Friday, December 24, 2010

Best of the 2010: Bayonetta

While I've always liked third-person hack-and-slash games, the Devil May Cry series has always held a special place in my heart for its unique blend of melee and ranged combat. Going back to God of War or Ninja Gaiden, which focus almost exclusively on the former, just felt tame and flat in comparison. Bayonetta, from Devil May Cry creator Hideki Kamiya, is very much the successor to that series taking what worked (guns + swords) and sprucing it up with a better camera, bigger bosses, and zanier setpieces.

The result is Devil May Cry on crack. It doesn't stray far from the formula, but so what? It's a great formula. Combat is quick with incredibly deep customization so you can alter it to your particular playstyle. I'm perhaps not the most experimental with this sort of thing, but I still found myself using more weapons than I usually do in this sort of game.

Then there's Bayonetta herself, the somewhat controversial overtly sexualized ass-kicking nun. Some find her insulting or pandering, but I found her empowering (I also didn't find her sexy, for what it's worth). She's flirty as all hell, but not in a way that's pandering to the audience. Being flamboyant is just part of her personality and her winking at the camera to me says less "come hither" and more like a teasing "keep up with me if you can." She's a handful, that one.

It wasn't perfect though and there were a few painful flaws that I never see anyone point out, so I will. Checkpoints are too generous, often appearing multiple times during a single boss fight. Dying simply sets you back at the last checkpoint with full health, so you're practically encouraged to get a game over when the next phase of a boss battle begins. Unless of course you're going for a high score, but if that's the case, the game fails as well by making levels far too long with insta-kill quick-time events that are sure to ruin your streak. And finally, the game's central mechanic, witch time (slow-mo executed by a well-timed dodge), is disabled in harder difficulties. Other equipment netting counter-attacks for successful dodges make up for this somewhat, but it's still disappointing they couldn't have found a way to make the game very hard, yet still grant one of the game's best features.

Flaws aside, Bayonetta was the most fun I've had with an action game since Devil May Cry 4. I played through it three times in as many weeks and writing this makes me want to play it again right now.
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