Friday, April 6, 2007

REVIEW: BulletWitch

Every once in a while a game comes along that changes the way we look at video games and its influence will be felt in countless titles for years to come.

BulletWitch is not such a game.

It is however, contrary to what most reviews would have you believe, not without its merits and can be pretty damn fun.

BulletWitch plays like your standard third person shooter but with the added element of Alicia's magic spells, which are the best part of the game. Using your telekinesis spell to launch concrete blocks at tanks, which explode as they are flipped over like a child's toy, is very cool. The biggest problem with the spells is that they aren't integrated well into the gameplay, and some are just useless. Simply running through the game shooting everything is as solid a strategy, if not moreso, than using fancy magic. Also, some of the spells, Meteor in particular, while impressive to behold, are almost too dangerous to actually use because the resulting shrapnel (i.e. three-story tall chunks of cement) is just as effective at killing you as it is your enemies. The game is extremely realistic in that regard: When the meteors start raining down, you'd best find yourself someplace else to be, a lesson we would do well to take with us into our everyday lives, no doubt.

The game's visuals are also a mixed bag. Alicia is well designed and animates nicely but the framerate is sketchy and the environments, particularly the first level, are drab. There are moments though, such as the game's two boss fights, where the game distinguishes itself from last-gen titles. The first boss fight, without spoiling anything, kind of gives a glimpse at what a 360 version of Panzer Dragoon Saga might look like. The aforementioned spell effects are also a sight to see and while they tend to bring the game to its knees, the resulting slowdown actually lends a cinematic quality to the sequences.

Unfortunately the game is ultimately too short and it offers little reason to play through a second time unless you want to get all of the uninspired achievements. (Beat Game on Easy, Beat Game on Normal, Beat Game on Hard etc.) Some unlockable stuff would've helped in that department. The concept art for the game is very cool and there were lots of design sketches done for alternate costumes for Alicia that could've been included in an art gallery. Instead, bonuses like costumes and new missions are only available for download through Xbox Live.

BulletWitch is certainly not worth the $50 it is selling for now but it's worth a rental if you're looking for something different and you've already played through the cream of the 360 crop. I expect it won't be too long before you can snag a copy for under $20...

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