Earlier this year I dusted the cobwebs off my mighty PlayStation Vita and downloaded an intriguing looking indie titled by the name of Reverie. Boasting an aesthetic reminiscent of Earthbound and enjoyable Zelda-like gameplay, it immediately won me over and left me anticipating the next game New-Zealand based developer Rainbite would release next. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long for their next game as Trigger Witch has arrived, bringing with it a zany narrative, addictive twin-stick shooting and Zelda-style dungeons, presented in a cute and vibrant 16-bit aesthetic.
Trigger Witch sees you play as Colette of Ozryn, a young witch who is just about to graduate from The Stock, a school of Witchcraft and Trigger. As you would’ve likely already gathered from the game’s title and the various gun puns in my previous sentence, the world of Trigger Witch has an unhealthy fondness for firearms.
The witches of Evertonia aren’t your stereotypical wand-toting witches, with traditional magic no longer practiced and firearms deemed the way forward for Witchcraft. From the moment guns magically appeared in Evertonia after being spat out from a mysterious portal known as the Ordnance Rift in an event referred to as The Great Trigger, society has been infatuated with them, trading their broomsticks for boomsticks without hesitation. This infatuation also led to the breakdown in relations between the witches and the goblins of Evertonia, to the point where a magical partition was established to separate the races entirely.
To complete the Stock Gauntlet trial and graduate from The Stock to the protectors of the land known as The Clip, Colette must first visit the Ordnance Rift, which will bestow her with a weapon if it deems her worthy. Colette is gifted a pistol by the Rift, but it hurls it at her at a blistering speed, whacking her on the scone and knocking her unconscious. While out for the count, a mysterious hooded figure known as the Man in Black emerges from the rift and quickly scurries off. She recovers and completes the Gauntlet, but celebrations are cut short when Colette is tasked with venturing through the land of Evertonia to track down the Man in Black, a journey that will see her not just explore the realm she’s known her whole life, but also the Goblin land that hasn’t been visited by a Witch for generations.
Trigger Witch’s narrative isn’t overly deep or engaging, but it does an admirable job of building up the world of Evertonia. What aids the story the most is the quality of its writing, as it’s unabashedly littered with puns and humorous dialogue. The silliness of Trigger Witch is its biggest charm, and even when the narrative goes off the deep and gets bonkers in its penultimate moments, I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy the insanity of it all. The plot probably won’t blow you away, but it’ll likely make you chuckle a few times.
What will blow you away however is Trigger Witch’s amazing soundtrack, which not only sounds fantastic, but changes on the fly depending on the situation at the time. If in combat, the soundtrack is of the badass metal variety, whereas moments outside of combat are as blissful as can be.
The zaniness of Trigger Witch extends to its visuals as well. Whether it’s seeing the racks of guns outside the shops of what is otherwise a peaceful and vibrant town, to seeing the gun iconography that feature both inside and out of the Church of Ballisticism (yep, they have a gun Church), it all hammers home how strange the world of Trigger Witch is. Despite the cutesy aesthetic, don’t expect your bullets to simply turn your foes into a colourful puff of confetti, unless you happen to turn on Pinata mode which is available in the menu. By default, killing the surprisingly cute enemies of Trigger Witch will see their guts paint the floor in a smear of red. Much like how its narrative makes an uncommon partnership between witches and weaponry, the world of Trigger Witch takes a similar approach, creating a seemingly peaceful and wholesome world that is also surprisingly messed up and gruesome.
When it comes to gameplay, Trigger Witch is a welcome amalgamation of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Hotline Miami, utilising the traditional 2D Zelda formula of exploring an overworld littered with dungeons and replacing its sword combat with addictive twin-stick shooting. Colette’s quest to track down the Man in Black leads to her visiting various dungeons around Evertonia, with her aim to complete the dungeon and collect the crucial item needed to further the plot.
Dungeons are filled with a mix of puzzles and combat rooms, both of which Colette will need to use her arsenal of weaponry to solve. Puzzles often require you to complete tasks such as shooting switches in particular order or making use of that dungeon’s weapon in order to access areas that were otherwise not accessible. For example, the Snapfrost Dungeon has ice blocks that can only be removed when you’ve unlocked the flamethrower. Combat rooms force Colette to rid of all enemies present within the room to progress to the next, and often require you to be quick and nimble, making use of various weapons as well as Colette’s handy dodge.
Enemies when slain also drop gems, a currency which can be used to purchase weapon upgrades. No Zelda-style dungeon would be complete with Boss Fights however, and while they do appear and offer up fun fights, they are a little too easy overall. The Zelda-style dungeon approach in Trigger Witch is undoubtedly old-school, but it’s a great time and will be a welcome dose of nostalgia for those who have missed the retro games of yesteryear. Dungeons are fine for the most part but can be frustrating due to their insistence on backtracking and the fact that it’s easy to get lost in them. Also frustrating were the couple of crashes that booted me from the game entirely, but thankfully the auto save system did a good job of ensuring not much progress was lost.
The titular Trigger Witch Colette is initially equipped with the default pistol, however as her quest continues, she will get her hands on an enviable arsenal of firearms, with Dual Uzis, a Shotgun, and an AK-47 not even half of the weapons you’ll unlock the way. While you’re likely to have favourites (the shotgun was my favourite) the fact that they take a few seconds to reload and can’t be done so manually like the pistol ultimately forces your hand and encourages you to try more than just the weapons you’re comfortable with. Gunplay is solid fun but doesn’t provide much in the way of variety. Most guns ultimately feel the same, but the act of dodging around and covering countless enemies in a myriad of bullets is enjoyable enough to not get stale throughout the roughly 8-to-10-hour adventure.
When not in dungeons completing puzzles or turning adorable enemies into a bloody paste, exploring the overworld is a good way to get even more gems, or perhaps even weapon parts that can be exchanged for access to upgrade paths on weapons. Once a weapon kit has been used to unlock the ability to upgrade aspects of a weapon such as its fire rate, damage, total ammo and reload speed, gems can also be used to upgrade these stats even further.
Overall, Trigger Witch takes the quality Zelda-style formula that Rainbite first attempted with Reverie and refines it with more enjoyable gameplay, a charming story about witches and weapons that isn’t afraid to get crazy, a beautiful soundtrack, and a simplistic yet pretty pixel aesthetic. Give it a look and its soundtrack a listen.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron