The year is 2013 and a mysterious woman in black has been spotted defeating the demons plaguing the modern world. Her name is Alicia Claus and she is the Bullet Witch. Originally developed by Cavia in Japan, Atari brings to America the 3rd-person magical shooter Bullet Witch for the Xbox 360. Sexy siren Alicia is going to rid the world of evil with her almighty gunrod and mysterious demonic powers.
ADR Production: TAJ Productions
Online: Downloads, Leaderboards
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product.
Alicia Claus finds herself in a world full of monsters with mankind on the brink of extintion. Armed with a large gun and dark magic, Alicia battles across six different levels containing monsters, giants, and an army of the undead. The opening level is a smaller map with a long, winding path through a neighborhood and business suburb located across the bridge from a city on the East coast. The controls for Alicia are not difficult to master, but can feel a bit muddy at times. Alicia’s aim improves when you crouch and zoom in to focus on your target, so you better get used to it now. Until you can earn enough Experience points to upgrade your health, magic, and weapons, crouch and aim is the best way to confront your enemy in your first run-through the game. I also suggest starting on Medium to earn Experience Points faster.
The first level is fairly simple. The demonic spirit, The Darkness, within your body will guide you through the level for most of the map. You will get a chance to clear out several waves of undead soldiers, pop some floating brains called Walnut Heads, and take out a few tanks, too. Tanks!? Yes, tanks. Tanks are large, powerful, and very susceptible to a well-timed lightening attack. What if you don’t have enough Magic to destroy a tank? This is where Alicia’s other regular move comes in handy. Alicia’s dodge/jump move leaves Alicia invincible while in the air. Some running and dodging will get you past any tank. This will be handy in levels two and six where you face quite a few of these steel monsters in a row.
Before beginning level two, make sure to upgrade your gun to have Cannon capability. There are several snipers who will make your life hell if you can’t fight back from a distance. Level two also introduces Maxwell Cougar and the remnants of the military trying to push back the hordes of demons from Hell. One demonstration of what Alicia can do and they want to enlist her into the army. Level two is also the first large level to run through. Where level one could take a beginner half an hour to clear, level two can easily push an hour as the game leaves you clueless on which direction to go several times. We also get our first crack at the Gigas, which are several stories tall and carry a gattling gun on their arm. However. these monsters are easy to take down by shooting directly at their beating heart. The first Gigas will not have any armor over the heart area, but future Gigas will. Again, just shoot the heart area protected by the armor and they’ll fall fairly quickly. Aside from the snipers, the only areas that may give some trouble to first-time players are the open park along the shoreline and the final boss of this level. Both areas lack good instructions for getting past these points in the game. For the park, head towards the fuel truck and follow the shoreline to find two of the three Walnut Heads in the area. As for the final boss, he’s all bark and no bite. Clear out a wave of his flying Grudge Spirits and then run down the alley and into the main street. Once on the main street, turn left and head towards a building at the end of the street. A cinema sequence should start while you’re heading in that direction to show you where the final exit is located.
Level three is part underground, part at an airport, and part stannding on top of a plane. No, I didn’t make that last part up. Before you begin, make sure to grab the magic spell Raven’s Panic and a Hit Points upgrade if you have any Experience Points leftover. The Shotgun upgrade could be handy during the airport terminal battles, but Raven’s Panic is the better option to use to simply distract the numerous soldiers while you pick them off. The underground fights with undead soldiers while Alicia and company attempt to reach Maxwell’s base are tedious and very simple. Once inside the airport terminal, Alicia will face overwhelming odds as multiple waves of undead soliders and some Screamers need to be killed before arriving at the air field. And if the airport terminal is an annoyance, the final boss from atop of a plane flying 10,000 feet is a pain in the ass. Alicia will need to perform three lightning attacks on the Drago-Bat Demon, shoot any Demon Eyes that attempt to drill into the plane, and also not fall off the small ground-space provided by the plane. If you’re not careful, you can run right off the plane and die, no help from the Demon necessary. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard, but the higher difficulties will leave you angry with the utter cheapness of how easily Alicia can be killed or knocked off.
Levels four and five push Alicia and the surviving soldiers toward the goal of reaching the hellmouth the demonds come from. The fourth level wanders along a railroad line to reach the human military outpost near the hellmouth. However, the undead know the humans are gathering for a final assualt on the hellmouth. While the journey is short, Alicia faces a lengthy twenty-minutes or so of defeating wave after wave of undead soldiers arriving by helicopter as the final battle for this level. The Darkness grants Alicia the power of the Tornado to destroy the helicopters in the air, but you will still be left with a lot of ground fighting to restore your Magic Points in between wind storms. Also, some of the undead soldiers can get hidden beneath the rubble during the unleashed Tornado spells. If the helicopters stop coming and the level does not simply end, start to explore the area because there are sill a few undead soliders moving around.
