Meet Alicia Claus, daughter of Santa Claus and a girl who is ready to kick your ass and use impressive witchcraft. Okay, so she's not the daughter of Santa, but she is ready to kick your ass and use all kinds of weird magic. Alicia is a tortured soul full of mysteries and angst, but best of all she carries around a giant gun shaped like a broom that is really good at killing anything that moves, no matter if it's human or not. It's six years in the future and humanity is on the verge of extinction due to natural disasters, starvation, wars, epidemics and a sudden appearance of an army of evil, twisted monsters. Apparently Ms. Claus and her witch craft is the only person that can save the day. Actually, forget about the set up, did I mention that she's packing a giant gun shaped like a broom?
Needless to say Bullet Witch is not the type of game you can take very seriously. After all, this is a game where you play a busty babe in high heel boots who runs around killing evil demons with her magic abilities and giant gun. But who needs realism, every so often you just need to turn your brain off and enjoy a game that makes almost no sense and is nothing more than an excuse to kill thousands of bizarre creatures. Unfortunately Bullet Witch isn't as cool as its campy story and presentation; instead we get a short, mindless romp through one boring level after another. With its attractive lead character and silly set up I wanted to love this game, but in the end I was left disappointed in almost every way.
Bullet Witch starts when Alicia comes to town ready to right some wrongs, and from the very start she's greeted by a welcoming committee full of Geist Soldiers, a group of creepy half-dead beings that look like they've been decomposing in the ground for a few weeks (for what it's worth the instruction manual suggests that they like dirty jokes, so maybe they aren't all bad). You begin your quest in the suburbs and then make your way to a post-apocalyptic cityscape. Unfortunately these two levels prove to be the most interesting areas, other locations involve you running through a forest during the day, a forest during the night, an army base and an underground sewer. It's not that these levels don't make sense in the context of the story, but none of the levels feel very inspired.
Bullet Witch a pure action game, so don't go into this game expecting some sort of deep role-playing or strategy elements. Instead we get an almost limitless amount of bad guys to shoot, which is pretty fun for the first couple levels. You basically run around these linear environments looking for enemies to shoot and then you shoot them. From time to time you will need to open colored gates, in order to do this you have to track down a large brain-like creature hovering in the air. At first these large brains seem peaceful, but soon you'll realize that they have the ability to make other objects hover (cars, trucks, etc.) and throw them at you killing you in one hit. Oddly enough these floating brains that never move prove to be the hardest enemies in the game.
But maybe it's not that these brain enemies were hard so much as it was the other enemies are too easy. I'm not a stickler for great artificial intelligence or anything, but the enemies in Bullet Witch don't even try. There are times in this game when you can literally run circles around a baddie and he won't notice (or shoot at you). When and why enemies will attack you seem almost random, there are certainly times when a big group of foes will be lining up to kill me, yet there will be one or two in the mix that could care less about me. Even when I shoot them they decided not to fire back. I guess those were the peace-loving Geist Soldiers. The biggest complaint I have against these enemies isn't what they look like or how they act, but rather how many times I have to fight them. Bullet Witch only offers a few types of enemies, and 90% of them end up being these Geist Soldiers. They don't even look different as you go along; you just fight the same one over and over.
If you think the enemy AI is bad then you obviously haven't met the group of Army soldiers that you team up with early in the game. Although it's painfully clear that Alicia can do just about everything on her own, for some strange reason the developers of Bullet Witch seem to think it's a good idea to throw in a few completely unnecessary characters that tag along for no good reason. The problem with these characters is that they seem to have a death wish; they run into hordes of enemies without using any tactical strategy what so ever and die almost immediately. Worse yet, they have a tendency to get in your way when you're trying to kill the on-coming Geist Soldiers. I'm not sure how it's done in army training, but I know for a fact that it's a bad idea to walk in front of somebody when they are shooting their gun. No wonder the world is in such disarray.
Although the camera is behind your character in a third-person view, you end up controlling the game much like you would a first-person shooter. You have a small target on your screen that you can move around by using your right analog stick and all movement of your character is done with the left analog stick. If you want to zoom in (or just have a more accurate view of who you're killing) then you push down on the right analog stick and the camera will move closer to Alicia and her broom gun. All this is fine, but there's just something about the shooting mechanic that doesn't feel right. The target on the screen is so small that you're going to have to really work to line up your gun with the enemies if you're going to do any damage. To make matters worse a lot of the characters take a lot of bullets, so maintaining the target and dodging other attacks ends up being one of the most important skills in the game. All of this could have been avoided had the developers added some sort of auto targeting feature (like what you found in Crackdown), but alas you're on your own when it comes to aiming at enemies.
