We’ve all seen and heard a great deal about Bayonetta thanks to Sega’s commendable promotional campaign and word on the street is that’s it’s a very good game. Whoever this street talker is, they’re absolutely right. Platinum Games have successfully created a new IP with a plentiful history and a lead character who is more than just a pretty face. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Bayonetta isn’t a game about skill or even anything new because it does a hell of a lot more – and does it very well indeed. If hack-and-slash games are your cup of tea then grab yourself one mighty cup and read on to see why this tea tastes so very sweet.
Since this is a tale of a troubled amnesiac, the player discovers the reason for Bayonetta’s being as she does. You find out early on that she is a member of an ancient clan of witches and was trapped at the bottom of a lake. Why she was there and everything that happened before is a mystery but after some questionable activities from her enemies, Bayonetta begins to unravel her past in a tantalisingly twisting tale. It’s quite impressive for a hack and slash game even though Bayonetta would be equally as entertaining if it had no story at all. The fight mechanics, choreography and direction of the superbly eccentric characters drove me to continue the carnage simply because it was just so much fun. As if an added bonus, the story is delivered in a way that you can choose how involved you wish to become. Just want to know the facts? Cut-scenes and storyboard sequences take care of that. Interested in the history of the Umbra Witches, worlds and dimensions and character break-downs? Then leather-bound books scattered throughout the stages offer that level of detail when viewed in the menu. Polish this off voice acting that’s over the top but ever so fitting and you begin to see why I’m so impressed. Bayonetta sounds a bit like that old one from Sex and the City and moves with an air of confidence more feminine than slutty. Sure the camera hovers over her curvatures but her script ensures that she’s the one in charge, relying ultimately on her own skills and definitely the alpha character.
Weapons and items can be purchased using halos (dropped by defeated baddies or rewarded for completing a level) at the Gates of Hell – another worldly bar conveniently full of merchandise thanks to owner and old friend, Rodin. Despite the plethora of moves B is capable of, Rodin also sells extra techniques to learn which are as hilarious as they are deadly. My favourite has to be a simple holding of the right trigger causing B to breakdance and ending with her posing for a ‘mental photo’. Oh how I chuckled. Pressing Left Trigger swaps between two editable weapon presets giving more variety to Bayonetta’s attacks. Combos are plentiful each with beautiful animations of imaginative ways to dispose of foes like how B doesn’t just punch them but spanks them too. Build up enough magic and watch B pull off a torture move to a holy winged beast or even unravel her hair to form fists, heels and monstrous demons in her Climax moves. Some of the items used in the torture attacks also get left behind once the punishment is over and can be collected for a second use too. Witch time is a technique that should be perfected as it will be the very reliance of B’s existence. Pull the right trigger just as an enemy attacks to see time slow down temporarily, giving you the advantage and hopefully ending some angels.
As she remembers more of her past, B regains her old powers opening yet more avenues for the player. Early on she remembers how she can walk on walls if the moon is full and later stages make use of this as they do all her new abilities like B’s animal forms. Don’t think combat is a simple button-tap-to-victory affair because you’ll have to learn how to effectively deal with enemies that may appear easy but can do a lot of harm. This could very easily overwhelm players not familiar with the genre but please those who are well versed at hack-and-slash games. What starts off as a pleasurable ease into the carnage soon becomes ever so hard thanks to the recycling of bosses and minibosses. This can get a bit frustrating at times because as you’d expect, the bigger the boss, the harder they are and longer they take to waste so peppering them throughout later levels and beyond holds back the once perfect pace. To counter the frustration is the sense of dramatics that giant opponents bring with them. Not only are they fantastically designed but they take up the entire final level so you better get used to them. And it’ll be to your credit if you do so because toppling such beasts starts a flood of satisfaction that continues long after you’re done. Even in the vehicular stages (like the classic Hang-On inspired motorbike levels), numerous bosses still make an appearance but work equally well.
Thankfully you get limitless continues but this blessing comes as a hidden curse since the more used effects your end of level score which in turn, can hurt your chance at buying that gun or technique you so desire. The same can be said for helpful items you may come across or buy. Relying on healing lollies or those that grant invincibility can make a considerable dent in your score. More annoyances are caused by the skittish camera that struggles in small spaces. I had to nurse the view quite a bit when fighting bigger enemies. But other than those few discrepancies, there really isn’t a lot to complain about. Everything else works so well that exceptions are easily made. Platinum Games even included a level based on another of Sega’s classic arcade hits but rather than spoiling it, I’ll allow you to be as awed on it’s discovery as I was.
As a character, Bayonetta is superb adding an air of sexy sophistication that other female gaming starlets lack and will hopefully become a stable franchise (especially with the open ended conclusion and hint of a second playable character). From the very beginning to the bitter sweet end, Bayonetta is unashamedly Japanese and makes no apologies for being challenging or purely focused on fun – and why should it? Despite what some may lead to you believe, there really isn’t any game quite like Bayonetta thanks to its ability to have a steady foothold in the realms of insanity blended effortlessly with gameplay that fans will adore. After my almost 13 hours, I had the fortune of watching and actually playing through the credits complete with a crazy dance routine to top it all off. Think not of Bayonetta as a Devil May Cry clone but of a new way to experience this genre made for those who just want to have fun with their games. Brilliant.
An outstanding experience that goes above and beyond expectations.
(Please note: I played the Xbox 360 version which is the platform to go for since the PS3 port suffers from poor frame rate and load times).