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The Gameslinger's blog, Games Obscura, is a blog dedicated to covering strange, obscure, underrated and overlooked games. Some games covered are amazing games that were simply overlooked or forgotten. Some are flawed or poorly received, yet have interesting aspects or concepts that make them worth a second look. Others are downright weird; but fun and interesting, too. In any case, all are worth digging up and taking a second look at, and that's what this blog is all about: In-depth second looks at games that are worth rediscovering, for one reason or another.

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Details:

Title: Bullet Witch

Developer: Cavia

Publisher(s): AQ Interactive (Japan), Atari (N.A. and Europe), Codemasters (AU)

Platform: Xbox 360

Release Date(s): July 27th, 2006 (Japan), February 27th, 2007 (N.A.), March 6th, 2007 (Europe), March 16th,2007 (AU)



Cover art for Bullet Witch.

What Is This Game?

Bullet Witch is a third-person action shooter which casts the player as Alicia Claus, a tough, beautiful, stoic witch, battling her way through the demonically-overrun, post-apocalyptic ruins of the “near future” in the year 2013. After the legions of Hell suddenly and violently appeared on Earth, they quickly began laying waste to human civilization in an orgy of murder and violence, overpowering even the military and raining destruction upon our world, and as a total badass and perhaps the world’s only hope, Alicia takes up arms against the demonic forces. Wielding her signature weapon, the “Gun Rod,” along with a host of devastating magical spells and an acrobatic moveset, and guided by a strange supernatural voice, Alicia will tear through the forces of hell, and just about anything else that stands in her way, with her destructive arsenal, on a quest to save humanity and uncover the mysteries of her own past.

Bullet Witch is an action shooter with some technical flaws, but also some very fun gameplay concepts, a massive sense of scale to the action, a dark, gritty, cool (and wonderfully over-the-top) setting, bizarre enemies, and a badass, sexy main character, which all feel like something akin to a comic out of “Heavy Metal” magazine with a bit of a Japanese gaming twist. As Alicia, our dark, brooding heroine, the player will massacre the legions of darkness, while navigating huge environments and, despite some noticeable technical flaws, will discover some amazingly intense, exciting and explosive action along the way. Bullet Witch has been bemoaned by some for some of its technical issues and lack of polish in some areas, but for those who can look past these issues, there is an explosive, intense and immensely stylish onslaught of action gameplay awaiting them. Infusing gothic horror and modern stylistic elements with the look and borderline-insanity of an animated metal music video, Bullet Witch creates a style and atmosphere uniquely its own, and when combined with explosive, intense action (including massively destructible environments) and the stylish, sexy and badass heroine at the center of it all, it becomes easy to see why Bullet Witch is a game worth checking out for curious gamers who’ve seen it sitting in the bargain bin…..if you can overlook its technical issues, a game filled with character, style and intense and addictive gameplay is waiting…..


Alicia is a graceful, stylish heroine; and Bullet Witch's brand of unique action gameplay reflects that.....


Introduction:

Bullet Witch was a game which, in a way, won my love far before I’d ever played it. The gameplay videos, trailers, and various concept and promotional art of it I had seen over the year between its release in Japan and its eventual North American release revealed to me what I, honestly, knew would probably not be a “technically” great game, but still looked to be remarkably original, creative and fun. Bullet Witch didn’t have amazingly high-end graphics on par with Gears of War, and much of the press surrounding its Japanese release reported a game that had more than its share of AI problems and technical shortcomings. But what was also apparent in every screenshot, every video and every piece of conceptual or promotional art I’d seen for Bullet Witch was a sense of creativity, style and excitement. I loved the scale of the environments and action. I loved the gothic-horror-infused post-apocalyptic setting. I loved its over-the-top, flat-out strange enemies. And I adored the amazingly cool, uniquely stylish Alicia, a heroine who managed to be badass, sexy and feminine without coming off as contrived, silly or overtly exploited. In short, I was into Bullet Witch from the beginning, intrigued by its thoroughly unique qualities and concepts and in love with its fresh, creative look and style.

I had Bullet Witch preordered months before its U.S. release in early 2007, and was following the developer’s blog on IGN for the game closely as its release approached. When the game released to mixed reviews, I wasn’t terribly shocked; and, perhaps partially because my expectations were well-adjusted, I picked up my copy of Bullet Witch and found myself thoroughly enjoying it and quickly addicted to its explosive and addictive gameplay. Bullet Witch, to be fair, has a number of glaring technical flaws and some thoroughly cheeseball writing, voice acting and cinematics……but there is also a wonderfully charming, unique, stylish and just-plain-fun action-shooter underneath them. And if you can look past its shortcomings, you’ll find a game that is fun and filled with personality…..


