I think a lot of my reviewlets will be based on whatever I have rented out from the Tesco DVD rental service (much like LoveFilm, if not the exact same service). I get to play a great range of games, for as long as they keep me entertained, for a reasonable monthly price. I doubt I would’ve play games such as Dark Sector or Conan if I hadn’t rented them (the former being a surprisingly good game, the latter not so much).
A few days ago, Bayonetta turns up on the doorstep. As I picked up package from the door mat I felt a surge of electric insanity zap through my arm. This game is bonkers.
The first time I saw anything of this game was a report in Edge about Japanese developers and what they had in store for us. A witch who uses her hair for magical attacks and as a costume (not in a “I can’t be bothered to shave my legs this month” way mind, she hasn’t been dodging the Veet Hair Removal Wax, though I may have just realised her Kryptonite), whilst simultaneously shooting off angels faces with high heel mounted guns! My first hands-on experience with it was at Eurogamer 2009. Straight away the controls felt smooth, responsive and any old button mashing produced impressive looking combos. Even the loading screen gave you the ability to practice said combos, upping your understanding of the system with a side bar showing the commands and keeping you entertained while the 360 and game disc secretly discuss how they are going to twang your brain like a rubber band in the next scene.
At the point of writing this review, I think I am over halfway through the game and it hasn’t disappointed. As you may know from the Big Man Japan reviewlet, I love the absurd. If it doesn’t make a lot of sense and does it in a comical way, I’ll lap it up. Cutscenes in this game nearly rival the battles seen in Final Fantasy VII : Advent Children for pure Over-The-Topness with a dash of stupid.
The controls are still spot on, nothing to complain about here. You have you usual levels of attack, block and jump as you do in most beat-em-up/hack and slash game. It plays quite similar to Devil May Cry, but perhaps a bit smoother. If you build up your magic meter through stringing combos without taking damage you can perform torture attacks, basically a gruesome if somewhat amusing finisher style move. These require intense mashing of one button to increase the damage, and bonus claimed in the form of halos (the games currency). Battling a horde of foes with these torture attacks thrown in here and there can become quite exhausting and add to the excitement of the fight.
Another skill this lady has under her pointy witches hat (actually she doesn’t have one, or a warty old nose. I think if she did there possibly wouldn’t be as much fan art on the interwebs) if she successfully dodges an enemies attack right at the last second time will slow down for a few seconds, giving you the opportunity to lay the smack down at your leisure. Unfortunately, this is where one of my only gripes crops up. The battlefield is usually so busy, with angels attacking from all sides, special attacks firing off like hairy fireworks (I think that phrase even grossed me out) and just the sheer pace of the fighting it’s hard to see individual enemies preparing to attack. This either results in a missed opportunity to initiate “Witch Time” as I believe it’s called, but more importantly ends up in the player taking damage.
And this game is no cake walk. Even having learned the enemy’s patterns and weaknesses, it can still take a decent level of skill and timing to defeat them. Miss Witchy-Poos can’t take massive amounts of damage, doesn’t regenerate lost health through inactivity (something you’ll find in the majority of games these days) and even using items such as green herb lollipops (the games equivalent of medipacks) or continues results in your overall score getting penalised once you have completed the level.
The visuals are beautiful in this game. The backdrops to each level are stunning, character designs are imaginative, bold and just downright cool and I haven’t noticed much, if any, slowdown even during the biggest fights. And you do have some pretty impressive dust-ups along the way. At one point I was fighting a 50ft angel, whose body consisted of an upside down cherub style face sprouting wings, and two long necks ending in very pissed off dragon heads. With brutes like these as your enemies, and the fact that they provide quite a challenge, you actually feel a decent sense of accomplishment in defeating them.
The voice acting is pretty cheesy but matches the action and style of the game perfectly. I wouldn’t really want the voice actors trying to take this nonsense seriously or I’d have to worry about their mental health. The second major gripe for my rears its ugly head in the form of the BGM. There are two songs, a poppy track written for the game and a rendition of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me To The Moon”, that seem to crop up every time something significant happens on-screen. It’s really noticeable and rather annoying.
All in all, I’m really enjoying this game. It’s very entertaining and the challenge level is really giving me something to sink my teeth into, like a nice, big juicy steak (apologies to veggies out there).
I’ve produced a chainsaw from no-where and sawn a vicious hovering angel in half, I’ve had a dance off competition with a doppelgänger of myself before beating it mercilessly to oblivion, and I’ve summoned a magical 30ft demonic parakeet from my own hair to bite off and swallow whole the head of a 60ft long heavenly flying serpent monster . You know, the usual.