I had been debating dipping my toe into a certain discourse subject involving a certain dogshit wizard game that’s currently really popular with neo-nazis and performative dipshits who can’t log off of Gab 2.0 (scratch the latter and you’ll find the former anyway). By “dipping my toe” I mean covering wizard/witch games that are actually good. Originally, I decided against it, because if you’re reading this site, you’re not a fucking idiot, and you don’t need me being petty and borderline edgelordy when I can simply be doing anything else. But then yesterday, I remembered that Bullet Witch exists, so I quickly changed my mind again, because the people need to know about Bullet Witch.
Bullet Witch is one of many awesome, lesser known games by cavia inc. (stylized in lower-case). It’s a spiritual successor to another great cavia title, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (only mentioning this so people will also check out Ghost in the Shell). The game itself is fairly basic: you run around shooting at things in large environments until there is nothing left to shoot. Because your character is a witch, you can also cast magic spells to bolster your offense. The game does not get much more complex than that. Bullet Witch is a mechanically simple game, but it uses that simplicity very well. Alicia, the titular Bullet Witch, runs and shoots and jumps for the course of six levels, in a game that’s over in about a few hours. This is a low-budget shooter that gives off the impression of looking like it was supposed to be developed for the Playstation 2, but then shifted over the XBox 360. It is a janky shooter with a weird localization that has competent, but not exceptional voice acting, no different from many Japanese games of the era. At first, the story is the standard “demons have invaded the world, and you have to kill them,” while Alicia occasionally teams up with a military group led by a boisterous stereotype names Maxwell Cougar. At a glance, it would be hard to tell this apart from something like Earth Defense Force.
So, you’re probably wondering what makes Bullet Witch so special if it doesn’t do anything on a design level that hasn’t been done by a double digit number of other XBox 360 games. Where Bullet Witch excels is its sense of style; its soul. In true cavia fashion, Bullet Witch takes place during the brink of the apocalypse, where everyone is about to die and everything is bleak. The state of the world is explained in a wonderfully done intro that is genuinely chilling at points. While demons invade the world through a dimensional rift, there’s strong hints that the world was well on its way to destruction before then. Constant natural disasters, climate change getting worse, another war in the Middle East, a killer virus running rampant worldwide, then the demons arrive. A nice bit of world building. Granted, none of this comes up in-game, but it does try to justify why the environments are so empty, and I can appreciate that. Bullet Witch is a game where a lot of fucked up shit happened, which causes fucked up things to emerge and make things worse, so you have to kill them.
Boy howdy, do I love the things you have to kill in this game. A bulk of your time will be spent fighting members of the US military that have exchanged their souls for demonic power, and now are these skeletal monstrosities who wear human skin, Texas Chainsaw Massacre style. Weird thing is, they all have to faux-British cartoon villain accents. Maybe that was done out of some fear of pissing off a post 9/11 America, because boy we were still loving our troops in 2006. In any event, you fight a lot of soldiers. Sometimes, they have tanks that you have to destroy by calling down a lightning strike that is this big, extravagant visual display. Then you have the Giant Soldiers, these building-sized fuckers with wrist-mounted miniguns, and hit the ground so hard when they die that they cause an area of effect impact that can kill smaller enemies underneath it. Despite their size, they’re actually super easy: just shoot them in their heart until it explodes.
I would be perfectly fine with a game where all I did was shoot slightly more evil American soldiers. But then there are more enemy types that look like they came out of a cancelled horror game. These extremely imaginative creatures that would be memorable in any major horror title, but are instead hidden in an obscure shooter. Normal humans taken over by parasitic ghosts, their heads mutating into these unnatural bulbous things. They run at you with no control over their upper bodies, like an inflatable tube man in a strong wind, while making strange noises out of the gaping hole that used to be a mouth. It’s a very uncanny valley thing.
What creates the spirits that turns people into these things? It’s only a multi-armed woman/larvae hybrid that looks both gross and cool as fuck.
Bullet Witch has style. This shooter with a mild horror element that rules so hard. It doesn’t have the polish of something like Gears of War 2, but the art style makes Bullet Witch far more memorable. A moody girl with an assault rifle shaped like a broom blasting monsters that look cool as fuck. She can throw down a rose that causes spikes to pop out of the ground and impale everything they touch. She can call a horde of ravens to peck at enemies, leaving them open for you to shoot without consequence. She can use a force push to shove cars and debris at enemies, killing them instantly and brutally. She can call up all sorts of elemental storms. Guns and magic are a sweet combination. Bullet Witch is not polished; frame rate is inconsistent (on XBox), lots of physics bugs, cutscenes are choppy, the PC port requires some finagling to get working right, but it is fun. Bullet Witch is very much of its era: the kind of low-budget PS2/360 game with lots of negative reviews and could be found at Game Stop for next to no money that would be the most fucking amazing thing you could throw into your console. Everyone should play Bullet Witch because it’s cool, and fun, and has a great art style.