The back of Bayonetta’s box says “infinite climax action” and it’s an accurate description. Everything in Bayonetta explodes with flair and builds up from one slick action sequence to the next. Even shattering barriers, usually a forgettable part of any game, is done with style. After defeating her angelic assailants with hair punches (hello Kabuki Quantum Fighter?) and sword slashes, Bayonetta blows a kiss to shatter the barrier so she can move on.
Bayonetta is eye catching, but it’s not only eye candy. PlatinumGames created a solid combat system that emphasizes evasion. Enemies hit Bayonetta hard. She loses life plus precious magic used to activate ultraviolent torture attacks if an angel gets its hands on her. Dodging is a must and there is a specific button that makes Bayonetta cartwheel out of danger. Wait until the last second to dodge and Bayonetta turns on witch time, a skill that slows everything down except her. When activated, witch time is the perfect time to hit angels with a flurry of heel stomping weave attacks. The advantage of witch time is so great players are encouraged to risk getting hit just to activate it. Eventually, you learn how to time dodges where Bayonetta leaps towards her enemies. Offensive evades are the way to go. Witch time is also used for other events like an area where Bayonetta has to jump on water geysers, frozen in time with magic, to reach distant platforms.
Remember the monstrosities in Contra? Bayonetta has creatures equally as demented like this two headed hydra linked to a gargantuan stone face. You fight it a couple of times, once in a church where it pulls the building off the ground while you’re inside slashing at it. Suddenly, you’re caught in a mid-air battle.
That’s not even a major boss fight. In one of those, a boss covers the ground with flame and smashes the bridge you’re standing on. Fortunately, a magical hourglass allows you to reverse time and bring it back. Boss fights are grandiose, especially the final encounter. Each boss is finished off with a climax attack, a move that conjures hair dragons and spiders out of Bayonetta’s wicked weave. When its time to deliver the finishing blow you can mash a button to deal gigatons of damage. Tap it enough times and you’re rewarded with bonus halos.
Halos are the game’s currency. You use these at the Gates of Hell to purchase new moves – things like sliding kicks and "breakdance” a windmill bullet attack and accessories. Rodin, the bar’s operator, spouts out video game references like “Whadya buying? I heard that in a video game once” and a Madworld joke about Jack’s chainsaw arm. Both are nice touches. Give Rodin angelic hymn LP pieces and he’ll make new weapons for Bayonetta. Swords, claws, and different sets of guns are some of the toys she can get.
Bayonetta can also earn halos by playing Angel Attack, a Duck Hunt style mini-game at the end of each chapter. Points earned from shooting angels can be spent on lollipops, items used to heal Bayonetta. The leftover points become halos. There’s also a small crafting system where ingredients, collected from angels and smashing pots, can be thrown in a pot to create more life-refilling and power boosting lollipops.
Between each verse and chapter Bayonetta is packed with cutscenes that delve into Bayonetta’s past. At the beginning of the game she’s an amnesiac. Only one other witch, Jeanne, is left in the world and she seems to know a thing or two about Bayonetta’s past. For an action game, Bayonetta has a lot of cutscenes. Sometimes, especially if you die right after one plays, you’ll want to skip seeing the same cutscene again.
Loading… (wait three or four seconds)
Is what you’ll see. The PlayStation 3 version loads whenever you pause the game or pull up the item menu. I don’t have both games so I don’t want to make any comparisons. However, the PS3 version loads… and loads… and loads. Sometimes Bayonetta even tries to load two things at once! When a verse starts “loading…” and “saving…” appear on the bottom right. When I paused the game while that was going on another loading message popped up in the center of the screen. Fortunately, PlatinumGames added a training area where you can practice combos to keep players busy while the next level loads.
Bayonetta appears to suffers from some slowdown issues too, usually when the action gets hot and heavy. Technical problems like this disrupt the game’s flow. Maybe the Xbox 360 version is the “better” version, but if you only have one console the PlayStation 3 port is still fun to play. And Bayonetta is a hell of a good time.
My favorite moment? The missile stage where Bayonetta surfs on a missile.