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Review: Bullet Witch (PC)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 28.04.2018 15:53

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When the game developer, Cavia, was disbanded back in 2010, it left behind a legacy, one that likely won't be remembered all that fondly. Its portfolio is fairly standard, consisting mostly of anime tie-ins and Resident Evil spin-offs. Under the direction of Yoko Taro, it brought Drakengard to life, which is as brilliant as it is terrible. This critic has an unhealthy relationship with Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance, a disastrous abomination of a beat 'em up. Still, even at its worst, Cavia had an understanding of what makes for functional entertainment software. Just understand that the word "Cavia" is derived from rodents or, more specifically, guinea pigs. Developers and gamers alike are essentially being subjected to an experiment. Results may vary.

With that bit of trivia in mind, it's time to slide Bullet Witch under the microscope. Released back in 2006, this third-person shooter took its inspiration from B-movies. As if the ridiculous premise wasn't enough, the most prominent enemies are more goofy than scary. Geists, undead soldiers that populate the entirety of the game, might as well be the deadites from the Evil Dead franchise. Always talkative, always mocking, these fiends aren't above making light of the misfortune of others, even their own allies. Alicia, the protagonist, is almost as destructive as the demons that have wiped out the near-entirety of the world's population. Whenever a stage is completed, newspaper headlines lament the carnage she has wrought. The B-movie elements are undeniably charming, but the real schlock value comes from the game itself.

The following statement is an assumption, but it isn't lacking for evidence. This game might have been the testing ground for a destruction and physics engine. While not anywhere close to a sandbox, each of the six stages Alicia must shoot through are filled with environmental objects that can be destroyed or moved around. With her "willpower" ability, she can shove vehicles, barricades, or any number of other things with tremendous force, crushing everyone in her path. A person with too much time on their hands could force-push a giant water tank through an entire stage. Upon reaching the airport, one should take a moment to shoot the glass ceiling, and then laugh as everyone below is crushed by the broken shards. In one of the later areas, Alicia heads to a mining facility, which features dozens of exploding barrels placed next to rickety bridges and other precarious structures. There's even a moment where players can shoot a rock, and watch it roll down a very long slide. It's about as exciting as it sounds.

Alicia's other powers are a bit more direct in their implementation. She can throw roses on the ground, which cause fiend-impaling spears to rise from the earth. By sacrificing a little health, she can rescue innocents and soldiers alike from the brink of death. The usefulness of this skill is questionable. Rescued civilians will sometimes reward their saviour with food. Considering that Alicia's life automatically replenishes, snacks don't serve any purpose. If there's ever a need for cover, the witch materialises a wall out of thin air. The one ability that is liable to see the most use is her ability to summon a flock of ravens. These birds prove to be valuable distractions, rendering nearby enemies helpless for several seconds.

Players who want something a little more bombastic should consider dipping into the witch's great spell-book. These ultimate techniques can only be unlocked as the story progresses, but they are fun to play around with. Lightning is a fine way to immolate tanks or other gigantic foes. Tornadoes can scatter crowds and destroy helicopters. If neither of those spells is destructive enough, then it's time to drop the meteors, which obliterate practically everything. However, if the witch isn't paying attention, she might get crushed by falling debris. All spells drain the magic meter, which is recharged by killing enemies through other means.

The title would make very little sense if there weren't any guns. Thankfully, Alicia brought her broomstick along for the trip. At first, her gun takes the form of a standard automatic rifle. In time, she can spend points to unlock additional forms, such as shotgun, cannon, and gatling. Each form is self-explanatory, although players will get the most use out of the rifle and cannon forms, simply due to their ease of use and destructive power. By the way, points can also be used to unlock spells or improve the heroine's capabilities. It will take a handful of play-throughs to max out her abilities.

For at least the first couple difficulty settings, there isn't much that can pose a threat to the Bullet Witch. As long as Alicia is paying attention to what's happening around her, she will spend almost the entirety of the game with most, or all of, the health intact. Aside from getting crushed by falling objects, her greatest fears are explosions and enemy snipers. These are the three leading causes of death, which make the early goings very unbalanced. It might be a good idea to jump straight to the hard difficulty, although the easier settings are helpful for levelling the heroine's powers.

Upon completing the game, eighteen concept missions are unlocked. Some of the scenarios are uninspired, as in they consist of the same stages of the main campaign, but all of the spells are available. There are others that change up the entirety of the enemy layout, or offer unique challenges. The most painfully un-fun of the lot involves playing hide-and-go-shoot with geists in a forest. There are fifty of them hiding around, but good luck trying to find more than ten without falling asleep. Aside from a couple exceptions, these extra missions are worth checking out.

It's obvious that the developer tried to do something different with this third-person shooter, but it wasn't quite as successful as it could have been; however, it's still interesting and fun. Perhaps it's that rare moment where a series of quirks actually manages a sense of cohesiveness. The low-budget seams are clearly showing, which adds to the amusement. There's just enough freedom for someone to play the game their way, focusing on whatever abilities interest them. Still, the pacing is sometimes too slow. A number of stages feature large spaces filled with absolutely nothing, and Alicia jogs like it's a normal Sunday morning. At least there aren't any hidden collectibles to waste even more time.

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Final Score
Even though it's been over a decade, [i]Bullet Witch[/i] hasn't aged as badly as might be expected. There is some creativity in Alicia's skill-set. Summoning ravens and rose spikes lends a pleasing dynamic to combat. Also, reducing an entire city block to rubble just to kill a few demons never gets old. A typical play-through will only take about two-and-a-half hours, but the extra missions and harder difficulties are sufficient reasons to keep playing. Keep in mind, however, that this game is a product of its time, and its most appealing aspects run counter to what gamers take for granted today. Some simply aren't going to enjoy goofing around with physics or explosions, and that's fine.



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