Since time immemorial, the balance of light and dark has been protected by the Lumen Sages and the Umbra Witches. But in the modern era, all the witches have been hunted down and killed – all, that is, except the beautiful and enigmatic Bayonetta. Lacking her memories, all Bayonetta can do is search for answers whilst fighting off the servants of Heaven sent to hunt her down.
In a deliberate reversal to the demon hunting action of the Devil May Cry series, director Hideki Kamiya brings us an action game in which angels are the enemy, and the protagonist is a sexy, curvaceous witch. From combat to cut scenes, the game is ludicrously over the top at every turn, but just how much entertainment does it provide?
Throughout the game, you’ll be playing as the eponymous Bayonetta, a well-armed witch who can equip weapons to both her hands and her feet. With combinations of whip, guns, claws and sword, along with a crazy set of jumps, flips and transformations, it’s no wonder that combat with the servants of Heaven is fast-paced and intense right from the get go. There are fights aplenty, mixed with platforming sections, flying, motorcycle riding and even a few puzzles. But don’t think you can just button mash your way through it all – for if there’s one thing that Bayonetta is not, it’s forgiving.
Indeed, on all but the easiest of difficulty levels, Bayonetta is tough – almost frustratingly so. Even with the game’s relative generosity with continue points, enemies will whale on you with reckless abandon, leading you to see the dreaded Game Over screen far more times than anyone should have to endure.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances. Successfully build up a chain of strikes without getting hit and you’ll be able to unleash deadly Torture Attacks that will severely damage any opponents caught in their wake. Even better, dodging an attack by a hair’s breadth will send you into Witch Time – a bullet time-esque mode where time slows down and you can let rip on the enemy without fear of reprisal. Successfully and consistently triggering Witch Time is often the key to victory in an otherwise tough situation. In the longer-term, there are also various power-ups and accessories you can collect to enhance your health, magical power and abilities. Some of these aren’t available on the easier difficulties, and others can only be earned through optional challenges that can be tougher and more frustrating than the main game, but it’s worth grabbing as many enhancements as you can – every little helps.
A word of warning to players of the PS3 version, however – for some reason, the loading times are awful for this version of the game, so expect to be waiting around a while for even something as simple as the pause menu to appear. The Xbox 360 version offers a faster, slicker experience.
Ancient struggles between Heaven, Hell and Earth are nothing new, but beyond that, it’s not worth looking too closely at Bayonetta’s plot. When it’s not busy trying and failing to come up with snappy one-liners, the story makes little sense – it’s probably more of a headache trying to follow it than it is just to ignore whatever’s going on. The characters are shallow and mostly annoying – Bayonetta herself is saved by being easy on the eye and not afraid to show her assets, but the other characters generally lack such an option.
When it comes to looks, Bayonetta seems to be based on the philosophy that you can never have too many arse shots – and when it’s the arse of a shapely curvaceous witch, who are we to argue? Graphics are vibrant and splendidly over the top – environments are polished and monsters are intricately designed, but the star of the show is of course Bayonetta herself. Her moves including strutting, posturing and pole dancing moves, all designed to show off her figure-hugging catsuit and the goods it contains.
The background music is less in your face, but still features some catchy tracks, such as the normal battle theme and a remixed version of Fly Me to the Moon. The English voice acting is nothing to write home about, with Bayonetta’s English accent proving almost painfully forced.
Bayonetta is a game which should be fun – it’s delightfully over-the-top and features a sexy, well-endowed witch doling out explosive punishments to the servants of God. Unfortunately, the difficulty level pushes it just over the edge, ensuring that whilst you’ll probably get some enjoyment out of playing it, you’ll also come out feeling quite frustrated as well.