by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
A Blast from the Past
I’d like you to humor me for a moment, if you will, and join me on a little thought experiment. I want you to close your eyes. Actually, scratch that. I’m going to need you to keep them open so you can read this. Ok, so keep your eyes open, but allow your mind to wander a bit. Good. Now let it wander all the way back to 2006. In this imaginary 2006, I want you to walk yourself into the nearest store and grab a random M-rated console video game. If you had to put money down on a guess, what kinds of things might be in that game? An overabundance of browns and grays? Sure, probably. Muddy textures that kind of just made everything look the same? Most likey. An edgy protagonist that’s just too cool to ever let the bad guys win? Absolutely. A sultry, sexy lady shrouded in mystery, but most certainly not shrouded in any form of reasonable clothing? I think that’s a bingo. If you were able to take all of those things and mold them into one game that perfectly encapsulates the era, you’d be holding onto a copy of Bullet Witch.
A remaster of the 2006 Xbox 360 original, Bullet Witch tells the story of an an Earth thrown against the ropes by a demonic invasion following some nasty earthquakes and global warfare. The villains, disfigured sentient ghouls that want to kill just about everyone, are absurdly over the top in the way that only the ‘00s could be. Their voice actors don’t even attempt a single iota of genuine menace or emotion, delivering each line like a middle-school production of Power Rangers. The actual dialogue falls right in-line, with gems like “Witches don’t need... prayers!” And “I’ve lost everyone that’s ever mattered to me. Now all I have left to protect is the future of humanity.” If this all sounds like an insult, I assure you it isn’t. Bullet Witch’s obscenely over-played characters and dialogue are perfect in the same way that that your favorite B-movies are. Chock-full of ham and layering cliches on top of other cliches, it’s an enjoyable reminder that games are allowed to be weird, and those that embrace the weirdness are even better.
A Playable B-Movie
There’s undeniable charm to be found in the action if you're the type of person to find charm in things like the Resident Evil movies or Sharknado. There’s something to be said for watching an apocalyptic witch with a six foot broom gun summon a lightning storm to destroy a cluster of tanks piloted by talking ghouls that seems to make any of life’s problems melt away, even if only for a moment. Something Bullet Witch does a really nice job of is making you feel as powerful as a witch-sorceress should feel, which is bolstered by the surprisingly fun physics engine that sends concrete and cars flying all over the place. Gunplay aside, the powers all feel really cool, weather it’s raining down the aforementioned lightning strikes, commanding a swarm of ravens to attack your enemies, impaling groups on spikes called from the ground, or any of the other spells at your disposal. Picking which ones to focus on strengthening, along with the different “forms” (see: gun types) of your broom gun give a fair amount of leeway with how you want to play.
My only beef with the magic is that too many of the spells are accompanied by casting cutscenes that just take too long and split the action up too much. I like calling in the raven swarm to tie up crowds, then go ham with my shotgun, but watching a cutscene, even if only six or so seconds long, every single time got old before I’d even hit double digit repetitions. It makes more sense for the bigger spells that won’t get used as often, but even for those something quicker would have been a big improvement.
A Solid Port
The game is definitely best played with a gamepad, but the game is undoubtedly a hassle to control no matter which way you play it. Even after adjusting sensitivity settings I never found moving or aiming to be particularly tight, which was annoying bullet-hosing is the name of the game much of the time. Besides that, I found Bullet Witch to be a well-done port. The game played like butter in standard HD, and 60 fps wasn’t a problem. Keys are bindable, and the graphics options, while limited, work. I’m not sure if these things are something deserving of a ton of praise, but given how terribly even many modern games have been ported to PC, it’s nice that performance or crashes weren’t something I ever had to even think about.
Make no mistake, Bullet Witch is a pretty bad game via just about every measurable metric. The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The voice acting and dialogue may have actually been written by a 13-year-old. The magic is crazy and unbalanced. What makes it still worth playing, though, are the unmeasurable ones. Between the wonky controls, absurd dialogue, and bizarre story lies a ton of heart. It’s difficult to explain, but I think most people get that Spidey-sense tingle that tells them them when a game, even a poor one, is a project of passion, and that signal was blaring through me my entire playtime. Bullet Witch hasn’t aged particularly well in an era of excellent, smooth, quick third person shooters and brawlers, but I still found myself having fun buying all-in with the simple pleasures that the game does succeed with. Don’t buy this game if you’re looking for a tight, polished, nuanced experience, but consider giving it some of your time for a nostalgic trip through some light-hearted fun.
Over-the-top dialogue fits the over-the-top story and gameplay, spells and action that make you feel powerful, fun physics engine
Spell cutscenes get old fast, muddy aiming and movement