Review

Bullet Witch

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-03-21

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Developer: Cavia Publisher: Atari
Release Date: February 27, 2007 Also On: None

Bullet Witch is bad. Atari and Cavia’s third-person action game is so bad, in fact, that I don’t even feel like it deserves a flowery introduction. Toss in a terrible game engine, embarrassing graphics, and don’t forget to leave out all of the A.I. You’re bubbling up a stew of Bullet Witch, kiddies!

Protagonist Alicia is busy running around killing demons after years of horrible events wipe out the vast majority of humankind. She’s quiet but she’s got a sharp attitude and a hot trigger finger. This is the premise of Bullet Witch, and very little else is explained as the game progresses. Alicia doesn’t like demons. She wants to kill them, and the huge hell spawn that is destroying the world. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, Bullet Witch’s gameplay actually isn’t that simple. Alicia, despite being an attractive heroine, controls like a grumpy old man with a crooked walker. She’s got some nimble dodge moves mapped to the Xbox 360's L trigger, and these moves let her avoid everything short of exploding cars, falling objects, and snipers that are so sharp that they can kill her mid-jump. In other words, you won’t be avoiding much as you hop around wildly and steer your cow-like character around the levels.

You also won’t be shooting much; the game’s collision detection seems random at best. I would often stand a few paces from an enemy, unloading a machine gun’s entire magazine only to watch the enemy mow down Alicia using his machine gun. Lame. The collision detection rears its ugly face anytime the game’s “Walnut Head” enemies come around. Walnut Heads are floating bodies with huge, pulsating brains–they control magical barriers that Alicia has to break down to continue through the levels, meaning that fighting Walnut Heads is mandatory. Walnut Heads have the power of telekinesis and telepathically throw cars and other huge objects at Alicia, commonly killing her before she’s even spotted them. Other enemies charge at Alicia, ramming into her–I’ve been hit by these guys from several yards away, and it’s unbelievably annoying because their tackling attack is very powerful.

Alicia can use her broom-like gun to kill enemies, and the player can even change the gun into different forms. By finishing levels, you earn skill points and can upgrade the machine gun into a shotgun, sniper rifle, or gatling gun. Unfortunately, none of the unlockable forms are as efficient as the machine gun. There isn’t much need to think while shooting; there is infinite ammo so long as Alicia’s magic gauge isn’t empty and by killing enemies you refill the gauge. Alicia’s magic-casting powers are terribly executed. Using the left and right bumpers, you’ll scroll through different types of magic. Some magic spells, like the “Ancient Wall” ability, are useless. Ancient Walls completely obstruct your view and break down quickly. Natural set pieces like blown-up cars and corners provide much better cover. Offensive spells like meteor storms and lightning bolts are powerful but use most of your magic points and therefore can’t be utilized often enough to be considered helpful, unless there are hordes of enemies to kill after such a devastating attack. That’s too bad, because meteor storms are actually pretty cool. Annoyingly, animations are loaded up as Alicia conjures up her destructive powers that prevent her from avoiding any attacks whatsoever and even freeze her in place for seconds after casting. Even worse, you can’t hot key any of the magic spells to the otherwise unused directional pad–what’s the deal with that?! That would have made Alicia’s powers at least twice as simple to use.

Artificial intelligence is completely missing in this product. In the several levels you encounter a few building-sized buffoons with huge machine guns; they’re designed to look monumental and terrifying but are actually gentle giants. Almost all of them that I encountered actually stopped walking towards me, stopped shooting, and calmly allowed me to shoot their pulsating hearts until they exploded and fell to the ground. I thought the first peaceful giant might be a fluke, but indeed the next ones just stopped their terror-inducing rage when they laid eyes on Alicia. The basic grunts are so incredibly stupid that they’ll actually walk away from you and into walls after being shot. Still, they’ve got heart–they’re so hell-bent on killing innocent humans that they’ll ignore Alicia filling their backside with lead and lightning bolts. I’ve seen daddy long-legs missing all eight long legs put up more of a struggle than these brainless dolts. In fact, the only enemies that are passionate about killing Alicia are the ghastly heads that fly through the air and swarm down on her, chomping on her head if she stands still for too long.

Bullet Witch is among the ugliest games in the Xbox 360's library. God forbid you play this game in standard definition, it looks abysmal in a low resolution. As I ran through the post-apocalyptic settings I couldn’t help but think of Majesco’s Xbox sleeper Phantom Dust–but even that bargain Xbox title looked better and ran better than this Xbox 360 one. There are blurry and undetailed textures everywhere, little to no particle effects as a result of shooting the ground, walls, or glass–hell, the only visually-pleasant sights are the game’s menus and the trails of smoke that accompany smoldering objects on their trip back to the ground. Remember those giants I was going on about? After completing the second level, you see a newspaper clipping with a sub-headline that reads, “Who’s going to remove these giant corpses from the streets?” No one, silly! The bodies disappear when you move away from them! Other objects do the opposite, appearing as Alicia approaches their immediate vicinity. Enemies sometimes spawn out of the air, just inches from Alicia’s position. Clipping must be one of Alicia’s witchcraft powers, because she can walk through chairs, tables, fire hydrants, crates–the list goes on.

All of the above problems are silhouetted by the fact that Bullet Witch is about six hours long. There are six levels, each takes about an hour to complete. Doing so earns you some Xbox 360 Achievements, but there is no way that even the most addicted Achievement freak should spend $60 on a video game that offers six levels. Strangely, beating the game on Normal or Hard difficulty doesn’t earn you the Achievements for doing so on lower difficulties–this makes it mandatory to play through the game several times to earn all of its Achievements. No thanks, guys! There are currently plans to release more content via Xbox Live, but this is a $20 product trespassing in a $60 box.

If Bullet Witch had a consistent physics engine, artificial intelligence of any kind, intuitive spell-casting, entertaining levels, next-generation graphics, and even a trace of collision detection it might be an average shooter. As it is...well, in the first sentence of this review I said, “Bullet Witch is bad.” I just repeated it, and it doesn’t need to be said again.

Graphics: 2.5
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 3
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 1.5
Final: 3
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn

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