Puts a spell on you and produces a demon made of hair to chomp you down
Smarmy combo-inducing pros may not acknowledge this, but ‘button-bashing’ is actually a complex art. It requires a solid, yet selectively frayed nerve to slaughter the enemy in a violent sword-slashing game of luck. Skill in translating pages upon pages of combos and inflaming your hand eye co-ordination all come to nothing. All of that complexity simply teeters on the palm of a button squashing addicted limb. Until now it’s a technique which serves both the unprofessional and the lazy incredibly well in times of frenzied panic, forcing us to jitter manically on a controller as if trying to find a way to resuscitate it whilst tickling its fancy. Even though it doesn’t always prove successful, it’s nevertheless satisfying. All this changed a week ago, when Bayonetta brushed alongside the skilled and the panicked, checking them all out and declaring that they all look damn fine, no matter what way they go about playing her…it…
The game opens with gymnastic spectacle, Sarah Palin lookalike Bayonetta playing the old ‘Amnesiac’ plot device card, having awakened 20 years prior in the bottom of a lake. A lust to recover lost memories by gaining an ancient artefact known as the Eyes Of The World and locked into a pact with the Devil to slaughter Angels to pay the mortgage, she sets out on a journey of self-discovery and sainted blood that’ll drop both character and player into a deep, deep pit of madness. And when everything kicks off with a high-octane battle upon the debris of a clock-tower face, falling down a cliff edge, then you know you’re in for quite the ride.
Bayonetta flips onto shelves gracefully with an infectious vanity, one which serves to persuade players that no matter how they play, they’ll look exceptional. A simple flick of the thumb on the right side of your pad can pull off a deadly junction of bizarre and gymnastically challenging combos which will make your jaw hit the floor and bounce straight back up to the ceiling. You’d think such moves would rope up your retinas and burn them to a cross, but slicing, dicing and gunning down waves of angelic hordes with a flurry of rose petals wasping through each movement.
It’s not all constant thumb mangling, however. Successfully dodging attacks at just the right moment allows Bayonetta to enter ‘Witch Time’, slowing down enemies so she can easily get an advantage over the opposition. It may sound like a cheap grasp at the over-used bullet time concept, but it can genuinely save you in times of need and manages to pump adrenaline in even the smallest of battles, keeping you eyes transfixed and your nerves on edge. Knowing that you have this upper edge constantly on hand means that no matter how crazy your button mashing gets, learning this one technique can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
Cut-scenes and action sequences are only hyped up more by the glamorous visuals
The familiarities to Devil May Cry from the artistic details in the architecture to the frenzied mellee-to-firearm combat are frequent, and it’s clear to see that director of said series, Hideki Kamiya, is behind this title. Yet Bayonetta manages to accelerate its comparative brethren by adding a platinum platter of flair to proceedings. Its creation seems somewhat dependant on the roots that made the previous series a hit, yet wishes to excel at everything where it left off, and it works with its combat system and impeccable style.
Bayonetta drags you into its world straight from your face, kissing your forehead yet dragging nails through your scalp if you dare question its camp vibe. Cheesy quotes and tongue in cheek voice-overs may somewhat dismay players who expect nothing but a hellish bloodbath, but the frequent innuendos, the gracious nods to video-game classics and dominatrix style devices used to spice up attacks all combine to push a humorous and intriguing storyline forward and to draw players deeper into the insanity.
Blink too much and you may miss one of the frequent quick time events that pop-up occasionally. Being the bain of many a gamers existence, these only just manage to worm their way in under the shadow of exceptional set pieces. Cut-scenes and action sequences are only hyped up more by the glamorous visuals, glorifying the sun kissed towns and bewildering parallel dimensions incredibly well. Locations remain beautiful and combat is constantly fluid
The adventure as a whole is of a strong length, taking around 10-12 hours to battle through on a first sitting, but the jubilant life of the hack ‘n’ slash breed always lies with the replay value. Bayonetta hides goodies away for dedicated players in the form of new weapons, costumes and characters to slay with. Granting players with medals and trophies based upon performance after each level coupled with on-line leaderboards serves to add a competitive streak on frequent playthroughs of a game that feels like it should be a strictly single player affair, and the basic yet impressive combat system encourages players to constantly better themselves in the practises of witchcraft. If none of this persuades a second playthrough, however, just the sheer satisfaction of blasting your enemies with a giant fist made of hair certainly will.
Great set pieces, a basic combat system that excels in complexity, magnificent boss fights and a unique camp vibe from start to finish makes Bayonetta an utter joy to behold. It may not be enough to convert those who stay away from the trend of games that started with Devil May Cry started, but it certainly provides a tornado of fresh air into what was becoming something of a stale genre. The bitch is certainly back, and is putting Dante in his place.
The Bad: Camera issues can sometimes screw up complex combos, Camp vibes may not be to everyone’s taste