Monday, April 22

Review: Witch Thief [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There’s no doubt that the shooter genre is well-represented on the Switch, there are high-quality shooters of pretty well every kind on the system. All that said, I can’t say I’ve played any bullet hell shooters played from almost a third-person behind the character perspective. Witch Thief delivers that experience, and it is certainly unexpected and challenging. Unfortunately, based on the resulting gameplay I’d say perhaps there’s been a good reason we’ve not seen this style of play before.

Cutting through to the quick once you get the hang of things and adjust the camera angle to your liking (I found that difficult at first, I wasn’t quite happy with the default) things are at least manageable. You’ll get to know the attack patterns of your enemies and bosses, you’ll decide which sort of firepower suits you best overall or perhaps in specific stages or circumstances, and you’ll learn when it’s best to use your spells to essentially save your ass. In particular if you’re able to hold out with them until you’re up against bosses those tend to be very helpful in those circumstances, as expected.

With those basics in mind we’ll then get to the issues. The first is that the control simply feels a bit floaty and odd, not my preference when playing a shooter where precision is a key. It isn’t to say the controls seem to be inaccurate so much as their general feel is odd. The second is that a major flaw of playing a bullet hell shooter from this perspective is you’re screwed if anything gets behind you and as you progress that’s definitely going to happen. You think you’re doing well and bang, you’re dead. This sort of thing often makes survival and lasting longer feel like a function of luck more than skill as you can try to keep things from getting behind you but since there’s nothing really helping you determine this you’ll either be spinning to look around or taking your chances. The last, and this is partially due to the previous point but it was a problem in other cases too, is that as easy as it is to take a hit and die it isn’t always clear what happened to hit you. It can’t all be from behind but while it’s sometimes clear you got nailed while trying to dodge other times it’s just game over and you’re left wondering, which is a bummer.

Overall, I appreciate With Thief trying to shake things up and do them differently. This was a pretty big risk to take. Aside from the fundamental problems this view matched with this perspective presents, which could still have been handled in some sort of way with a flash to either side to indicate something is behind you or at least about to hit you, its overall feel is just a bit odd. Shooter fans who may like the art style or are willing to take a chance on something out of the ordinary may have fun with it but overall there are clearly better choices in the genre on the system.

Score: 5.5

  • Tries to shake things up with something new
  • Has a distinctive look

  • Being unable to see or detect threats from behind is a big problem
  • Hard to settle in to an ideal camera angle for the overall action
  • Just feels floaty overall, not a great match with a genre big on precision