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Games of the Year: Bayonetta

Games of the Year: Bayonetta

Simply magic

Up next is Jon Beach’s game of the year, the bewitching and mind blowing Bayonetta, which scored a 9/10 in review.

Even back as far as our snow swept January it was hard to imagine any game bettering Platinum Games’ glorious Bayonetta when it came to best of the year lists. In fact – playing through Kamiya’s magnum opus again for the purposes of this feature, it’s hard to imagine a more consistently imaginative, tantalisingly challenging and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek videogame coming out this decade.

Essentially the bastard child of a furious, passionate, drug fuelled relationship between Devil May Cry and Super Mario Galaxy, the game is at times an absolute wonder to behold; and comes off as some kind of demonised trip down videogame memory lane, dragging the player through maniacal hallucinations of classic games past and present – whilst also setting the benchmark for hack n’ slash adventures in terms of its combat and endlessly madcap design.

Bayonetta’s is a world where hundred foot high hair monsters swirl around the atmosphere, crunching towering foes in metric units of increasing pressure, where smashed clock towers cascade through the night sky and form platforms for dancing witches, and where flashback images from the throes of videogame history come together in shapes of Platinum’s own choosing. Strangely, it’s also a world of balance – where it’s just as effective to learn how to time a dodge as it is to bulldoze in with gun wielding ankles and devastating combos. Learning how to tread Bayonetta’s many tightropes requires time and patience, but those who lack these levels of patience can still bear witness to many, if not all of the game’s treasures. On the other side of the spectrum, Youtube is awash with clips of players who have gotten seriously good at the game – ‘no hit’ runs and mind boggling combos are all out there, invoking feelings of inspiration and jealousy in equal measure.

Playing Bayonetta is genuinely like being in a dream. As in dreams, the landscapes, motifs and boundaries constantly shift; bursting with life and colour and bubbling above a rich undercurrent of humour and kinky sexuality. It toys with the player’s perceptions and expectations from start to finish, never once boring or bowing to convention. The game has more ideas and playful invention in any one of its chapters than many games released recently contain throughout the entire length of their single player campaigns, and one can only hope Platinum’s witch is just as feisty when they put her to work in the inevitable sequel.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

//Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Review – 9/10)

Forget the lacklustre All-Stars repackage that snuck onto shelves recently – if you really want to experience the last 25 years of Mario, it’s all right here.  Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the technicolour pinnacle of what can be achieved with a 3D platform game, frothing with applause inducing ideas that somehow keep coming even after the next Russian doll seems impossibly small.

Yoshi returned and it felt just as fresh in his saddle as it did back in 1990, the new power ups saw players drilling through levels and bowling themselves through neon laser alleys, the bosses were simply magnificent throughout – but most importantly, Mario’s second appearance on Wii was true to his roots. Galaxy 2 is a genuine challenge, providing countless hours of spellbinding play in which the player finds himself poking his delighted, fascinated nose into each nook and cranny.

//Limbo (Review – 9/10)

Seemingly the videogame David Lynch never made, Limbo‘s biggest draw was in its thick, oppressive atmosphere. Monochrome, sluggish, at times nauseating but never anything less than totally compelling; the world in which ‘boy’ inhabits is one of the most unspeakably nightmarish locales ever seen in a videogame.

Laced with black humour (there IS something funny about an eight year old boy having his head impaled on a spike, after all) Limbo presents a series of physics based puzzles which lack the conceptual complexity of something like Braid, but still remain satisfying and rewarding due to their common sense simplicity and the marvellous physics engine. Nothing’s beyond your reach, and it’s challenging without the player ever having to resort to checking walkthroughs.

It’s a short time spent in the company of ‘boy’, but that short amount of time will not be forgotten in a hurry.

//Red Dead Redemption (Review – 9/10)
Never mind sprawling grey cities and schools, the Wild West proved to be the best suited location for some Rockstar based tomfoolery. And with Red Dead Redemption that was exactly what we got, not to mention one of the best told stories and unforgettable characters ever realised in a videogame script.

John Marston was an ineffably likeable lead, and there are some equally deplorable villains to be found here too. These characters propel the player through one of the best realised and vivid gaming environments ever seen – and where horse riding might have seemed a chore at times, there was always something worthwhile to do and see when you reached your destination.

Appealing to many Clint Eastwood induced fantasies, Red Dead will continue to charm and engross players for years to come. Unfortunately José González has to take some credit for that.

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