Level five takes the battle to the undead. Alicia’s main job will be to clear out the encamped undead soldiers before the backup human soldiers are killed. This is easier said than done and you will probably ditch caring for them, just like any other level, before you reach the halfway point. While this isn’t a great move for your overall score, ‘every man for himself’ can make the levels much easier. Five is a large level and presents a lengthy battle just like level two did previously. Clear out an hour of your life while you push through the soldiers, Worm people, and multiple tanks in the same vicinity. The final battle for level five is destroying multiple entrenched soldiers in a small area covered by heavy fog. It’s not as hard as other levels, but it can be a tad tedious doing the same thing over and over again.
If you have been following the plot during the cinema sequences, you have discovered that the hellmouth was created by a man who was attempting to resurrect his deceased daughter. Yep, the world went to hell because someone was trying to raise the body of someone who died. Ouick, get Sam Raimi on the phone and sell him on the idea of making a Bullet Witch movie. In fact, we can replace the very lame Maxwell Cougar with Ash and cast Bruce Campbell into the role. Evil Dead 4: Bullet Witch has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? But seriously, if you haven’t connected the dots by now as to Alicia’s origins, then the game will clearly spell it out for you as the demon-infused hunter thanks her creator for sending the world to hell.
Is the game over? Not quite. Alicia and friends still have the master Tri-Serpent demon to take care of back in the City of Screams. Level six takes place in the Eastern coastal city, as the city is overrun even worse than before in the short time since everyone left for the hellmouth. Some parts of the level will be familiar and others brand new as Alicia and the soldiers push towards the final boss. By now you should have maxed out your Hit Points, possibly your Magic Points, and have access to at least the minimum level of all the guns. The gattling gun will come in handy during the final boss, but it isn’t required to beat him. Level six will also feel a tad tedious as you push through what seems like endless waves of undead soldiers, Gigas, and tanks yet again on this large map. And after having fought from forty minutes to an hour just to reach the end, you will still have to face the final boss, which can average thirty minutes on its own.
Bullet Witch has great character design in regards to Alicia. However, the muddy controls and lousy level-layouts as you fight the same handful of demons repeatedly plague this poor game to no end. The character-upgrading factor is a nice touch and, if you would like, you can simply play level one over and over again while your stats and Experience Points are carried over to the new game. There is also some downloadable content that adds to the replay value of the game. The downloadable levels (Free in Japan, 20 MS Points in North America) are accessible after you beat the game once and feature remixed versions of the six in-game levels by changing where characters are, what the objective to beat the map is, or even what initial powers Alicia has access to. After all, why shoot the gas station on level one with a gun when you could just as easily call a Tornado or Meteor to do the dirty work? The additional costumes (Free in Japan and North America) are found under the options menu and are available at any time as a very nice bonus to the game. You can dump the gothic look for a red-plaid schoolgirl, a white witch, a sexy secretary, a revealing mummy, or a pixie-fairy costume. There were also plans for a Christmas outfit, but it was unfortunately never released. The costumes may not help the lackluster in-game graphics, but they do help the desire to beat each of the difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, Chaos) for the Achievement points.
The vocal cast can be a bit of a mixed bag from English production studio TAJ Productions. Sarah Natochenny gives a wonderful performance as Alicia Claus and fits each scene with the right amount of emotion and darkness required. Maxwell Cougar, on ther other hand, seems more than a bit off the mark despite having veteran voice actor Sean Schemmel in the role. Minor characters like the soldiers and undead army come off as complete cheese and are something to frown on if you pay attention to what they’re saying. If it wasn’t for Sarah’s sexy voice behind Alicia, the game might just be more fun on mute.
Bullet Witch is a mixed bag. As a fan of games like BloodRayne, I enjoy controlling a hot girl who kicks serious ass and has sexy outfits to show off that killer body. However, the $49.99 price tag is way too high for the quality of the game to be found within Bullet Witch. Atari supposedly overhauled the controls from the original Japanese release, but they are still muddy and error-prone at the worst times possible. The one-hit kills from flying objects can also dampen anyone’s spirit on wanting to continue playing the game. Early pre-orders came with a very well-done comic book that gives a few helpful tips along with the great artwork. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a regular series planned anytime soon. Prima Games has an official guide on the market for Bullet Witch if you need some help. It’s handy for the first run-through of the game and to maximize your overall game score for the Leaderboards, but you won’t need it after you’ve beaten the game once. The guide would have been more valuable if Prima had reprinted the entire limited edition comic book inside instead of just small excerpts. Bullet Witch isn’t a terrible game and I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel that corrects the problems found in this title. The game’s final ending does leave the storyline open to make another game. Bullet Witch is a strong retail title and a good purchase down the road when the price drops a bit more. A fair price would be $30, but any higher is too much. It’s unfortunate that such a great character like Alicia is stuck in a so-so game for her debut.