In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website FemaleGamers reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.
Bayonetta (PS3) (2009)
When I think of witches, which thankfully isn’t very often, I have images of old women with pronounced warts on their faces riding through the skies on broomsticks with black feline companions in tow and cauldrons bubbling away in their secluded homes. Bayonetta takes the witch in a new direction boasting a young, bespectacled heroine in a skin tight outfit, wielding guns in both her hands and strapped to her feet, while being verbose in a plethora of sexual innuendos and with a fondness for lollipops. It’s certainly a far cry from Hansel and Gretel but I still found myself intrigued to see how the game stood up.
The story revolves around Bayonetta, a survivor of a now lost group known as the Umbra Witches. Bayonetta has spent centuries trapped in a coffin at the bottom of a lake and emerges with few memories of her past and with the solitary goal of seeking out artifacts known as the Eyes of the World which may have some bearing on her past and help to unlock her forgotten origins. Bayonetta’s search leads her to the European city of Vigrid where hordes of angels frequently descend from the skies to engage our heroine in chaotic battles. Assisted in her journey by a smooth talking Lawrence Fishburne look-alike, Rodin, while being pursued by a journalist named Luka and frequently hounded by another witch, Jeanne, Bayonetta’s journey towards revelation is far from straightforward.
Despite a flowing storyline carried along with frequent cut scenes and dialogue, Bayonetta is primarily about combat. There is an array of combinations to use when dispatching your angelic adversaries be it gun toting tactics, punches or kicks. Evasion is a big part of the combat with the correct timing able to propel Bayonetta into Witch Time, whereby the surroundings and enemies are briefly frozen allowing Bayonetta to take the initiative in battle or even run on water! Bayonetta is an acrobatic heroine, equally adept at fighting in the air as on the ground and this makes for some spectacular scenes. Under the illumination of a full moon Bayonetta’s witch power enables her to run up the walls of the tallest buildings and such a feat hasn’t been wasted in the form of some memorable set pieces such as a torrent of lava pouring through ruined streets with the overlooking buildings your only means of salvation from the fiery devastation. Each chapter is divided into verses which translate as your latest battle against the angels. For each engagement you are awarded a medal ranging from stone to pure platinum with an average of your achievements culminating in a trophy at the end of each chapter. The battles may just be against standard troops from the celestial army but frequently you will come up against some giant bosses with some easy to kill from a distance but others requiring you to eliminate in stages, slaying different sections of their bodies before ultimately targeting the core. Adding to Bayonetta’s repertoire is Torture Attacks that require magic power to perform, but drag the opposing angels into a myriad of torture devices which more often than not lead to their deaths. If that isn’t enough Bayonetta’s final defeat of bosses is to summon giant demons from the underworld to consume the angels in a bloodthirsty crescendo. In the early stages you will be blown away by the combat in Bayonetta.
There are some puzzles in Bayonetta but they follow a similar format such as bridging large gaps requiring you to turn into a four-legged beast to enable you to jump further. More complex puzzles like lining up symbols or manipulating surroundings are a rarity here. Aside from the combat Bayonetta can acquire a series of documents that reveal details of the history behind Vigrid, the Umbra Witches and the Lumen Sages. Defeating foes yields halos that become your currency to trade with Rodin in the Gates of Hell – a run-down bar, rather than the fiery catacombs you may expect – for weapons, accessories and new combat techniques for Bayonetta. Between chapters you can take part in the mini game “Angel Attack” which is a first person shooter giving you a small amount of bullets to shoot the angelic hordes from the stars and score as many points as you can. To assuage the sometimes long loading times between chapters, you retain control of Bayonetta and can practice your many techniques whose button combinations are displayed down one side of the screen. This was a welcome feature for unfortunately the loading times could be prolonged.
Though visually stunning, Bayonetta was sadly let down by a few issues. With the heavy emphasis on Bayonetta’s sensuality be it in her dialogue or some of the magical attacks requiring her to be scantily clad, it feels as if the game is designed largely for a male audience and could alienate some female gamers. Bayonetta’s character seems more caught up in sexual innuendos in the early stages of the game and only towards the end does the story seem to take itself remotely seriously. The fights are spectacular when you first play and although the fast-paced action can be engaging it can also be confusing at times. The other drawback to the game is in its length. I was able to complete it in under ten hours. Different difficulty settings may encourage some gamers to keep coming back for more but others will likely be content to play through it once.
Bayonetta is a fun and action-packed journey with some stunning combat and great visuals that pits your wits against the very heavens themselves. The lack of puzzles, brevity of the game and the over sexualized portrayal of Bayonetta are a disappointment, but this still offers some memorable moments.
Final Score: 78%
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