Bullet Witch had a lukewarm reception, but lying beyond its shortcomings is an explosive, exciting game, with plenty of style and personality....


History, Release and Reception:

Bullet Witch was created by the recently-defunct Japanese development studio, Cavia. Cavia was founded in the year 2000, and had met with a good degree of success in development of licensed titles for existing franchises, including a number of relatively successful licensed PS2 and Game Boy Advance titles for popular anime franchises including One Piece, Naruto, Steamboy and Ghost in the Shell, in addition to development of a number of spin-offs to popular video game series, including Resident Evil: Dead Aim (a light-gun shooter) and Dragon Quest:  Shonen Yangus to Fushigi no Dungeon (a Dragon Quest “Mystery Dungeon” spin-off). As a freelance developer, Cavia worked with numerous publishers, and two of their few “original” IPs being the Gungrave series, and the Drakengard series (or Drag-on Dragoon in Japan), which was published by Square Enix.

In October of 2005, on the horizon of the “next generation,” Cavia expanded its business from a freelance developer to its own development and publishing company, renaming itself AQ Interactive, while simultaneously acquiring Japanese game developers “Artoon” and “feelplus,” and re-creating the “Cavia” brand itself as another subsidiary development company within AQ Interactive. With AQ Interactive serving as a parent company to the three development houses, Cavia had managed to expand itself while simultaneously maintaining its own, original brand as a subsidiary of its new-found, expanded brand name.


Bullet Witch's developer, Cavia, had spent much of the previous console generation doing titles for established franchises; pictured here (left to right): Resident Evil: Dead Aim, Steamboy, Dragon Quest: Shonen Yangus to Fushigi no Dungeon, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and One Piece: Grand Battle.

The Drakengard series (known in Japan as Drag-on Dragoon) was one of the only original IPs for Cavia during the PS2 generation. The series won praise for its dark story and setting, although its gameplay was criticized by some as simplistic or repetitive.

Having spent much of the prior generation working on licensed properties, Cavia/AQ Interactive was eager to try their hand at a new original IP as the new generation of consoles arrived. Bullet Witch producer Tohru Takahashi described his and Cavia’s excitement for the oncoming generation in an interview with 1Up.com, stating “The Xbox 360 is a particularly exciting hardware to develop for, because its superior power now allows for new kinds of expression which were previously impossible.” With an enthusiastic outlook on the new generation Cavia set to work on creating an IP that would strike a balance of appealing to both Japanese and North American gamers, and at the same time breath a unique breathe of life into the third-person shooter genre. The idea of taking the traditional third-person shooter gameplay elements and infusing it heavily with fantastical elements and a hint of exploration and adventure gameplay was the core idea behind Bullet Witch in its inception, and served a model that the team felt would make for a unique experience while simultaneously appealing to both the Japanese and North American market’s differing tastes. The art direction and character designs were an especially important element to the team, as well, and Takahashi noted that considerable thought was put into the game’s look and style; particularly, into the main character, Alicia, herself, who went through a number of iterations before finally settling upon her final design. Likewise, Cavia built Bullet Witch’s gameplay from the ground up, including all its mechanics and the engine itself, in the interest of creating a unique next-gen experience centered on fast-paced action, massive destruction and physics-heavy combat and gameplay.

When Bullet Witch launched in Japan in July of 2006, it met with heavy promotion and hype, but also some harsh criticism from professional gaming journalists. With the Xbox 360 less-than-popular in Japan, Bullet Witch was a unique title for Japanese gamers in that it was a rare early Xbox 360 that was not only developed in Japan, but also with a Japanese audience in mind. Bullet Witch was launched with a fairly large amount of promotion, especially in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, where director Take Yoichi promoted the game at the store AsoBitCity on its launch day, alongside a playable demo set-up for the game in front of the store. Alongside considerable coverage in Famitsu's magazine and on their website leading up to its release, it appeared Bullet Witch was on track for success…..but when it released in Japan, Bullet Witch met with a lukewarm reception both critically and in sales numbers. Professional journalists noted the game’s general “unfinished” feel and lack of polish; including poor enemy AI and sub-par graphics, and, due much in part to the Xbox 360 itself and its thus-far dismal sales performance in Japan, the game, even being one of the more “popular” Xbox 360 titles in Japan at the time, still had largely poor sales numbers; debuting at number 29 on the sales charts, selling a mere 9,083 copies.


Bullet Witch had no shortage of attention leading up to its release in Japan. It was featured prominently in magazines such as Famitsu......

......and even saw a large promotion on launch day in Tokyo's Akihabara District. Unfortunately, the Xbox 360's general lack of popularity in Japan meant little success for the title.