Something else that felt odd was how limited the overall control of your character felt. While the game gives you the basics (such as a way to reload your gun, a melee attack, etc.), there aren't many moves Alicia can perform. Even her jump is somewhat daunting. Instead of allowing you to control her jumps, Bullet Witch features a leap button that makes her somersault forward at an alarming rate. If you're good you can jump to the sides to avoid enemy fire, but for some odd reason the game doesn't allow you to simply just straight up or even control the distance of your jumps. Thankfully this didn't end up being much of a problem, but it is still kind of annoying (especially during some of the boss battles).
Speaking of which, the boss battles in Bullet Witch are probably the best parts of the game. While there aren't many of them, the ones that are there are quite impressive … certainly more impressive than anything else in this game. Although your first look at a boss is in the second level, it's not until the third level when you'll be able to actually take down one of these large baddies. Your first real boss fight takes place on top of a large airplane and it is definitely the most impressive part of the game. There are other battles, but none of them are nearly as exciting as this.
Thankfully there is more to Bullet Witch than mindless shooting and boss battles; you will also have a number of cool magic spells at your disposal. In fact, in a lot of ways this use of magic is what sets Bullet Witch apart from all the other action games on the Xbox 360. When you're in the game you can cycle through several lists of magic, including spells that heal people around you, add to your armor, and allow you to rein hell down upon your foes. Some of the spells show a glimmer of potential, for example you can use one spell to push large vehicles across the level to ram enemies and blow them up. At first this seems like a great idea, but there just aren't that many situations when this kind of spell is useful, and it ultimately turns into a wasted opportunity.
Thankfully other spells are more useful, such as the powerful lightning, tornado and meteor magic attacks. These abilities allow you to blow up large tanks and helicopters without even breaking a sweat. But while this magic looks cool it's annoying that you can't skip the lengthy casting animation that precedes every major spell you pull off. It's not that these animations are long, but when you've seen them a few dozen times you just start to feel like you want the action to continue and not have to pause for some silly cinematic. Having said that, these spells are impressive looking and do a lot of damage.
Another cool side effect from these major spells is that you start to see how destructible the backgrounds are. For the most part the game looks like a late generation PlayStation 2 game (with slightly better textures), but Bullet Witch starts to impress when you see houses, gas stations and other solid structures rip apart and fly everywhere. There's something cool about seeing a tornado sending cars, walls and enemies flying and knowing that you're the one that did that. The game still looks bad for an Xbox 360 game, but every so often you can see what the developers were trying to accomplish with Bullet Witch.
But as mediocre as the graphics are, it's the sound that really deserves the criticism. The music and sound effects are fine for what they are trying to do, but at no point will you be impressed with the overall sound design. But things have a funny way of falling apart once our hero (or the lame brain gang of Army men that follow her) start talking. I couldn't tell whether it was just a bad script or terrible voice acting, but something was off with the spoken dialog. The voice talent featured in Bullet Witch sounds bored, and there are so many forgettable lines that it's almost cool … in that campy movie kind of way. Bullet Witch reminded me of the good old days of the TurboGrafx-CD and Sega CD, when voice acting was done by just about anybody the developers could find (themselves, janitors, etc.). Couple this with one of the silliest video game stories of all time and you have a game that will make you jealous of the deaf.
While achievement points are one of those frivolous aspects of Xbox 360 games I generally don't talk about in reviews, there is something to be said for how preposterous the achievements are in Bullet Witch. There are only fourteen different achievements, many of which you can do simply by beating the game on the various difficulty settings. But can somebody explain to me why get between 50 - 250 points for completing the game on the lesser difficulty settings, yet you only get 1 point for beating the game in the most difficult mode? One point?? Now I know it shouldn't be about points, but considering the game is barely worth playing through once what kind of incentive is this to get you to play through it on the hardest difficulty?
I suppose the good news is that the game itself is only six levels long, so gamers wanting to achieve all the points possible won't have to play the game for long. The problem is that none of the levels are very long, you can play through most of the levels in around twenty minutes, which means that this six level game will only take you a couple hours to complete. There are higher difficulty levels to play through, but once you've experienced the game once you probably won't have much of a desire to try it again.
As it is Bullet Witch is an interesting action game that doesn't quite excel at anything. With its poor graphics, terrible story and difficult controls this is one game that is difficult to recommend to anybody. That's not to say that you can't find something to enjoy in this Xbox 360 game, but it's hard to imagine anybody paying full price for a game this short and this dull. Action fans may enjoy renting it and going through it once, but to all those people that end up paying full retail price for Bullet Witch remember, you've been warned.