Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bayonetta Review


I beat Bayonetta last night.  I’d had several people tell me it was a must-play game.  And I know I’ll catch flak from those people, but I gotta say, I did not like this game…  I’ll readily admit I’m clearly a minority here.  Bayonetta is sitting at 91 on Metacritic, and the people who recommended the game to me are people I normally agree with on games.  That being said…  No.  Did not like this game.

It’s tough to review a game when you know, when it comes down to it, it just wasn’t your type of game.  I can (and will) list all the reasons I didn’t like it, but that’s not going to change the fact that everyone else did.

So, to the list! 

First of all, it’s no secret Bayonetta is meant to be over-the-top.  It’s overtly sexual to the point of mimicking 60’s sexploitation films.  The story is the epitome of self-important, confusing Japanese writing.  But it’s all done unapologetically, so I can forgive it that.  I like when a medium takes its failures and emphasizes them as a stylistic choice, turning it into something fun instead of shameful.  But if the game acknowledges the story as ridiculous why is half the game spent in wordy cutscenes?  That’s a LOT of time devoted to a throw-away story.  Especially when said cutscenes are constantly breaking the flow of the game.

The formula became painfully transparent to me early in the game.  Fight an easy battle or 2, get a nonsensical 5 minute cutscene, fight some new elaborate monster.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  You never really get into the action for more than a few minutes before another painful cutscene interrupts.  To make matters worse, Bayonetta herself is constantly commenting that the enemies will never shut up, it’s like she hates the game she’s in as much as I do.

And that brings me to what I’m sure will be the most controversial criticism.  I did not find the combat that great.  It was just a Devil May Cry clone.  Yes, it may even have perfected it, but Devil May Cry is almost 10 years old now, and it’s charm wore out a long time ago for me. 


Bayonetta prides itself on its Witch Time mechanic, and this was one of the things I liked the least about the game.  Dodge at the last second and time slows down, giving you a major advantage over enemies. Sadly it reduced the combat to a one-trick pony, the game was much too dependent on it, to the point that half the enemies can ONLY be damaged when in witch time.  The other thing I really didn’t like was that you only get witch time if you dodge at the LAST second.  So you’re rewarded for having slow reflexes.  If you dodge early enough that the enemy isn’t even close to damaging you, you get no advantage.  So you have to fight your intuition and stay in harm’s way until the last second, then dodge.  I was so unimpressed with the mechanic I would have preferred to just play without it.  But as I said, half the enemies require you to be in witch time to damage them, so I was forced to stand and WAIT for them to attack me, just to dodge.

Another major issue I had with the game was I found it offensive.  And not in the way you might expect.  I had no issue with the sexual innuendo throughout the game.  I found the game offensive to my senses.  It was too much; the game was a seizure waiting to happen.  It was digital vomit.  Everything that could possibly happen was happening.  All at once.  Over and over and over.  At 10,000 RPM.  To some of the most grating J-Pop music I’d ever heard in my life.  The game really managed to annoy me.  It reminded me of visiting someone who has kids and lets them sit in the living room watching their neurotic shows with the volume at 11.

It often felt the game was deliberately avoiding fun to instead be a chore.  The fact that it counts your continues and judges your score based on that was often discouraging, especially when you consider the amount of quick-time events.  One missed button and you have to use a continue.  Then when you use a continue, far too often the auto-save was at the worst possible moment.  So after using one continue, you push start and you’re loaded mid-combat and suddenly have a split second to dodge an attack or lose half your health, even though you had no idea that’s where the auto-save had been.  Now you’re down 2 continues, which costs you in-game currency to boost your stats.

Half the time the camera is in such a position you have no idea an attack is coming, and can’t dodge it, which is especially game-breaking considering its dependency on the witch-time mechanic.  The level design was painfully linear, and always nonsensical.  Climbing a building only to find it’s a pillar supporting a village.  Sure why not?  Giant bouncing metal balls in a town square?  Um ok…  Levers that rotate entire buildings…  WTF?


By the time I reached the final stretch of the game, I was literally just pressing buttons to end the game.  I just wanted it to be over.  And it was as if the game knew this, and was using my desperation against me, as its one final insult.  After 3 fake endings I was ready to openly break into tears.  What would it take for this to end!?  Throw the boss into THE SUN?


Bayonetta, to me, will be remembered as some sort of mathematical proof that less is more.  Riding a motorcycle up a giant tentacle may sound cool, but need I remind anyone of Ninja Blade?

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