Bullet Witch may not have been a rousing success in terms of critical or sales reception, but the title had received enough attention for its style, interesting central character, and unique brand of action gameplay to gain the attention of publishers Atari and Codemasters, who picked up the rights for North American, European and Australian releases of the title. With Atari shoehorning the title for North American and European releases, the first thing the publisher did was to look at the game’s technical flaws in hopes of improving upon them for a more positive reception outside of Japan. Much of the press surrounding Bullet Witch’s Japanese release reported on a game with a very cool concept that was simply bogged down by far too many technical flaws and limitations, resulting it what ultimately felt like an “unfinished” game. With this in mind, Atari went back to Cavia and AQ Interactive, giving them the time and money to improve upon some of the game’s issues and ultimately polish up the game for what would hopefully be a better reception internationally.

With additional time and money, AQ and Cavia went back to work on Bullet Witch, issuing improvements and tweaks to the game across the board, including a repositioned “aiming” camera, graphical tweaks and improvements, and minor work on the enemy AI, controls and core engine of the game. Meanwhile, Bullet Witch received a fair amount of hype and coverage, thanks largely in part to Atari’s push for attention and awareness. Aside from a consistently updated developer’s blog on IGN in the months leading up to Bullet Witch’s North American release and a consistent stream of coverage by the media, including a number of featured publisher and development staff interviews on major video game websites, Atari also saw to it that Alicia herself and, as such, Bullet Witch, got a little extra attention by the public eye, when she appeared topless in Playboy’s “2007 Video Game Preview” feature. Likewise, Bullet Witch saw an added promotional bonus in the form of a collectible, pre-order exclusive Bullet Witch comic for its North American release.


Atari promoted Bullet Witch quite heavily to the gaming press for its upcoming stateside release, which boasted some much needed technical improvements, and early press was positive. Sadly, upon release, it critical reception still was ultimately mediocre.

With a healthy amount of coverage and promotion, and additional work being put into the international version of the game by the developers, Bullet Witch appeared to be on the right track. Unfortunately, however, even in its final international release, improvements and all, many of Bullet Witch’s inherent flaws still shone through, resulting in an ultimately mixed-to-negative reception from critics and the press, and similarly unremarkable sales. IGN and Official Xbox Magazine both blasted Bullet Witch with 4.0’s out of 10, while Gamespot gave the game a mediocre 5.5 out of 10, citing poor level design, bad enemy AI and general technical and mechanical issues as the game’s biggest problems. On the slightly more forgiving side were sources including Game Informer, who awarded Bullet Witch a somewhat average 6.5 out of 10, and X-Play, who gave Bullet Witch a middle-of-the-road review with a score of 3 out of 5. Ultimately, it seemed, even after the game had gone back into development, undergoing tweaking and improvements on the technical front, the sentiments and complaints of many were still largely the same, and with its poor reception, Bullet Witch’s final hopes of carving out any large degree of success largely faded.

Atari continued to support Bullet Witch after its release with the subsequent release of DLC costumes and extra missions which had previously been released on the Japanese marketplace and, despite the subpar reception from the press, Bullet Witch managed to carve out some love amongst gamers who picked it up in spite of the negative buzz surrounding the game. While most who picked it up agreed that the game suffered from some legitimate problems, many also found a game that was surprisingly fun and unique underneath its problems. Despite some forgiving and loving fans who supported the game, Bullet Witch never saw the degree of success its creators or publishers had hoped for, in Japan or elsewhere, and what AQ Interactive and Cavia had hoped would be the start of a successful next-gen franchise quickly fell by the wayside. While Cavia had planned to make Bullet Witch the first in a series, the title’s poor performance critical and financially put the ax to any plans of a sequel, and Bullet Witch soon faded away as Cavia and AQ concentrated its efforts elsewhere.

Cavia and AQ Interactive themselves plugged along for a few years after, with a number of titles fitting the mold of their releases in the previous generation; mostly licensed titles based on existing anime and video game franchises, including two Zegapain games for the Xbox 360 and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles for the Wii. Although they had been tasked with developing Hironobu Sakaguchi’s upcoming Xbox 360 RPG, Cry On, alongside his studio Mistwalker, with AQ Interactive to serve as publisher, the upcoming would-be killer app was cancelled in 2008, due to AQ Interactive’s unease over the Xbox 360’s lack of success in Japan. Moving on, Cavia and AQ released, along with fellow developer/publisher Square Enix, the Xbox 360/PS3 action-RPG, Nier, in May of 2010. While the title was a big hit in Japan, it was just soon after, in July, that AQ Interactive decided to dissolve the Cavia development team into AQ Interactive, and just over a year later, in October 2011, AQ Interactive itself merged with Marvelous Entertainment to create Marvelous AQL, essentially absorbing AQ into Marvelous in the process.


