Some games are almost impossible to talk about without mentioning their creator. Mario and Miyamoto, Fable and Molyneux, Brutal Legend and Schafer; Bayonetta is no different. It tells the story of a witch, who may or may not be Sarah Palin’s sexy English cousin, battling to recover her memory and identity from hordes of scythe wielding Angels and a variety of other towering beasts. The game is a third person action adventure, and contains some of the most visually stunning set pieces that this generation of consoles has produced.
The man behind it is one Hideki Kamiya, creator of the original Devil May Cry, Okami and Viewtiful Joe. That sort of heritage shines through the game, from the level of polish to the intuitive controls, from the overall aesthetic to the ingenious and outrageous move list, everything carries Hideki’s indelible mark, right down to the melee/gun play dichotomy that lies at the heart of the project.
That’s not to say that this is a carbon copy of past glories, though. Bayonetta is a game in its own right, a refinement of what’s gone before with a flair and a pace all of its own. And those are two words that describe Bayonetta perfectly: flair and pace.
The speed of the game is relentless, with enemies flying at you thick and fast and split second reactions needed to combo, dodge and shoot your way out of trouble. It’s a feat of design that the whole thing doesn’t become overwhelming, but with a steady hand at the wheel, and a difficulty curve that’s expertly planned, Bayonnetta isn’t just for the hardcore.
Your arsenal includes four guns – two held in the hand and two mounted on special shoes – that can be used in conjunction with kicks, or whilst Bayonetta stands on her head. You’re also granted a large sword to deal out melee damage, as well as Bayonetta’s cat suit, which is made of her hair, and can transform into a variety of beasts, traps and weapons, all the better for slaughtering. Add in some excruciating finishing moves involving iron maidens, guillotines and slavering hair dogs and you’re left with a game that’s not just smooth and supple, but joyously deadly to boot.
Apart from the obvious, Bayonetta has been garnering rave reviews in Japan, where it’s already been out for a couple of months, including receiving a perfect 40/40 from gaming bible Famitsu.
The blend of frantic action, humour and heart, as well as an addictive arcade style score attack mode set it apart in an overcrowded market. It’s not a game that rests on its laurels either. Each set piece battle is bigger and more bombastic than the last, each boss a greater threat and a greater challenge.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a DMC clone, or a Ninja Gaiden knock off, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Bayonetta has a brevity of touch that allows it to rise above the Neolithic, testosterone-fuelled brawlers that claim it as kin. There’s no grunting or rippling muscles, there’s butterflies and flowers and cheeky winks.
Bayonetta may look like other games, but there’s never been anything quite like it before, and that, surely, is something to champion.
2010 is being called the year of the action game, and it’s easy to see why. Darksiders, God Of War 3 and Dante’s Inferno all slice and stomp their way into shops in the coming months, but the real star of the show lands only eight days into new calendar.
Bayonetta is such a spritely game that anyone playing it can’t help but have a grin plastered on their adoring mug. There are simplified modes for those not used to three dimensional brawling, as well as the sort of challenge you’d expect to find in a Hideki Kamiya game, for those who like their gaming masochistic.
In a world of grey brown space marines with necks the size of elephant’s knees, Bayonetta brings colour and lithe, balletic violence, and for that alone, the game should be on everyone’s January shopping list.
Bayonetta is out on January 8th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.