This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Bayonetta.
I'll say one thing for Sega: they've never been afraid to represent people with hideous birth defects. This was the company that created a sidekick for their chief mascot with an extraneous tail (and presumably, by extension, extraneous arsehole). And then there was that thing from Nights with two additional legs growing out the top of its head. You wouldn't see Nintendo bring out a character with a third nipple or an anus in the center of their forehead. And Sega are admirably continuing this tradition with Bayonetta, a game about a woman with legs of such bizarre proportions she must have gotten her feet caught in a motorized winch while being extracted from the womb. When she sits down, her knees come up higher than her ice cream cone hairdo. I'd like to know who the fuck they got in to do motion-capture work for this character, because all I can picture is a giraffe who's taken pole-dancing lessons.
Bayonetta is a witch. In accordance with the retranslation of vampires from closet-lurking bogeymen to mopey, solar-powered disco balls, witches are now strippers who strap guns to all their hands and feet and cultivate their body hair into makeshift catsuits. The level of the sexualization going into this game is nothing short of shameless. Talk about it being "ironic" all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that someone's rubbing themselves off to it even as we speak. Everything Bayonetta does is fetishized. She wears glasses, sucks on Chupa Chups, uses BDSM techniques as special attacks, and occasionally all her clothes fly off and hairy monsters appear. Fuck, I've gone out with girls like that. Fortunately, being English and therefore utterly repulsed by the slightest sexual urge in myself and everyone around me, I'm immune to any callous attempt to touch my heart via my wrinkly undercarriage, and Bayonetta looks about as sexy to me as a pencil that's been stuck through a couple of grapes.
Get past the cock-tease presentation, and I can call the game adequate at breast--I mean, at best. My "like God of war but" stamp sadly has to be revised this week as my "like Devil May Cry but" stamp, which should come as no surprise since Bayonetta has the same director. Hideki Kamiya (or however you say that) still has a knack for the completely ridiculous fight scene, I just wish someone would remind him he's a game designer once in a while. Bayonetta has the same Devil May Cry buttocks--I mean, bollocks--where the characters will faff lengthily about in acrobatic violence within cutscenes, while the player is expected to watch quietly while thinking, "Wow, I wish I could be having that much fun right about now!" He is getting better, though, because some of the cutscenes have quick-time events. Tan fucking fastic! Maybe with a couple more games he'll eventually figure this out.
The QTEs are irregular, very sudden, and give you an amount of time equivocal to the target audience's attention span. You really couldn't have implemented them any worse, unless the game redirected a tactical nuclear strike to your house every time you missed one. Although the briefness of the QTEs juxtaposes nicely against the unforgivingly long loading times. Listen, PS3 developers, I honestly don't mind if you install stuff on the hard drive if it means we can avoid this shit. It's okay, we have a 320 giga. The game loads when you walk across a room, it loads when you pick up an item, and every time you die it calls you a retard and loads for an extra long time.
And you will die. You'll die a bum--I mean, a lot. Unlike Darksiders, Bayonetta has more combos than a roadside café, and the game actually lets you practice them during the loading screens, which is quite a clever and pragmatic little feature. Of course, practicing in an empty room is one thing, and when I was in the game surrounded by enemies all busily trying to shove their staffs down my hideous giraffe throat, I ended up randomly smashing the two attack buttons and hitting dodge every time a nearby enemy so much as scratched his bum. Which worked for me, but at the rating at the end of the level it would always give me the dunce cap thanks for trying award for retards. I tried to make excuses: "I'm sorry, miss. All the enemies were so fucked up looking, miss, it was hard to tell of they were telegraphing an attack or trying to hail a fucking cab, miss." But they fell on deaf ears. I don't mind that so much though, because at least I finished the levels, and it's rare to see a game like this that rewards finesse without becoming inaccessible to the layman playing on a civilized difficulty setting.
And there's one feature I will happily debase myself in gratitude for, and that's mid-boss fight checkpoints. This is the sort of game where the boss can be the size of the moon and have eleven health bars, so chipping the first ten away only to die from a casual elbow to the face can be garment-rendingly frustrating by itself without having to take it from the top.
I strongly advise not trying to follow the story on your first runthrough. There are some things for which the human mind just isn't equipped. Bayonetta was found at the bottom of a river twenty years ago and now works with demons from hell to kill angels, who are apparently evil because they keep attacking Bayonetta because she keeps attacking them. The baddies, or possibly the goodies, are trying to resurrect some big evil god thing, which is linked to some ancient clan of witches and rival clan of sages and some associated evil corporation who presumably felt a bit left out. And there's this guy in a Harry Potter scarf who wants to either kill Bayonetta or bone her silly. And there's this little girl who's either Bayonetta's daughter or a younger version of herself AAAARGH! Sometimes I miss the old Pac-Man storytelling method: eat pills, avoid ghosts. That's it. Only sometimes you can eat ghosts as well if you AAARGH!
If you can cope with loading times that slam-dunk all sense of game flow into a fucking volcanic vent, being called a spacker at the end of every level, listening to the same three up-tempo music tracks like you've borrowed an iPod from the world's most boring man, and the occasional cheap death pulled right out of the games arse--I mean. . .arse--then I can recommend Bayonetta. Because as spectacle fighters go it certainly is a spectacle. Its overactive sex appeal does make me feel a little bit like I've walked in on someone humping their Japanese love pillow, but it's hilariously audacious when it's not merely fascinating. The game should last you a long time, because it's the sort of thing intended to be played over and over again, partly to figure out what the fuck's going on and partly to unlock all the difficulty settings and extra bits, to patiently hone a skill set that will have many practical applications in daily life. Such as if you're ever called upon to enthusiastically text-message someone while simultaneously polishing a pickled gherkin.
Coming to you in new widescreen-o-vision: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
In case you forgot, "spectacle fighter" is my special name for games where all the main characters wear spectacles
How about I review Borderlands when it agrees to stop crashing on me