A Tale of Guns and Demons and Pleated Skirts

I was terribly tempted to claim that, upon returning Bioshock to the shelf, I took the next game off the shelf to play, and that game was Bullet Witch.

To be perfectly honest, though, if I’d done that, I would have had to skip over Blue Seed, Blue Stinger, Bloodrayne, Bloodrayne 2, Bombastic, Boulder Dash EX, Brain Age, Brave Story, Breath of Fire III and Brute Force.

I don’t actually shelve Saturn, Dreamcast, Xbox, PC, PS2, GBA, DS, PSP and Playstation games on the same shelf, you realize. This is all just hypothetical.

And I HAVE finished Brute Force, at least.  AND Boulder Dash EX AND Brave Story.

But I digress.

Ignoring – for the moment, and hopefully for all time – my organizational scheme and in particular that part of it that is “Games that start with B”, let’s get back to Bullet Witch.

Bullet Witch is one of those games that gets criticized as being, well, sort of the swimsuit issue.  The implication is that, if you’re buying it because the character designs are, as they say, relevant to your interests, it doesn’t matter that the articles aren’t up to par.

See also: Dead or Alive, the aforementioned Bloodrayne games, Final Fantasy X-2, most of the Simple 2000 catalog, so on and so forth.

This is, at least in part, a valid point.

Bullet Witch suffers from quite embarrassing pop-up of scenery elements, the textures are nothing to write home about, and the AI alternates between embarrassingly stupid – shooting into walls while you’re shooting them in the back – and annoyingly deadly – one-shot sniper kills in certain levels.

Pointing out that the main character is pretty high on the pander-factor is also a valid critique – she wears one of those horribly-inappropriate-for-combat fantasy outfits, including some quite absurd heels – and, if the default outfit is not sufficiently eyeroll-inducing, you can download new outfits, including one with a white blouse and plaid pleated skirt.

The heels appear to be a constant, regardless of outfit.

But…

(You knew there was going to be a “but”, didn’t you?)

…sometimes, you don’t want an AAA title that had dozens of artists modelling every square inch of your virtual environment and obsessing over details, with complex and fully-developed characters.  Sometimes, you just want to run around, in a skimpy outfit, with a massively improbably gun, and shoot things.

This would be where Bullet Witch starts to deliver; your character is armed with a vaguely broom-shaped machinegun that’s as tall as she is and a spellbook full of suitably destructive spells.  As you finish levels, you get skill points with which to buy different broom-shaped guns and more spells.

Telekinesis is particularly nicely done.  When someone is shooting at you from behind a car, it is deeply satisfying to – instead of, say, trying to aim for the small exposed part of them holding the gun – telekinetically pick up the car and hit them with it.

You could also, say, make spikes grow out of the ground underneath them, with highly comical results*, hit them with lightning strikes, blow up the car with magically-fire-imbued bullets… and I’m sure lots of other fun things that I just haven’t unlocked yet.

* Highly comical for anyone not being impaled, anyway.

The game has a reputation for being quite short, which is something I can appreciate in a game now and again, and it tanked hard enough upon release to be marked down quickly; I got it for $14 new several months ago and it’s been sitting on the shelf – actually, in a box, but we weren’t going to talk about that any more – just waiting for me to get around to it.

Having done so, I give it a provisional thumbs-up.  Provisional, of course, in that I have heard that some of the boss fights are on the frustrating side and I haven’t faced any of them yet.  If, in a couple of days, I’m pulling the disc out of the 360, snapping it in two and mailing the shards to the developers with a post-it attached reading “this is you, if I ever get my hands on you”, I will revise my opinion.

A follow-up to the above:

I decided that I’d play for a little bit longer before actually posting today’s entry, and wound up playing for the four hours it took to finish the game.  A good hour of that was spent on the final boss alone; I didn’t die but he took ages to wear down.  Definitely one of the more epic boss fights; I think he went through five stages before finally falling over.

Given that I had the controller glued to my hands for that long, I think I can ditch the “provisional” part of that thumbs-up.  Good stuff.

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