Cavia saw a big hit in Japan in 2010 with Neir, another original IP, for Xbox 360 and PS3. Shortly after, the Cavia brand was dissolved into AQ Interactive, and AQ merged with Marvelous.

By this point, it is safe to say that Bullet Witch is all but forgotten by most gamers and, seemingly, by its creators, with no real hope of the franchise continuing and only a small handful of gamers who recall it, and even fewer fans. Bullet Witch has received the occasional attention over the following years in Japan; although sales were unsatisfactory overall, it did manage a spot in the Xbox 360 Platinum Hits line-up in Japan. However, with such a limited audience for the Xbox 360 in Japan, even this meant little in terms of sales, and since, the game has faded into obscurity, with only the occasional mention here or there. But while Bullet Witch is a title with some problems, it’s also a title worth the attention of curious gamers; especially for the dirt-cheap prices it’s dropped to. With the game going for little more than five to ten dollars at most retailers in North America, gamers owe it to Bullet Witch to finally give it a go, if they haven’t already……while Bullet Witch has some issues, it also has a lot to offer to those willing to look past them, and is a unique, quirky and often intense and exciting shooter with a lot of genuinely inventive and innovative gameplay features, an interesting style and setting, and a downright awesome heroine. Bullet Witch may be well worth looking past its blemishes to enjoy…..


Bullet Witch has been left behind and forgotten by most, but this unique action title may very well be worth a second look now more than ever.....


The Game:

Flaws:

While there really is an interesting and often extremely enjoyable game in Bullet Witch, the truth of the matter is that many of the criticisms leveled against it are not inaccurate, and Bullet Witch does indeed have its share of issues. There’s a lot to love once you look past them, but first, let’s get the bad out of the way so we can focus on the good….

Bullet Witch is a game with a ton of great ideas, but also one with a number of downfalls that hinder them, mostly in the technical department. The big problem is that, at its core, Bullet Witch runs on its own engine, built from the ground up by the developers, and the engine itself seems to have some inherent issues which, ultimately, lead to a number of technical problems.

There are a number of issues, some small, but some pretty big, stemming from the somewhat faulty engine at Bullet Witch’s core. While it renders some surprisingly large and open stages seamlessly without load times, it also comes at the cost of an often-choppy framerate. While I found that the framerate issues ultimately didn’t lead to any major gameplay problems directly, they are still pretty noticeable when the action on screen gets chaotic, and considering one of Bullet Witch’s main selling points is massive destruction and chaotic action, framerate issues rear their head a bit too often during some of the game’s most spectacular moments of action and destruction.


The scale of the action and destruction can be massive in Bullet Witch, although the game's engine tends to struggle a bit during its more chaotic moments.

Another issue that stems from the game’s engine is some occasionally strange physics. Physics play a big part in Bullet Witch’s gameplay, and knowing this, the team designed the game’s engine to allow for advanced physics on objects and environments; and considering that the use and destruction of said objects and environments plays a pretty large part in Bullet Witch’s gameplay, seeing to it that the physics engine worked properly and consistently would seem to be a given. However, the physics in Bullet Witch can act downright strange at times, especially, once again, during chaotic moments or massive environmental destruction. Considering that many of Alicia’s offensive spells, as well the attacks of some larger scale enemies, rely on physics to destroy, throw or otherwise move objects, and while the complex physics make for some spectacular action, the somewhat spastic and unreliable nature of them also makes it somewhat unpredictable and risky to dabble with them at times. While these physics issues are not such a problem that they are constantly prevalent nor do they heavily impair or affect the gameplay, in a game so heavily reliant and focused on the use of physics in its action, some added polish and perfecting to the physics engine would have gone a long way.

Issues with Bullet Witch’s engine extend into the graphical presentation itself, as well, and while Bullet Witch is a very cool-looking game stylistically, and features some impressively large environments and incredibly frantic action and destruction, the game has number of technical problems on the graphical front as well. Aside from the aforementioned hiccups in the framerate, Bullet Witch’s graphical engine also seems to have some odd issues with properly rendering real-time shadows, which results in strangely jagged or trippy shadows, especially on objects or characters in motion. While not a huge quip, it is telling of the issues which Bullet Witch’s seemingly underpowered engine struggles with. Bullet Witch is somewhat of a double-edged sword across the board on the graphical front; while I was honestly impressed by the sheer size of the environments and scale of the action, and really like the stylistic elements of the game, including the designs for Alicia herself, her “gun rod,” the settings, and the downright bizarre enemies, the game’s graphical presentation, from a technical standpoint, appears lacking for an Xbox 360 title, even of the first generation. Textures are often flat or bland and environments, in turn, come off as low-detail. Animations are a mixed bag, as well, and while Alicia herself and some enemies move smoothly, other enemies come off as jerky and stilted in their animations.


