• Bullet Witch from Atari and Japan-based developer Cavia, set out to bring a new twist to the shooter genre. By including the ability to cast spells, along with the creation of the rare female hero, Bullet Witch appeared to be on track to offer something new and different to the legions of “run and gun” fans hungry for a change. Unfortunately, the final product does fall short in a number of areas. However, there are a few “shiny nuggets” mixed in that could make it worth playing for some.

    The storyline for Bullet Witch, showcased in part by a series of “news clips” at the beginning of the game, proves solid: Beginning in late 2007, a series of catastrophic events, from natural disasters to warfare, have reduced the world’s population by the billions until finally, in 2013, an army of demonic warriors emerges to wipe out what remains of humankind. Enter Alicia, a.k.a. Bullet Witch. Her mysterious appearance, coupled with the massive firepower and magical powers she possesses, christens her the worlds only hope for survival.

    Bullet Witch

    In spite of her apparent desire to rid the world of evil, Alicia does have a dark side. An inner voice known as Darkness, which dispenses it’s own assessment of situations when things start to get rough, is the source of Alicia’s magical abilities. However, even though this evil presence resides within her, Alicia manages to keep it’s influence in check.

    Graphically, the game looks pretty good with impressive looking landscapes, well done character designs and great magical effects. Baddies throughout the game are grotesquely unique and definitely display the “American horror and Japanese monster film” influence Atari talked about when the game was being developed. Unfortunately, once you get past the nice window dressing, the game starts to seem a bit less polished. Although it appears that a lot of time went into creating a very good storyline and visuals, the creativity seems to have ended there. It’s lack of Xbox Live multiplayer ability doesn’t help either.

    While Bullet Witch starts off as fun and exciting, it begins to slip into mediocrity within the first half-hour of play time when the sameness of level progression settles in. The main objective within each stage of play is to locate and destroy the Walnut Head (the floating, ultra-engorged brain creatures we’ve all seen in screenshots) that “mentally” block paths and passageways that you need to pass through in order to progress through the level. Early in the game, these guys are quickly disposed of by cranking countless rounds of ammunition into their non-cranium concealed grey matter, but become more difficult when they begin to use their telekinetic abilities to toss items like automobiles around. Regardless, the whole process of seeking out the correct path, finding it blocked, hunting down a Walnut Head, then repeat, gets old quickly.

    Another weak spot of Bullet Witch is the enemy A.I. which is a bit lacking in the “I” department. Most times, when you do find yourself taken down by enemy fire, it’s due to the overwhelming number of enemies on screen rather than their tactical prowess. An example of this lies with the Gigas. These huge monstrosities look great and will scare the living daylights out of you, until you realize they’re as dumb as rocks. Once you discover their “weak spot” (no spoilers here) all you need to do is pick an isolated, protected area and crank away with the Gun Rod until the big beast falls. No danger. No fun.

    The dialog and voice acting in the game came across as though it was an afterthought in development which, considering the improvements we’ve seen in this department with titles like Dead Rising and Gears of War, somewhat surprised me. In previous generation titles, laughable dialog was pretty much a given, but the current generation seems to be putting much more emphasis on the delivery of character interaction.

    In spite of my apparent butchering of Bullet Witch, there are a number of things within the game worthy of credit. First, the game contains no collecting of items whatsoever. No dropped weapons, ammo crates or even health packs. Nothing, nada, zip. When you begin the game, your Gun Rod acts as a machine gun only. You can upgrade the weapon with such things as shotgun and sniper abilities by purchasing said upgrades with points earned by completing levels. Ammunition for the Gun Rod is endlessly produced through Alicia’s magic, provided she has enough in stock to accomplish the task. She also has the ability to heal herself, although if enough damage is taken, you may have to find some good cover while her health regenerates. Magic abilities are acquired during gameplay, but these are also upgradeable in the same way as the Gun Rod, by purchasing the additional powers between levels. Personally, this is a welcome change, playing a shooter without having to explore every nook and alcove looking for precious supplies, and instead just focusing on mayhem.

    Another piece of Bullet Witch I like is the way you perform magic. Spells are contained within a Magic Ring. The Magic Ring has 3 levels that are presented by pressing either the right or left bumper, with each ring level containing 3 spells. The spells themselves are cast by pressing the matching button to each (A, B or X). Because you need to cast magic in real time (i.e. the game does not pause when you open the Magic Ring) it becomes really important that you learn where each spell resides within the Magic Ring and the button press to cast it.

    Overall, the best words to sum up Bullet Witch is a line I’ve used before: It’s a great concept, executed poorly. While the game has a few strengths that Atari could build around should they decide to create a series out of the game, the mistakes and weaknesses found in this one are a bit too much to ignore.

    Score: 6/10

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