The Wicked Witch of the Least.
Martha Carrier, America’s most famous historical witch, practiced some funny hoo-doo. Carrier reputedly made a lot of Salem unhappy, what with the preternatural cow deaths and the “gallons of corruption” running out of sores in her enemies’ groins. Our man Cotton Mather declares finally that: “This Rampant Hag, Martha Carrier, was the Person, of whom the Confessions of the Witches, and of her own Children among the rest, agreed, That the Devil had promised her, she should be Queen of Hell.” “Rampant Hag,” by the way, would be a better title for a video game than Bullet Witch.
And Cotton Mather’s history of American witches in “Wonders of the Invisible World
” makes for a more amusing waste of time than Atari’s Bullet Witch
. Bullet Witch’s lazy combination of shooting, magic, and destructible environments is a witches’ brew of bad ideas and weak execution. This simmering cauldron needs less baby tongue and snake oil and probably a whole lot more money in its development budget.
The title character, Alicia, is your basic video game babe but with a few tweaks. She’s a witch, so she can weave a few magic spells, but she’s also got a broom that shoots bullets. Unfortunately, she never straddles the broom while firing. Because that would be too awesome.
Alicia begins in suburbia, travels to the city, then to a forest somewhere wicked, all the while killing demons who prey upon the wandering pedestrians of the apocalypse. There actually is a story behind the demons’ origins and Alicia’s magic powers, but instead of being sinister, the story opts for a cheesy approach. You might expect a Bullet Witch to be a bitch, but Alicia is more of a tender innocent.
Not that the story interacts much with the gameplay. Alicia meanders through huge environments, whose linearity is masked by redundant width. She shoots demon soldiers, occasionally using a magic spell to take out a tank, and then she shoots more demon soldiers. Don’t let the magic fool you, this game is more about bullets than witchery.
Witch . . .excuse me, which
. . . is a bad thing. The third-person shooting handles as well as a broomstick in a gunfight. Aiming is twitchy [T-witchy, get it?], and there are no quick-turn buttons, as in Lost Planet
, to help swivel. Screwing with the one “speed” slider just goes to show that third-person shooters can be too fast or too slow but never just right.
Moving is no better. Alicia feels clunky and is about as stealthy as a plane crash. Speaking of jets, during one epic battle atop a 747, Alicia frequently lost her footing on the airplane—falling off and killing herself. Aiming up at the boss in the sky, she would absently walk off the edge.
Her dodge moves, big flippy jumps, remind one of Bloodrayne. However, unlike her vampire cousin, Alicia cannot shoot her gun during her flips. She also can’t slow down time or do any cool finishing moves. She’s kind of a one-trick witch.
Alicia’s gun can transform into three other types of guns—a shotgun, a cannon, and a Gatling gun. None of these are more useful than the normal machine-gun setting, though. Even the cannon, which is supposed to be for distance shooting, cannot snipe if you don’t “enchant” its bullets with a spell. Saying the sniping is a “magic power” doesn’t really make it so.
Magic in the game plays merely a support role and is difficult to use. In order to cast a spell, you have to cycle through menus that obstruct the entire screen, even as the action continues uninterrupted. Many of the spells are weak or useless. The closest thing Alicia has to a grenade is a spell called “rose thorn,” in which she throws a rose petal, from which sprout spikes. It looks cool, but aiming the rose petal, especially while dodging and cycling through obtuse menus in the middle of a firefight, is impossible.
The only spells that are any fun are the “great magic” spells that wreak havoc on the environment. Bullet Witch
’s levels may be large and bland, but a lot of them have huge destroyable features, like water towers and warehouse roofs, that come apart on an epic scale. The best looking spell is a tornado attack that tears apart everything—enemies, vehicles, buildings and trees—and whirls them together. It’s like the opposite of Katamari Damacy
—here everything flies apart.
But then stuff lands, and if Alicia gets hit by a massive chunk of cement, it’s game over. Even worse, some enemies will get buried in the rubble but not die. Then you have to, like a rescue worker in an earthquake, quietly scour the debris, waiting to hear the calls of the surviving enemies and searching for them in the crevices. Then, unlike a rescue worker, you shoot them in the head.
Not that it matters where you shoot them. There are no ragdoll physics here, and demons seem to eat a ton of bullets no matter where you aim.
And there’s really no end to them. Besides a few massive, but usually easy to defeat bosses, the game sports only three different enemy types. The demon soldiers are the most ubiquitous, but the best enemy type has to be the squat penis with tiny legs that shoots sperm-looking ghosts. Many enemies can be seen as phallic, but this one goes beyond phallic. It’s a penis-on-legs firing sperm missiles at your face. It’s one of those massive drawbacks from being so hot, I guess.
And Alicia is hot, though not sexy as one might expect. Whoever they hired to do her voice work sounds
hot, in that she sounds stupid. All of her lines are read woodenly, like a teenager reading aloud in class.
And the game doesn’t look sexy as a whole. The tornado and massive damage spells look awesome, but the rest of the game looks unfinished. The framerate struggles to keep up with even Alicia’s feet and dress, and they are on the screen all the time. Draw distances are short, and enemies and furniture have a habit of materializing out of the lagging code.
The game seems to have been rushed to market. The whole campaign takes about five hours to complete, and there are no unlockable features or rewards at the end. Even the option to “change costume” requires that you first download a costume from Xbox live, and there are no costumes available to download. Chances are, there won’t be.
But even if Bullet Witch is mostly a failure, it does have one redeeming feature. He is the character of the American Hero Soldier who falls for Alicia. Japanese developers always have a hard time coming up with names for Americans. This one, though, takes the cake, for his name is . . . Maxwell Cougar. Hoo, motherf-in’, Hah!