Review by Johnus Maximus
Pistols, shotguns, swords, whips, ice skates, hair? The diverse selection of weaponry at your disposal is just one of the reasons Bayonetta fills such a unique role within the button masher genre.
Developed by Platinum Games, published by Sega and available now for Xbox 360 and PS3, Bayonetta is a game likely to divide opinions due to its complex yet rewarding combination combat system, it’s incomprehensible storyline and outrageously violent and sexual content.
Bayonetta tells the tale of a semi-amnesiac witch with a penchant for skimpy costumes and large guns who has spent the best part of five hundred years asleep in a coffin at the bottom of a lake. She doesn’t know why, we don’t know why and due to some unfathomably poor storytelling it takes the best part of ten hours before you truly understand the motivations of the forces trying to kill her.
In contrast to the traditional enemies in this genre of game, you’ll be fighting your way through the vast armies of Paradiso – angels – and not the variety you would see in a Philadelphia advert. Sure they have halos, wings and enough shine to pass the Daz doorstep challenge, but they are also monstrous creatures in intimidating and ornate decorative armour, reminiscent of the mass production Eva from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
There is no hooked nose, green skin and warts for this witch
Despite my first impressions, the combat in Bayonetta is intense and technical, with a vast array of combat actions available from carefully timed button presses and enemies who will not give you the slightest quarter if you fail to attack them with diligence. The “normal” difficulty is truly a test of patience as you are not spoon fed instructions on enemy weakness and attack styles, rather you must learn them yourself.
Mastering the art of “witch-time” is essential to both success and reducing the likelihood of your controller going out of the window. Use of the dodge button at a very precise moment initiates a few seconds of slow motion, allowing you a chance to penetrate the angels guard. Every attack you successfully evade also boosts your magic gauge, which enables the use of “torture” attacks, which despite their grim nature are extremely gratifying due to the extra damage they inflict.
He may be big, but you have demonic hair!
As you travel through the beautifully drawn fictional European locales, you’ll have some very simple platform puzzling to solve, as is the par with games in this genre. You’ll also be required to participate in some fantastic boss battles which see Bayonetta trying to whittle down the life bar of some intimidating and huge angels before executing a “climax attack” which involves conjuring a demonic entity from Inferno to finish off the boss and drag them down to the fiery depths.
Upon completion of each level you will be allocated an overall rank based on your performance in each of its subsections as well as a deduction for the number of times you died or used an item. Being able to revisit any level to search out its treasures, as well as being able to skip cut scenes does make replayability a compelling feature of Bayonetta.
At times the combat is almost balletic
As well as a huge level of detail on the enemies and environments, Bayonetta herself seems to have the most attention paid to her. If I told you she’s wearing a cat suit woven from he own hair, that does sound pretty disgusting, but it’s one of the most stunning costumes I’ve seen. As she performs longer combination attacks, her clothes slowly peel away as they are needed for her “wicked weave” attacks – giant fists smashing enemies, or giant stilettos stomping them. Butterfly wings appear from her back when she does a double-jump and then small butterflies appear when she lands.
Despite sharing the same creator, Kamiya Hideki, the game play in Bayonetta is original enough to not be ignored as just another “Devil May Cry clone”, I personally haven’t enjoyed mastering a combat system this much since Killer Instinct on the SNES! For fans of easter eggs, there are a huge amount of nudges and winks to games that the team have either been involved with or are fans of, heck there’s even a level based on Space Harrier.
It’s a big face with a long tongue with a face on it, awesome!
Bayonetta is an entertaining ride through a well-worn genre but I felt that the farcical cut scene elements it was pushing were just not as enjoyable as the satisfaction gained from mastering the gameplay mechanic. She’s strong and confident, but the overtly sexual combat poses Bayonetta comes out with just make her look so tawdry and there is such an excessive use of the word “fuck” it would probably make Joe Pesci blush.
The avant-garde nature of Bayonetta ensures that this is not a game for everyone, despite the enthusiastic approval it garnered upon release. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys trying something that defies convention you should definitely pick this up, otherwise it is going to be a gamble – but if it pays off, you’ll be smiling.
Bayonetta scores four shiny stilettos out of five.