Image: Bullet Witch
In "Bullet Witch," you'll try to save humanity  using your impressive weapons cadre and your arsenal of magic. Too bad your allies tend to wander into your line of fire.
By contributor
updated 3/15/2007 11:02:43 AM ET 2007-03-15T15:02:43

Cavia’s action title “Bullet Witch” for the Xbox 360 has all the right pieces for a good game: constant battles, creepy enemies, massive firepower and potent spells. Unfortunately, the pieces don't come together to make a cohesive, engaging game.

The game starts out promising enough — with a good story. In 2013, the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland because back in 2007, an archaeologist opened a gateway to hell. Since then, humanity has been winnowed down to a mere billion, thanks to plagues, earthquakes and demonic hordes. And you thought global warming was going to be bad.

In “Bullet Witch,” you play Alicia, who arrives on the scene dressed in leather and packing a gun-rod — a cannon with an endless supply of ammo. You join the resistance to help save what’s left of humanity by shepherding survivors out of the city. Along the way, you fight demon-infected humans, evil spirits and other creatures. The final boss is the hideous Tri-Serpent Demon, a huge monster who throws fireballs at you and has snakes for limbs.

To even the odds, there’s a satisfying arsenal of magic at your fingertips. Taking enemy fire? Hide behind a conjured wall. Need to save a civilian? Heal him with a flick of the wrist. Have an urge to level a city block? Call down the heavens to bring the pain. Wielding magic while taking enemy fire is an acquired skill. Expect to get killed a couple times in the beginning.

But experience breeds expertise, and you can enhance your gun-rod and your magic by spending points you earn for your performance. Quick tip: improve the Raven’s Panic spell when you can. Being able to pick off enemies who are confused by a flock of summoned birds makes your job as savior easier.

All of this sounds fun, and it is. Sometimes.

Where “Bullet Witch” starts to slip is in the visuals and the story. While the city and the monsters have their own slick design (not to mention the fetching Alicia), trees, cars and even enemies suddenly appear out of nowhere. As for the paper-thin story, Alicia’s big secret (which would be a spoiler to reveal) is like a stage whisper heard three miles away. Finally, the dialogue is cringe-worthy, delivered either lifelessly or comically bad.

Even if you skip the dialogue, there’s no way to avoid feeling lost at times in the game. It’s easy to get disoriented, whether in the city or in a fog-laden forest. At times, mission objectives are thrown at you with little explanation. You do get some aid with your spirit guide, Darkness, but it’s not enough. More than once, you’ll ask yourself, “O.K., where do I go now?”

But the worst wart on “Bullet Witch” is the ghastly artificial intelligence of the humans you must save. The civilians wander aimlessly, shuffling away from enemy fire when they should be hotfooting for their lives. Meanwhile, the resistance fighters have a tendency to wander into your fire or the enemy’s, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that your score depends on how well you mother your troops.

The game’s extras are also a mixed bag. In the coming months, players will be able to download new costumes and additional missions from Xbox Live. While that does stretch out the life of "Bullet Witch," it also makes the game feel half-finished. Extra costumes are typically unlockable fare in other games. Having to pay for more missions (costumes will be free) might leave a sour taste in gamers' mouths.

"Bullet Witch" is worth a rental, but don't expect much bubble for your toil and trouble. And that’s a shame since “Bullet Witch” could be the start a decent franchise. It has all the right ingredients, but what came out of the cauldron is a tepid potion indeed.

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