Bullet Witch has some graphical issues, but the huge size and openness of the environments is quite impressive.

Although a number of the flaws mentioned thus far are largely anesthetic, Bullet Witch has a few other noteworthy problems which go beyond appearance. One of the most obvious and troublesome is the, frankly, idiotic AI most of Bullet Witch’s enemies suffer from. While Atari had Cavia go back to the drawing board to work on many of Bullet Witch’s technical issues for a release outside Japan, with the AI being one of the primary areas of concern, it seems Bullet Witch’s AI problems were a bit more deep-seated than some mere tweaking could correct, and even in the international version of the game, enemies remain largely oblivious and brain-dead; it’s not unusual to encounter a group of foot soldiers who will simply stand in one place as you mow them down, or who are running aimlessly back and forth or in circles. AI issues seem to permeate to all classes of enemies, with similarly oblivious or strange behavior from nearly all types, regardless of size or the nature of their attacks.


Enemy AI is one of the game's biggest problems. Much of the time, enemies are utterly brain-dead.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bullet Witch also suffers from some occasional, frustratingly “cheap” enemies and deaths, including some obnoxious moments of instant death. While these moments aren’t the norm, they also usually come suddenly, unexpectedly and with very little time or way to avoid them. In particular, the greatest offenders are Bullet Witch’s “sniper” enemies, who will hover a red laser over Alicia for a few seconds, before firing a single shot which, unless you manage to find cover, will most likely hit and, when it does, instantly kill Alicia. Often just as frustrating are the unexpected instant deaths which can result from falling or flying objects; the damage inflicted by flying, falling or moving environmental objects can seem entirely random, and results in some frustratingly unexpected, swift and frustrating deaths. It also feels like a cheap method of artificially ramping up the difficulty to, in some sense, make up for the otherwise poor AI.

Outside of the nagging technical issues and oddities, Bullet Witch’s other major issue is the length of its main story mode. Consisting of just 6 stages, the game is over far too soon, and while the individual stages themselves are very large, open and expansive, it still adds up to a campaign that can be blown through in little more than 4 to 5 hours. Bullet Witch does have considerable replay value in the form of its numerous DLC stages, as well as multiple difficulty levels and a large focus on scoring and perfecting your performance on individual stages (which, in turn, is lent an added level of addicting fun by the game’s online leaderboards), but the length of the core campaign is still shorter-than-average, and could have benefited greatly from even two or three more stages to flesh things out more.

Besides this, once we step away from the technical shortcomings, there is little I didn’t love about this quirky, flawed-but-fun game. One knock I could issue against the game is that the story, cutscenes and dialogue are pure cheese. While the premise for Bullet Witch and its world is the perfect setting for the over-the-top, ass-kicking shooter it intends to be, the cutscenes and dialogue can often be cringe-inducing and overly melodramatic. Likewise, while Alicia herself is an awesome, thoroughly likeable heroine, the same can’t be said of the remainder of the cast; and with mega-dork military meathead Max Cougar (the major supporting character of the game) desperately trying to steal the spotlight from Alicia every time he shows up in a cutscene, it can honestly be suggested that the story sequences and dialogue be ignored. This would be more of a concern if telling a story were a big focus for Bullet Witch, but Bullet Witch is clearly a game more focused on its gameplay and stylistic aspects, and as such, concerns of some cheeseball cutscenes and characters is more a passing concern than it would be in other games. As it stands, while Alicia may be the only worthwhile character in the game, she is also the one you’ll spend all of the game around, and goes a long way toward making up for the otherwise throwaway cast and story elements, by being a particularly unique, likeable and appealing character.


The dialogue and cutscenes are pretty goofy, and Alicia is probably the only likeable character in the bunch. Trust me, you'll be sick of this guy in no time.

While it may sound like Bullet Witch has a lot working against it, there’s also a lot to love beyond its issues. For those who can look past its problems, read on, Bullet Witch may have its flaws, but there is also a lot to make up for them under the surface….



Why it’s Worth a Second Look…..


Beyond the initially all-too-obvious problems which seemingly plague Bullet Witch, there really is a fun game with a lot of personality and individuality. While many were put off by its shortcomings, Bullet Witch is well worth a look by those who’ve been curious, but put off by its negative reception, or a second look by those who wrote it off originally.

