have anywhere near the destructibility that Bullet Witch has. Buildings can be torn down until they’re just rubble, and all manner of vehicles blown up. Sometimes you’ll do it on purpose, other times it’ll just be a by-product of combat. In any case, it’s as impressive as it is rewarding.
The impact of Bullet Witch‘s destructibility hit me, quite literally, while playing its first level. Reminded that I could blow up a gas station by destroying a car, I opened fire. Moments later, the gas station exploded, scattering blocks of concrete. One of them flew at me, standing a considerable distance away, and surprisingly I found myself dead. It makes sense, sure. But after playing a myriad of games in which debris from explosions has little presence, it was unexpected.
Such unforeseen deaths, while amusing, are also a source of frustration though. Being hit by a vehicle flung at you by a brain that you weren’t aware of because of the game’s over-the-shoulder camera is annoying. So is being hit by a piece of debris for the nth time and having to restart from a checkpoint. One-hit deaths just aren’t fun, especially when you feel like you have little chance of avoiding them.
So, Bullet Witch on PC is little more than it was all those years ago on Xbox 360; an adequate third person shooter with some good ideas but flawed execution. Here, it’s bundled with all the additional missions and content that arrived post-launch and has better performance, but it’s undoubtedly dated. Chances are if you still fondly remember the Xbox 360 version you’ll have some fun with it, but otherwise, it’s much harder to recommend.