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Trigger Witch Review

Pull the trigger

Twin-stick shooters live and die on their secondary additions to a simple gameplay formula – less diplomatic people would call these ‘gimmicks’. They have about as simple a control scheme as you can get, relying on aesthetic choices or supplementary modes of gameplay to stand out. 2012’s Hotline Miami leaned heavily on its visual style and surreal narrative, and 2016’s Enter the Gungeon trumpeted its roguelike RPG elements. The innate control simplicity of their genre allowed those aspects of these now-classic titles to shine.

Trigger Witch, from New Zealand studio Rainbite, follows in Hotline Miami’s blood-soaked footsteps while studying Enter the Gungeon’s RPG rulebook like a Commerce student hopped up on NoDoz. Set in a whimsical fantasy world in which the only magic available to an aspiring witch is the spellbinding power of a fully loaded Kalashnikov, Trigger Witch is a twin-stick shooter in style and substance.

When a mysterious figure appears from an ancient firearm-dispensing portal, aspiring gun-witch Colette is caught up in a mystical quest that will take her across the land and scratch her itchy trigger finger. There are wild creatures and beastly bosses in her way, but that’s nothing a round or two from a revolver can’t fix! If you haven’t caught my gist, Trigger Witch’s charm stems from its delightfully constant tonal whiplash between a colourful and cute fantasy world (strongly reminiscent of 1991’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) and the gory carnage of its combat.

Except when the castle flips you the bird

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If you’ve ever wanted to reduce a cute and cuddly creature right out of Dragon Quest into a bloody pulp by making their last meal a mouthful of hot lead, Trigger Witch is your game. While a few hours of gameplay will certainly dull its edge, this is down to your brain’s nasty habit to normalise patterned behavior and sensations and is no fault of the game’s. Indeed, Trigger Witch treats its subversive style with a playful ignorance. The fact that witches are running about showing no mercy for stooges is given no winks; Trigger Witch’s tongue remains gently snuggled among its lower teeth. Its childlike sincerity goes a long way in making Trigger Witch and endless joy to experience.

In terms of gameplay, Trigger Witch retains its sincerity in a marginally less charming way. As a twin-stick shooter, its arcade-like simple gameplay loop is easy to grasp. It helps that the actual combat is polished like a museum Maxim Gun, smoothly letting bullets fly as Colette ducks and dashes. In fact, movement in Trigger Witch made me immediately think of 2017’s absolute banger RUINER. In its control details, however, the game slightly fumbles like a functioning alcoholic walking into work on a Monday morning. Pointing and shooting is what you’d expect from the genre, but reloading is the tricky part. Collete’s ‘Hand Cannon’ revolver is the only weapon that she can reload manually, with other weapons having to be holstered for a few seconds to fill their magazines.

In theory (and sometimes in practice), this system allows Colette to maintain her firing rate. A routine I became accustomed to was to start with the Hand Cannon to deplete its ammo, then switch to the gun on her back if I needed more bullets. By the time that gun was empty, and Colette automatically swapped to her trust sidearm, the Hand Cannon was locked and loaded. There’s even a handy-dandy system that allows Colette to map guns to directional buttons so she can switch between them at will. This helps when Colette starts collecting an American number of firearms (more than one). That said, the variety’s superb here. Flamethrowers, grenade launchers, twin sub-machine guns, oh my!

I have yet to meet one that can outsmart bullet-powered mine cart

However, this system can prove clunky: pressing a button cycles between the guns on Colette’s back, while another will draw her revolver. Colette may ‘carry’ two guns on her back, but it’s a bit of a pain to mix and match them in the middle of combat. She’d have to draw one, then select a new one to replace it. And if she wants to swap two out, she’ll have to do that twice. Even outside of combat, this can be a bit of a chore if you’re bothering to use different weapons in different situations. Alternatively, you can make her stick with your favorites or (as I did) simply upgrade the hell out of the Hand Cannon to make life easy.

Speaking of upgrading, Trigger Witch’s RPG elements are likewise very simple. Collectable gems act as currency, dropped into the bloody mess left behind by your unfortunate enemies or found in chests. Chests don’t explode into a blood stain when you shoot them, so they’re hardly the optimal option. These can be used to purchase either progressive upgrades to any weapons’ individual stats (after unlocking them with secret items), or just Colette herself. Other secret upgrades can be found in a secret area that I won’t spoil. These require an alternative currency which, again, I won’t spoil. Except for the cute lil’ bat that collects missed gems for you. His name is Ronald and I love him very much.

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‘Simple’ is, frankly, a backhanded compliment here. Like I mentioned before, funnelling upgrades into one weapon to make it somewhat of a crutch is both entirely possible and highly desireable. Stat upgrades are purchased as mere incremental increases to a gun’s power, magazine/clip size, reload speed, and fire rate. Purchasing a single upgrade for a stray rifle is, in my experience, a waste of gems that could be used to further buff the Hand Cannon seeing as the stat increase is so small. After all, you do automatically crack that cold revolver open whenever your big guns run dry. As soon as that sidearm was fully upgraded, though, you could simply let the gems ‘trickle down’ from the full gun into another emptier gun.

I think I know why my bat’s called Ronald now.

Never eat red snow

Final Thoughts

Trigger Witch’s twin-stick action and RPG elements scream for a more defined identity, but that’s more than made up for by the game’s incredible aesthetic discipline. A lesser development studio would have tried to run with the idea of G-rated fantasy with [REFUSED CLASSIFICATION], but Trigger Witch is clever enough to let it all happen naturally. It’s a loud, proud, blood cloud of an action game that anybody with an interest in the genre needs to check out.

Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Trigger Witch Review
She shot me down, bang bang...
Trigger Witch brings glorious violence to a whimsical fantasy world with simple and engaging gameplay. Only a well-meaning but clunky weapon system and relatively arbitrary RPG aspects bring this otherwise delightful romp down to reality.
The Good
Charming presentation
Visually cute
Polished combat
The Bad
RPG elements don't add much substance
Clunky weapon switch and reload system(s)
8
Get Around It
  • Rainbite
  • eastasiasoft
  • PS4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch
  • July 28, 2021 (PS4, Xbox One) July 29, 2021 (Nintendo Switch)

Trigger Witch Review
She shot me down, bang bang…
Trigger Witch brings glorious violence to a whimsical fantasy world with simple and engaging gameplay. Only a well-meaning but clunky weapon system and relatively arbitrary RPG aspects bring this otherwise delightful romp down to reality.
The Good
Charming presentation
Visually cute
Polished combat
The Bad
RPG elements don’t add much substance
Clunky weapon switch and reload system(s)
8
Get Around It
Written By Arana Judith

Arana blames her stunted social skills and her general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between her ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. Her brain remains at large.

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