Review – Trigger Witch
Have you ever thought about playing a The Legend of Zelda game where they removed the sword, shield, magic, and other items in favor of massive guns? No? Me neither, but that’s essentially was caught my eye with Trigger Witch. It’s an odd marriage of ideas and it completely caught me off guard the moment I pulled out my hand cannon and decimated a cute onion enemy into a splatter of blood and guts. One minute I was listening to playful music in a forest area, then fountains of blood and rock music kicked in. I was taken aback, but at the same time, extremely intrigued.
I mention Legend of Zelda above because the inspirations in Trigger Witch are very clear. So clear that some sound effects and music almost seem completely ripped from LoZ. This is how much of an homage they’re paying to that series. Hell, the game even starts with the main character over sleeping. You play as Collette, a budding prospect for the Stock, an academy that brings peace through the practice and usage of Triggery. In this world magic has been forgotten and instead has been replaced by guns. As witches and wizards come of age the mysterious Ordnance Portal will choose if they’re worthy to join the Stock by sending out a weapon.
The Ordnance Portal doesn’t allow anyone to cross, until one day a mysterious man in black came out of the portal. He captures your mother, who is one of the head member of the Stock, and now you’re sent on a quest to save your mother and restore the land to peace. While the overall premise is pretty standard, the ending will have you saying “what the f*&k?”. Trigger Witch provides the typical set pieces you’ve seen before, like snowy mountains, caverns, beach areas, volcanic areas, etc. However, it does have a few unique ideas within the levels. For example, the mines have crystals that will reflect your bullets and are used in smart ways for puzzles and combat. There is also a section with an Arena that will test your skills, and fun sections periodically that put you on a broomstick and engage in combat like 1942.
Instead of unlocking specific gear or items that will help you finish the dungeons, you unlock new weapons. Unfortunately, there is only one weapon that is used specifically to advance in the dungeon, the others are just new finds to reward you. I feel like this was a missed opportunity to put more emphasis on the weapons themselves to aid in solving the dungeon. Luckily, the weapon selection is large and for the most part all are useful. You of course have your trusty hand cannon, but quickly unlock an AK-47, sawed-off shotgun, flamethrower, dual Uzi’s, heavy machine gun, long rifle, grenade launcher, and a mysterious gun towards the end.
Each weapon comes with four upgrades: Damage, Reload Speed, Fire Rate, and Magazine Size. To unlock the upgrades you need to find Weapon Kits hidden throughout the world, and then spend your crystals to increase the stat. Crystals are also used to purchase health upgrades, as well as play a mini-game at the casino. You can also purchase maps for each area of the world which will give you a question mark at the chests that contain the Weapon Kits. However, it won’t show you where the entrance of the caves are for some of the more hidden chests.
The combat itself, as I mentioned before, is a twin-stick shooter and for the most part it does this aspect well. Plenty of crazy intense enemy rooms where bullets are flying everywhere and guts are plastered on walls. There is a satisfying feeling to clearing rooms and challenges. It’s just very unfortunate that the boss fights and designs are so weak. I had more fun fighting room after room of enemies than the bosses.
Switching through weapons is also the only way to reload, so this cleverly gets you to use other weapons. I do like the majority of the guns since they all have their different feel, usage, and sounds, so it didn’t mind cycling through my arsenal. Besides the guns, you do have the ability to dodge, which grants a brief moment of invincibility to get through an attack and make an escape. There is always constant pressure on the player, so movement is key as well as making sure you keep that laser site where you need it.
I did notice some issues with the aiming where it would almost soft lock to the cardinal directions if you were trying to aim just off of them. It resulted in some annoying moments during combat. I also noticed some iffy hit registration when it came to the player’s hitbox, as well as still getting hit when dodging. These issues are irritating, but manageable. However, I kept running into a glitch issue where the game would stop saving, even if I tried to manually save.
I believe this issue is linked with another one where I would get a loading transition screen that wouldn’t leave. The save issue was one thing, but if I then went into any area that needed to load, the loading screen wouldn’t go away. I could hear the character moving and shooting, but the loading screen would still be up. This issue was the worst because it forced me to hard quit the game and lose progress. What is even worse is that is happened around ten different times, mostly in the dungeons.
I do really like the 16-bit art style used; there are some really nice locations and cute characters. The gore effects they got with 16-bit are savagely detailed, even browning and darkening as the stains get older. A lot of the design is obviously very inspired by Zelda, but they infused some weapons and such of their own design into things. Luckily, they found a way to make it seem charming in its own way and not some NRA ad. The environments and even Collette herself are detailed well with some great animations. However, the enemy and boss designs lack a lot style. Their designs are very basic and not threatening at all. The bosses almost come off as goofy and that’s not exactly how you want a boss fight to feel.
The sound design is one of my favorite parts of the game, mostly because the soundtrack hits a lot of nostalgia for me. I bet you’re tired of the comparison, but I’m saying it again. This soundtrack borderlines on copyright infringement to Zelda, and that isn’t a bad thing in my eyes. The light tunes with the wind flute are beautiful while exploring, but once the bullets fly the rock kicks in for an interesting turn. The guns all have their own distinct sounds and have a nice weight to them. The other various sound effects in the environments and such are your basic 16-bit effects. Nothing special there, but it works fine with the visuals and retro style.
Trigger Witch is an odd pairing of inspirational ideas that ends up being just over the top enough to work. There is a decent amount of content during this adventure, and with full co-op and a difficult New Game + you will be busy goring cute enemies for a long time. Despite some lackluster boss fights, the overall design and gameplay are solid, and I did really enjoy my entire time with it. Unfortunately, in its current state it is hard to recommend due to a lot of the glitches and issues I ran into, but with some fixes this is the “Zelda with guns” game you’ve always wanted.
The pixel art is well done and the animations are very smooth. However, the enemy and boss designs aren’t very impressive.
The twin-stick shooting works for the most part, but there are moments of bad hit detection. Plenty of over the top weapons, hidden areas for upgrades, and bullet-hell fights to keep you moving.
Besides the guns themselves the sound design is heavily inspired by Zelda. The music and sound effects are light and playful, with a quick switch to rock and bullets during fights.
The idea of taking a Zelda adventure game and mixing it with twin-stick shooting and over-the-top blood was fun and caught me off guard. However, the level design and bosses get stale and loading screen glitches add frustration.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Trigger Witch is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Trigger Witch was provided by the publisher.