Despite, or perhaps even in part because of, some cheesiness, one of the most striking and appealing aspects of Bullet Witch was its immense and distinct style. Lying somewhere between a comic you’d find in Heavy Metal magazine, a B-grade action/horror movie and a Japanese anime, with a bit of gothic flavor for good measure, Bullet Witch has a style all its own which it is simply drenched in, right from the moment you reach the title screen. Everything about the presentation and design of the menus, art style and general design of everything from the outlandish enemies to the setting to Alicia herself is bursting with a wonderfully bizarre and lively style that is simultaneously cool, dark, cheesy and at times totally crazy; and it fits the game perfectly and gives everything an added charm. Menus, including the title screen and spell casting menus have a gorgeous gothic style to them that goes above and beyond the presentational effort seen in many games of twice its budget or profile. Style was obviously a core concern for the team when making Bullet Witch, and it shows.


One of Bullet Witch's great strengths is its creative gothic/post-apocalyptic style, which the game is completely drenched in. Even the menus are oozing with style.

The greatest oddity of Bullet Witch, to me, was that a game with so many technical issues that directly affect its gameplay was simultaneously a game that was so much fun to play in spite of those flaws. While Bullet Witch suffers from a myriad of technical flaws which inhibit its gameplay, the core of the game itself was so fun and addictive that it counteracts it technical issues and produces some considerably fun, addictive and extremely satisfying gameplay.


There are definitely some strange enemies in Bullet Witch.

There are a lot of aspects which make Bullet Witch such an enjoyable game to play, and no doubt near the very top of the list is the sheer size, scale and impact of the environments and action. There’s a real sense of satisfaction in Bullet Witch’s action, and even with some poor AI, the action still manages to remain intense and keep the player on their toes, especially on higher difficulties. Although not all of Alicia’s spells are available right from the start, the impact and sense of scale is still apparent even in the first stage, and only ramps up from there. The level of satisfaction and sense of impact, excitement and power in Alicia’s actions and attacks is one of Bullet Witch’s greatest assets.


The action is explosive, unpredictable and satisfying.

The elaborate use of physics in the action, coupled with the destructibility of environments, is a large part of what makes the action and combat in Bullet Witch so exciting. While the physics engine has its hiccups, it is still undeniable the sense of fun and excitement it lends to the action, and what a large role it plays in it. The selection of offensive spells caters to the physics and destructibility of environments, too, and, once again, their impact is incredibly satisfying and appropriately exciting. From pushing objects such as cars and pieces of the environments around and into your enemies, to blowing up tanks with an explosive bolt of lightning, to casting tornado and watching a whirlwind suck in enemies, vehicles, trees and chunks of buildings, then watching it spit them out and send them flying , the spells, their elaborate casting sequences, and the ensuing chaos, lends an epic sense of scale to Bullet Witch’s combat.


Physics play a large role in the action. Expect to see cars and other large objects thrown at yourself, enemies and all about.


Likewise basic combat and general control of Alicia is exciting and satisfying. Aside from spells, the other half of combat relies on Alicia’s Gun Rod, a huge weapon she carries with her. The gun rod is capable of transforming into a number of different gun “types” including shotgun, machine and sniper rifle, as well as a few basic up-close physical attacks. In general, just as with the spells, the impact and feeling of power behind Alicia’s signature weapon is immensely satisfying. The gun rod itself suits Alicia nicely, lending to and complementing the already badass and unique style of the main character herself, and Alicia handles the weapon with a signature grace and style that permeates through all of her actions.


Alicia's signature weapon, the Gun Rod, has a number of forms and can function as numerous weapon types, including a shotgun, mini-gun, and sniper rifle.

On that note, it should be said that one of the things I loved most about Bullet Witch was just that: how unique and enjoyable Alicia was not just in her design, but also in all of her actions, movements and animations. In many ways, Alicia is really what brings the experience together and makes Bullet Witch something unique and fun beyond its flaws. Alicia moves and controls with a certain stylish grace unique to shooters and action games. From casting spells, to using the gun rod, to simple movements and acrobatic jumps and flips, Alicia has a graceful, elegant style to her animations and the way she moves that lends a very unique feel to the gameplay and puts it apart from the tough, masculine “feel” of the gameplay in many third person shooters and action games, whether the protagonist be male or female. Whether you're dodging bullets with a cartwheel, twirling the gun rod to choose between different attack types, or simply running or walking, the unique grace and elegance with which Alicia moves and controls lends a unique and exciting feel to the gameplay, and also complements Alicia’s character and style perfectly. Bullet Witch is a game with a lot of style, and Alicia’s subtle grace and elegance in everything she does works well in making the player feel at one with the stylish brand of action the game presents.


Alicia's actions have an acrobatic grace to them, which in turn give the gameplay a feel very unique to the action genre.

