Sex sells, but what about combining sex with guns, magic hair, gigantic bosses, and over-the-top action? The results of the Bayonetta Frankenreview might not surprise you.
I was sold on Bayonetta the moment I got my first glimpse of those pistol heels. For others, it took word that this was Devil May Cry creator Hideki Kamiya taking things to a wild new extreme. Some remained undecided until the Russians started cosplaying.
And thus did Bayonetta win our hearts, but did she win our critical minds?
As a game, Bayonetta has a personality matching its titular hero. It's bold, brash, confusingly and often insultingly sexualized, and likely to be divisive in its reception. While Bayonetta is easily Devil May Cry creator Hideki Kameya's best game in many respects, it also reflects some of the most dated and frustrating aspects of the genre that he helped create.
The backstory is that two clans used to oversee the worlds history until a devastating war wiped them both out, with the exception of Bayonetta. Now 500 years after these events, an amnesiac Bayonetta is searching for… something. In truth, the story is brilliant, but is told quite poorly and becomes confusing by the end. A lot of characters motivations are not explained clearly enough, nor is the back-story fleshed out as much as it should be to make sense. This really is a shame, because the concepts behind the story are very cool.
...it's in combat that Bayonetta's splendour is fully revealed. The emphasis is on stringing together attacks, both ranged and melee, into giant, unbroken chains. Strip away the fury and spectacle and it works a little like Batman: Arkham Asylum's combo system, in that it's entirely possible for a skilled player to clear an area of opponents without taking damage or dropping the combo. Where the two games diverge is in Bayonetta's gigantic library of potential moves, the majority of which are unlocked to you right from the off. With four slots for weaponry (a piece in each hand and one tied to each foot), and separate move-lists for each type, the scope for unique play styles is dizzying.
Earning halos is an excellent reason to replay missions over and over, as there's plenty to buy in Bayonetta. Rodin, a fierce demonic arms dealer and bartender (again: really) runs the Gates of Hell, a grimy saloon that doubles as Bayonetta's main supplier of items and weapons. Here, players can purchase restorative lollipops to use mid-battle and accessories which augment Bayonetta's normal abilities. Players can also spend halos on additional techniques found outside the normal set of combos, like my personal favorite break dancing move that ends in a seductive pose and camera shutter. Classic.
For the gamer not put-off by the Devil May Cry school of design, there's much to like in Bayonetta. It's a ludicrous, oversexed romp that one shouldn't take too seriously, just as its creators seemed to have done. But Bayonetta should be enjoyed immensely.