Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites looks like a sharp little remaster from its screenshots. Sounds great on paper, too. Being able to perform acrobatic attacks and bite necks to regain health sounds like a fantastic start to a solid action game. Fighting a bunch of other vampires and horror monsters makes it sound even better. The trouble is, Rayne is a far clumsier protagonist than I would have expected for a game that requires precise combat and platforming, making for an experience that frustrated me often.
Rayne has been enlisted to fight her vampire father, Kagan, but it’s going to take a heck of an effort to actually reach him. A massive underground castle filled with undead jerks stands in her way, and you’ll have to stab and shoot your way through them. Rayne is quick with her blades and gun, and even quicker on her feet, so hopefully you can use speed and aggression to deal with the challenges ahead.
Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites feels pretty balanced based on her combat abilities. She swings her weapons quickly, able to stagger most enemies if she starts slashing first. You can catch a few foes at once as well, so if you aim correctly, or can keep your enemies on one side of you, you can tangle them up with strikes. If someone is taking aim at your back or you just need a bit of air, you can fire off a shot and knock most foes down immediately. The gun only holds a few shots, so you can’t just spam it, but ammo drops are plentiful so you should use it often. A quick dodge rounds your moveset out, giving you the means to get away if fleeing is your best bet.
At some point, you’re likely going to get hit, burned by a light source, or something, as the stages have all kinds of fun hazards to deal with. If you take damage, you might be surprised how badly you get hurt. Rayne can be dropped relatively quickly if you get careless, making combat feel pretty tense, but you can keep her going by biting enemy necks. Draining blood from a foe gives you some health back (and hurts them a ton), giving you a quick means of injuring enemies and healing yourself. It’s a great tool that you’ll want to work into your attack patterns quickly if you expect to get far in the game. You can do a quick, nonlethal bite and make an enemy into a remote mine, somehow. Which is kind of amazing?
Now, you’ve got a great set of abilities to deal with an onslaught of enemies throughout Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites. The big challenge comes from much of the game taking place on a single plane. It feels a bit like a beat ‘em up in a way with its combat abilities, but there’ll be no dodging up and down on the screen. Everything is usually positioned so that it’s only a step or two from fighting distance from you. Danger is always pretty close, and the enemies work well together to pummel you. With few places to dodge, you need to be light on your feet all the time.
This is mostly do-able with a few irritations. For starters, the movement in the game feels a bit imprecise. Rayne feels like her walk and run carry her just a bit too far and fast to land right where you want her to, meaning I often blundered right into another enemy’s attack while trying to dodge someone else. You do get used to it after a bit, but it resulted in many more deaths early on.
It’s a far bigger problem outside of combat, though, as Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites has a bunch of platforming segments as well. These are where that movement style really wears thin, as it’s hard to make precise landings on moving platforms. Falling off a cliff results in death and a return to the last checkpoint, which is aggravating when you slip off an edge due to Rayne’s movements. Checkpoints are fairly common, but you still may have to repeat a few fights and other annoying jumps before you get another shot at where you died. I’ve fallen off thousands of cliffs in my years playing games, so it’s not a deal-breaker, but having to land a slippery protagonist on a tight platform gets irritating in a hurry.
There are also cliffs in combat sometimes, in case you want to enjoy blundering off a precipice. Hardly unusual for a game if you’ve been playing them long enough, but another of the game’s problems is that it’s hard to tell what’s ground or not. The art style, while very nice and spooky, makes it really hard to tell what’s a platform and what’s just background art. You usually find out the hard way that something is a cliff or not by stumbling off it or by trying to land on something that the game doesn’t consider a platform. I love how the game looks, but this got old quick.
It doesn’t help that Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites has an extremely weird high jump that you need all the time. Taking a page from Super Mario 64, you can do a big jump by getting momentum going in one direction, then rapidly reversing it and jumping. Rayne will do a backflip that carries her far higher than usual with this jump, but you have to do this constantly. It makes the simplest platforming segments take far longer, and when it comes up in combat, you end up getting slammed as you try to hop to that higher enemy that’s flinging things at you. It just feels needlessly complicated.
Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites does have a great tension in its combat, as well as a fantastic variety of moves that will have you carving through a gorgeous castle of monstrosities. It’s when you start slipping around, tumbling off cliffs, stumbling into enemies, or scrambling to jump to a platform just overhead that the game starts to wear your patience down quickly. It’s still enjoyable, but it feels like everything is made more annoying based on a handful of elements.
Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is available on the Nintendo Switch, PS4/5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.