On that note, Alicia herself is, without a doubt, a large part of what lends such a particular attitude and style to the game as a whole, and her presence as the main character lends a constant sense of unique style to the game.  Alicia’s design is bold, distinct and creative, and she manages to be both feminine and tough, graceful and deliberate, and sexy and understated, simultaneously, without feeling exaggerated or silly, either. Her tall, slender figure, and dark, gothic character and costume design make for a strikingly distinct and unique character. The game is smart, and does well, to center itself and its action around Alicia, with its elaborate spell casting sequences calling attention not just to the destruction they cause, but to Alicia herself and her stylish brand of action, and even the game’s camera generally sets itself in such a way that keeps itself close to Alicia and makes her appear big, bold and the “center of attention” even amidst the destruction and chaos of the action around her. The default third-person camera sets itself in just such a way that keeps itself close to Alicia and is set just subtly below her level, emphasizing her character as big, bold and authoritative, and, likewise, when the camera pulls in over-the-shoulder for more precise aiming of your shots, Alicia’s character and her signature weapon are big, bold and attention-grabbing.


Alicia herself, and her bold design and presence, lend a boatload of style and personality to the game.

While Bullet Witch may seem a bit on lean content at first glance, and its main story mode is indeed a bit short with just 6 main missions, there is much more to Bullet Witch than may at first meet the eye; and a number of factors come together to drastically increase the replay value, longevity and amount of content, thus taking a game which, at first, seems like an all-too-brief experience, and turning it into a highly addictive game bursting with extra content and replayability.

The smallest, although still significant, of these features is Bullet Witch’s leveling system, which allows you to level up Alicia’s various abilities at the end of each stage with points you earn from achieving higher ranks and earning skill points to distribute into three areas;  Ability (for HP and MP), Gun Rod (pretty self-explanatory), and Witchcraft (which powers up your magical spells and abilities). The leveling system is nothing terribly involved, but there is a definite feeling of progression and accomplishment associated with it, due much in part to the fact that it does carry over beyond playthroughs and throughout the game as a whole; so, in other words, to take on harder difficulties, improve your scores and do better in the challenging extra missions of the game, leveling Alicia plays an integral part. If anything, the leveling system could have benefited from more expansion on it, as it will only take a few playthroughs to max out Alicia’s abilities; still it is a nice addition to the game and its persistence throughout the game as a whole sets the tone for what really makes Bullet Witch a fun game; its replay value, extras, extra missions, and emphasis on improving your skills and ranks.


A tense battle atop a moving airplane is one of Bullet Witch's highlight set-piece moments.

Many of Bullet Witch’s harshest critics railed against the game for the far-too-lean amount of content it initially presented players with, and, really, this was not at all an invalid complaint. Indeed, at first glance, and especially upon its initial release, Bullet Witch gave off a bad impression as a game with a very short campaign that clocks in a little more than 4 to 5 hours, and seemingly offered little to do outside of it. However, while these complaints are are/were not invalid, especially at the time most reviews were written for the game, there are a number of features they do not take into account, some due largely to the fact that said features/content were added later on via DLC. That said, these features absolutely must be addressed because of how greatly they affect the longevity and enjoyment of the game on the whole.


Scoring, ranking and online leaderboards add a whole new level of replayabililty to Bullet Witch, especially with the abundance of extra missions available via DLC.

Central to much of the extras and features which enhance Bullet Witch’s addicting replayability is its scoring/ranking system and, subsequently, its online leaderboards. At the end of each stage, the game will add up your score based on a number of factors and areas including Kill Points, Survival Rate (how many deaths/continues) and clear time, and multiply it accordingly by which difficulty you were playing on. It grades your performance with a letter rank (i.e. S, A, B, C, etc) in each area and then tallies everything up to come up with your overall score and rank for the completion of the stage. The system itself isn’t overly complicated and is easy to understand, but this works well, and is easy to grasp. Simultaneously, the score system, coupled with the online leaderboards, creates and demands an addictive drive for perfection, and the drive to perfect your score and skills becomes a central focus, and creates a highly replayable and challenging experience, greatly increasing Bullet Witch’s longevity.

Of course, with just 6 main missions, even with an addictive scoring/leaderboard system and multiple difficulties, the fun would still wear thin pretty quickly if that was all Bullet Witch had to offer. Thankfully, a slew of post-release DLC largely remedies this problem and serves to turn Bullet Witch from a game that is over in a day or two, into one you’ll be squeezing replay value out of for months.


A fun selection of alternate DLC costumes helps keep things fun and fresh, but the real meat of the game's DLC content comes in the form of its variety of additional missions.....

