20th Jun2019

Digital Shorts: ‘Witch Thief’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Witch Thief, a new 3D shmup available now on the Nintendo Switch.

witch-thief-screen

On a quest to steal an enchanted grimoire, a snarky sorceress embarks on a dangerous journey through five distinctive, perilous zones, surviving arena-based ambushes by possessed dolls and arcane bosses. Naturally the tome’s guardians won’t give it up without a fight, so our heroine must do what she does best: that is, sneaking in the front door and stealing it from under their noses.

Developed by Cardboard Keep, Witch Thief is a bullet-hell shooter that can be played in both classic 2D Shmup perspective or over the shoulder 3D – best of all you can adjust the camera’s vertical angle on the fly to best deal with the patterns of attack, the game also allows the use of focus control to concentrate both projectile spread and visual perspective – and its a good job you can do both of these because Witch Thief is a damn hard shoot ‘em-up even with these options. I’d hate to think what it would be like without them!  I’m not going to lie, I’m also grateful for the perspective changes because I unfortunately REALLY can’t play this game in its 3D mode – the targeting is, for me, absolutely impossible in this mode. But then I’ve never been a big fan of this type of 3D-perspective gaming. Which yes, means I hate playing Space Harrier, Panzer Dragoon and many, many more such shoot-em ups! Sorry. Not sorry.

Players can unlock three more playable and equally feisty witch heroines with different powers, each with a personal story told through unique dialogue, entwined inextricably with the Witch Thief’s own tale. Which is the games fancy way of saying you can play through this game multiple times without it getting overly-familiar. Or overly-repetitive. Though I don’t know anyone who’d want to subject themselves to such a frustrating game multiple times… It took me long enough to play through it once – hence the super-delayed review!

I know that Witch Thief is supposed to be a hard as nails bullet-hell shooter but there’s hard and then there’s play this on the easiest level possible in the mere hope of getting any further into the game than the first level! Thankfully the game does feature flexible difficulty – from standard limited-life modes including normal difficulty, where you have a standard you have 3 lives, to easy mode which gives you 10 lives. There’s also a “Chill Mode”, where losing a life merely resets to weapon defaults. A mode which may SEEM like the kid-friendly option but a mode that – in all honesty – is actually much needed. Especially given how long each level, or “zone” as the game calls them actually is. Each of the games five distinctive zones, which include spooky forest glades to magnificent cathedral vaults – each with multiple boss battles and ambush arenas – can last for up to a ridiculous 30 minutes. 30 minutes! So go on “hardcore gamer” you tell me that putting the game on easy (or even chill) mode is NOT an option..!

I’ve already mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of the 3D perspective of Witch Thief and as such I’d recommend the ropier-looking Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle over this particular genre entry, even with that games flaws. Merely for the fact Witch Thief is just too damn frustratingly difficult to actually enjoy!

Witch Thief is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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