Review | Bayonetta
Format: Xbox360/PS3 | Genre: Action | Publisher: Sega | Developer: Platinum Games | Release date: 08/01/10 | RRP: £49.99
Bayonetta perpetuates those ideas about the stereotypical Japanese game. It’s extremely over-the-top, truly absurd and flamboyant, and yet it’s one of the purest experiences of fun currently on the market.
It’s beautifully crafted, tied together by the idyllic synergy of entertainment and craziness, and works in the most fluid way. The result is a marvellous action title that utterly re-invigorates, and consequently redefines, the genre. It’s oozing with enough charm, depth and originality to capture the attention of all who play it.
It’s all in the tone. Bayonetta is a serious game, but never demands you take it seriously. It allows you to choose which, if any, of its eccentricities to accept as a driving force to keep playing. And while some of these marks of character are borderline insane, to criticise Bayonetta for that would be the most ludicrous thing of all.
ANGELS AND DEMONS
Corny dialogue dripping with sexual innuendo, gravity-defying combat and the occasional dance numbers are but a few of Bayonetta’s defining characteristics, all of which are brought together under the umbrella of a seemingly shallow narrative. It initially feels weak, simply providing enough momentum to reach the next combat-oriented set-piece. However, with combat being the core element behind Bayonetta, the narrative’s shortcomings are easily forgiven. And by the end, the denouement proves there was a plan all along, showing off a very clever, well-thought-out tale with hidden degrees of depth.
There are two factions. The Umbra Witches can perform magic with the dark arts and the aid of Demons. The Lumen Sages perform magic with the light arts and with the aid of Angels. You play as Bayonetta, a witch who has been awoken after centuries of slumber in a coffin at the bottom of a lake, who now has but a fractured memory of her life. The two factions are now long extinct, due to a war between them five hundred years ago, so the answers to Bayoneeta’s past seems impossible to find. But with legions of Angels hell-bent on her destruction, she battles on to discover more about the factions’ demise and her role in an escalating chain of events following her around.
The scene is set for a journey of personal discovery, but for the most part nothing is really learnt about Bayonetta herself until near the end. However, through journal entries and enemy encounters, you do learn a lot about the Demons, Angels, Lumen Sages and Umbra Witches, so whilst Bayonetta’s own history is sketchy, the world you inhabit is laid bare, and the portrayal of Angels in particular is an interesting and unique take.
Uniquely, the story works despite not really pulling you in – not initially, at least. Lengthy cinematics bursting with over-the-top action look fantastic, but many lack substance, and the semi-static film-reel story segments fill you in a little more but ultimately look sub-par against the more traditional cinematics. They do provide Bayonetta with a style all of its own, but while the ending ties the plot together fairly effectively, until you reach that point all you really experience is drawn out confusion. Yet it doesn’t matter. Even if the story doesn’t gel, there’s very little loss of enjoyment.
That’s because Bayonetta’s combat is so supremely enjoyable – which is handy, as there’s rather a lot of it. The action rarely eases up – light platforming and puzzles construct the path to each combat section, but for the most part you’re shooting, punching, and erotically torturing your way through the Angels trying to stop you. The smooth controls allow you to perform the monumental amount of combos available with relative ease, making the complex experience surprisingly accessible. Button-bashers will find their random strikes pulling off a flurry of impressive looking moves, while the more contemplative players will find just as much joy from the equally impressive but entirely different sets of moves available with precise timing and longer sequences.
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