For starters, a list of fun and unique alternate costumes help to keep replay value up. While a somewhat superficial addition, the alternate costumes are each fun and unique and help to keep things feeling fresh upon extended play sessions and add some variety to things. Ranging from sexy to silly, the costumes include an (obligatory) schoolgirl outfit, a secretary, a colorful pixie, a mummy, and an alternate “white witch” version of Alicia’s original costume. While alternate costumes are just a surface-level addition, they are fun, varied and add an extra level of variety, freshness and fun to replaying missions. Of course, as fun as alternate costumes are, the game would need more to keep you playing than just that; and that’s where the bulk of Bullet Witch’s post-release DLC comes in, in the form of a hefty selection of extra missions which heap on heightened challenge and tons of replay value.


The wide selection of DLC missions, combined with alternate costumes and scoring/leaderboards, adds plenty of lasting appeal, variety and replay value to a game that was initially lean on content.

The game’s extra “concept” missions generally consist of reworked versions of the game’s main stages, with entirely different enemy and stage layouts, including considerably ramped up difficulty, and generally grueling challenges which will put your skills to the test, as well as versions of the game’s missions with all of your spells unlocked from the get-go (allowing use of the most destructive and high-level magic in the game’s earlier stages.) With a grand total of 17 extra missions, the amount of content and lasting appeal the DLC stages add to Bullet Witch cannot be understated; and in many ways, these DLC stages are more interesting, challenging, intense and just downright fun than the game’s original six stages. Most, in fact, go out of their way to emphasize what are some of the game’s best aspects, namely its potential for highly explosive and destructive action on a huge scale, and tense situations where the line between victory and defeat can literally be inches or milliseconds. Likewise, these missions place further emphasis on the addictive strength of the online leaderboards, and considering the intense challenge, the unpredictability of the action and chaos, and the precision and lightning-fast reflexes needed to achieve victory and perfection, the addictive fun of challenging other player’s scores and ranks in these missions adds a boatload of extended replay value to the game. The addition of having your full arsenal of spells unlocked adds a new level of insanity to each stage, and the unique layouts and challenges of each extra mission are genuinely imaginative and creative challenges. The fact that the amount of DLC missions equals out to nearly three times the game’s original set of stages really says it all; and between this and the slew of fun extra costumes, the amount of content added via DLC to Bullet Witch vastly changes and improves the game’s weight, lasting appeal and sheer fun and value.

One final, and more personal, note I must add, is that I found Bullet Witch to be the perfect game for which to set up your own playlist and play to. While the game’s soundtrack is not bad, and is well-suited to the game, it’s also minimalist and comes and goes with different action and set pieces; and I personally found that adding my own playlist and rocking out to the destruction and action in Bullet Witch was well-suited and added to the fun of the game. But I digress…..


Alicia certainly isn't afraid to leave some destruction in her wake on the way to saving the world.

In Conclusion….
 
Bullet Witch is a fun, quirky title with obviously large ambitions, which, sadly, the team may not have had the time, budget or technical prowess to ultimately achieve. The technical shortcomings, coupled with the generally lean amount of content in the game when it launched, added up to a reception that was lukewarm at best. However, Bullet Witch is also a game which begs another look, more so than it did even when it was released. Beyond some initially all-too-obvious technical shortcomings lies an explosively intense and exciting action game with uniquely open, destructible environments, a distinctive brand of stylish action, and a visually striking, imaginative and just-plain-cool heroine. Just as significant, however, and what reviews and press at the time, justly, could not have taken into account, is the huge amount of new content added via DLC, which does so much to enhance and extend the game and its lifespan, and more than remedies one of the biggest complaints leveled against the game at its inception: the very thin amount of content and replay value. With that issue more than remedied, however, and the price tag on the game reduced to little more than that of a cup of coffee, there is very little reason for action gamers or those who’ve long held off on it to pass on Bullet Witch any longer. With a unique style and setting which blends gothic horror and dystopian future, a badass and downright cool heroine, and its own very distinct brand of action, destruction and level design, Bullet Witch is more than worth a glance by curious gamers. Combine that with a boatload of post-release DLC, and you’ve got a game which is more than worth a second look. Beyond some technical deficiencies and a few cheesy cutscenes, there’s a game oozing with style, exciting action and plenty of reasons to keep you coming back for more. Bullet Witch has its shortcomings, but Alicia and her game are stylish, unique, explosively exciting and, more than ever, deserving of a second look.


Bullet Witch is not without its technical flaws, but with a strong heroine, an explosive and unique brand of action, and a boatload of post-release DLC extras, the game begs a second look now more than ever.

Who Should Play It?

Action gamers and fans of 3rd-person shooting. People who enjoy score-attack-style ranking and competition, and love competing to improve their own scores and best other’s. Fans of gothic or post-apocalyptic settings and styles. People looking for a somewhat different or unique brand of action/shooter gameplay, or who really love big, open environments and the ability to thoroughly destroy them. People who’ve seen Alicia around and are still wondering what her and her game are all about; or who appreciate a cool, stylish female lead with a unique style of ass-kicking.



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