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Time bewitched: 69 minutes
It’s funny how much a shooter from 2007 looks like a Unity Engine shooter from 2018.
I miss the early 2000s in some ways. Despite the experimentation still going on in games development, I think 2007 marked the end of silliness in games. I suppose you could lay some of the blame at the feet of Bioshock, which proved you could have a commercially viable, socioeconomic polemic if you combined a stock-standard, first-person shooter with enough art deco resources. Suddenly, everybody was racing to make the next Important Game.
Prior to Rapture’s rupture, however, games were allowed simply to be fun. We had games like Voodoo Vince in 2003, Katamari Damacy in 2004, and God Hand in 2006. In fact, the subject of this review released just six months before Bioshock ruined everything.
Bullet Witch first launched in February of 2007 for the XBox 360, and it came out again in 2018 for PC. You play a witch who must defend humanity from an army of wisecracking, zombie-soldiers controlled by gigantic, floating brains.
Your arsenal consists of a host of offensive and defensive spells and a weaponized broomstick—or boomstick, if you will—that can shoot different kinds of bullets, depending on what kind of firearm the situation calls for. Your boomstick is a readymade shotgun or an automatic rifle, a machine gun or a sniper rifle; basically, anything you need, stocked with unlimited ammunition to boot.
If I were only selling this game to myself, I could stop right now. Why waste more time with a bunch of text when there are hordes of zombies to fight and unlimited rounds to fire? Of course, I’m cognizant that other people are pickier than I am, so let’s go a little deeper.
The graphics are pure 2007, but it can still look pretty good if you squint. Besides, once you start getting into the action, there are only so many polygons the human eye can perceive. It’s nice that someone did the work to make the game run well on modern systems, because there’s nothing more frustrating than playing a decade-old game on a new(ish) PC and stuttering along at 12 frames per second (yes, that was a cheap shot at F.E.A.R. Thanks for noticing!). The world you navigate is a little empty, but at least they didn’t just add a bunch of crates to give the illusion of thoughtful level design (and yes, that was another shot at F.E.A.R. Last one, I promise).
Unfortunately, the shooting lacks heft. It’s difficult to describe, but since describing things is basically my only job around here, I’ll give it a shot. Some shooting games make you feel like your weapons have weight, as if there’s a physical cost to moving them and using them—perhaps a recoil animation or reticle sway, or simply slowing down your walking-speed while shooting—something to convey “hey, you just did something loud and powerful.” Bullet Witch doesn’t seem to do any of that. The shooting feels inconsequential, sort of like firing a Super Soaker that you never have to pump. Or refill.
The magic powers feel a bit better (especially the one where you call down a lightning strike and kill everything in a three-block radius), but they’re not the focus of the game. In fact, I keep forgetting to use them because the spell wheel is cumbersome on a mouse and keyboard. I can guess what you’re thinking: this was an Xbox 360 game, so I’m supposed to play with a controller. Yes, well, it’s also a third-person shooter on my computer, which means I play it with a mouse and keyboard. I’ve never liked joystick-based, first-person or third-person shooters (the jury is still out on joystick-based, second-person shooters). You might be able to accurately move a reticle with the right thumbstick, but that’s not a skill I’ve ever had.
Aside from the disappointing shooting mechanics, the game still manages to be fun for light, pick-up-and-play sessions. It’s not a game I could picture someone playing all the way through in one sitting, but in fifteen-minute bites, it’s fun to shoot at some giant, floating brains until they explode.
Will I witch on?
I have a feeling this one will stay installed for a while, and I’ll pick it up when I want to play a shooter but don’t want to install a better one.
That’s decent praise for an eleven-year-old game.
Is it the Dark Souls of good witch hunting games?
The hardest thing for me is wrestling with the mouse and keyboard controls. If I were playing with a controller, the hardest thing would be wrestling with the controller aiming. Neither struggle puts this game into Dark Souls territory. Even less so when you consider the lowest difficulty setting that makes you virtually invincible against enemies as weak as candy floss before a pressure washer.
Naturally, I’m playing that mode because being overpowered is always a good time. Plus, if one of the bosses turns out to be a twelve-year-old girl in dire need of a shampoo, I’m ready.
Ok, so that really is the last F.E.A.R. jibe.
One out of thirteen soul bullets.