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.
More On:Bullet Witch
Bullet Witch is almost comically bad. Although it tries, this game never comes close to getting you to care about any of the characters and it's over far too quickly. Then again, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it any more if it had lasted longer than two hours.
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