I love a good twin-stick shooter, but I always feel like they work best in short bursts, like in arcade-style games or roguelikes. Diving into a run of Assault Android Cactus, Nuclear Throne, or Enter the Gungeon and then taking a break is how I like to go about these things, and with Trigger Witch having a world to explore and a story to follow, it ended up being a little exhausting.
It’s cute, bloody, and feels fine to play, but my attention started to waver after an hour or two. This was never the case with other twin-sticks that weren’t arcade-inspired or roguelikes, like Alienation, Dead Nation, and Helldivers, that had more bite-sized (mission- and/or linear level-based) campaigns.
I want to reiterate that I don’t think Trigger Witch is a bad game. In a nutshell, it looks like A Link to the Past if it was a twin-stick shooter, with weapon upgrades and light puzzle elements peppered in for good measure. It looks pretty good in motion too, outside of a weird design choice that fades in the pixels when objectives are met, but otherwise, it’s pleasant on the eyes.
The narrative is pretty silly, with you being deemed worthy to wield a gun by some divine being and passing a field exam to join The Clip: chosen witches who act as investigators and a sort of defense force. Your first order of business is to investigate the appearance of a mysterious figure clad in black clothing, but not before setting out to acquire three items in order to brew a potion to pass through the town’s barrier. Alrighty.
I like weird stuff, so the concept of witches who don’t even use magic, but guns, amused me. However, the twin-stick gameplay became tiring after the first two hours of wandering around and turning monsters into bloody chunks.
A large part of this has to do with the twin-stick genre giving you all of the tools you need early on and pummeling you with ever-increasing challenges that never drag on too long. Some of my recent favorites, like XenoCrisis, Tesla vs Lovecraft, and Assault Android Cactus follow this “gameplay is king” formula to great effect, but Trigger Witch drops this familiar gameplay style into more of an adventure game. It wants you to talk to people, explore, and follow a story, which is admittedly novel, but without changing things up it lost its luster pretty quickly.
You do acquire new guns and killing stuff fills up a flask that you can use to heal yourself, but aside from that and a dash that lets you avoid projectiles and bypass hazards, what you see in the first 20 minutes is basically what you get.
Again, that works just fine in a game that’s meant to be played one run at a time, but it wasn’t enough to keep me interested in Trigger Witch. I played for another hour, meaning three total, and that felt like enough. I appreciate what the developers were going for but I don’t think it stuck the landing.
A digital Xbox code was provided by the game’s publisher EastAsiaSoft for the purposes of this review. It was played entirely on an Xbox Series X. Trigger Witch released on July 21, 2021, for $14.99.