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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ith all the good press that “Bayonetta” has been getting since its debut at last year's E3 convention, I couldn’t wait to finally get my hands on it and see what all the hoopla was about. Imagine my disappointment (and utter confusion) when I discovered that Sega’s latest action title isn’t as great as it was hyped up to be. There’s a lot to love about a game that’s so ridiculously batshit crazy that it could only be a loving homage to the kind of over-the-top beat ‘em ups that Japanese developers are known for, but while “Bayonetta” is certainly everything it sets out to be, the game suffers from almost too much of a good thing.
The plot really isn’t that important, which is great since it’s damn near impossible to comprehend. There are tons of cutscenes devoted to Bayonetta’s backstory and her current mission (which involves stopping some sort of world-ending plot to reboot human creation), but to invest in anything other than the fast-paced combat is pretty futile. After all, this is a game that prides itself on its misogynistic and brutally violent heroine – a mix between the leather-clad Baroness from “G.I. Joe” and the demon-slaying Dante from Capcom’s “Devil May Cry” series. Dressed in an outfit made of her own hair (natch), Bayonetta also sports a posh British accent, librarian cat eye glasses, and a pair of guns attached to her stiletto heels. So yeah, batshit crazy.
Part of the reason the game has received such a positive reception is for its excellent combat system. Though you only have a punch and kick button at your disposal, there are numerous combos that are fairly easy to learn (thanks to a mini training area during load screens) that prevents the action from feeling too button mashy. In addition to punching, kicking, slashing and shooting your enemies into a bloody submission, there are also combo-ending moves called Witch Weaves where Bayonetta contorts her hair into giant fists and monsters that deal even more damage. It’s done in a very frenzied fashion that can sometimes cause you to miss the smaller nuances in combat, like the darkly comical Torture Attacks). Thankfully, you can also slow down the action by activating Witch Time, which is done by dodging an attack at the last possible moment, and allows Bayonetta to easily dispose of enemies and get through certain obstacles.
Along the way, you’ll also collect golden halos (a cheeky nod to “Sonic the Hedgehog”) that act as currency to buy new techniques, weapons and items like lollipops, which are Bayonetta’s version of power-ups. Green ones restore health, yellow ones make you temporarily invincible, and red ones increase your attack power. Loot some crystallized compounds of the same colors from dead enemies and you can concoct your own lollipops without having to pay for them. And believe me when I say that you’ll be needing plenty of lollipops to get throughout the course of the game. The checkpoint and save system might be incredibly generous, but unless you feel like replaying the same boss levels over and over, you’re going to want a few sugary snacks for backup.
“Bayonetta” is lots of fun, but despite its incredibly addictive gameplay and some of the coolest character design of the last few years, it isn’t without its flaws. The dialogue is cheesy (though you can argue that it actually works in favor of the game’s over-the-top presentation), the camera can be a pain to control, and the story drags on for way too long. You don’t hear that very often in an industry plagued by games that get shorter and shorter the more expensive they become, but had the makers of “Bayonetta” condensed the campaign by a few hours and removed some of the tedious cutscenes, it probably would have resulted in a leaner, sharper, and overall more memorable experience.