Androgynous Witches in Bullet Hell
Trouble Witches Neo is the latest in a long line of releases for XBox Live Arcade during the Spring of 2011, and it's likely one of the less known games to grace the service as well. Its colorful style and anime influence definitely put it in a niche that will attract players who know what they're looking for, but it it any good?
This is pretty standard fare if you're a well-seasoned bullet hell aficionado. Definitely praise Trouble Witches for its wide variety of options. You've got several characters to choose from, each with different stories, sidekicks, firing patterns, and subtle stat changes. You can play with the story mode active, or the story turned off. You can switch the voices between English and Japanese with subtitles. You can play special challenge modes that pit you against timed score attacks or a scalable boss rush. You can even play the original arcade version of the game if it interests you.
Game play is simple enough: Your chosen witch can use her normal fire, and also buy cards from vendors mid-level that allow for more powerful attacks. In addition, she can raise a magical barrier that will catch and slow down bullets that enter it. This technique becomes key to dodging extreme patterns of enemy fire, or for more advanced players, keeping as many bullets on screen in order to convert them all into a rain of coinage. In the end, Trouble Witches comes down to score, score, and score. If you're into playing for score, then you'll have a blast experimenting with the game mechanics. If you're into playing for story, then... you might be a bit disappointed.
Each witch has her own story, but they're all quite whimsical. Most make plays at bad humor, and there's no intrigue or attachment whatsoever. And without a well-crafted story or character development, Trouble Witches Neo suddenly loses all of the depth it seemingly gained on its title screen.
The game comes off feeling derivative of other, better games of this genre. The graphics are crisp but environments and enemies are generic and uninteresting. Each character has a personality that ranges from boring to obnoxious, and the voice acting - in either English or Japanese flavor - is annoying and extremely dispassionate. The English dub, specifically, falls especially low to the ground in terms of quality. The localization team surely invited their neighbors over for sardines and voice acting one wintry evening, and ended up with this fine mess.
If you're into bullet hell game play from the shores of Japan, chances are you bought Trouble Witches Neo well before ever reading this review. It's not a bad example of the genre, but it's not in the upper echelons, either. Six levels after the intro, it's over and done with, and you might be feeling just a tad ripped off.