"Deliciously unique." "Nearly flawless." "As good as action games get." Those are only three glowing quotes out of scores of reviews praising the new action shooter Bayonetta. And it's a sure bet that, despite its M rating, all that gushing will motivate gamers young and old to check the title out. So let's see what kind of ammo has been put into this battler's gun.
The game blasts its way into existence with a weapon in its hand and a spiritual tale on its lips. In ancient days, it says, our planet was balanced by two powerful orders: the female Umbra Witches and the male Lumen Sages. Bayonetta, a sassy magiker at the core of the game, is the progeny of an unholy union between a Sage and a Witch. Her abominable birth triggered a full-on war that pretty much wiped both groups out.
After 500 years of imprisonment at the bottom of a lake, the curvy, catsuit-wearing gal resurfaces. Uncertain about her place in the world, she sets off on a quest to restore her lost memories and find two magical gems that will put the universe back in balance. Most important to the gaming action, though, is Bayonetta's deal with the demonic forces of hell that stipulates she can remain topside as long as she tears into a heaping helping of angels every day.
It's a twisting and twisted spiritual narrative, to be sure. And it's solidly par for the course for game director Hideki Kamiya, who counts Devil May Cry among his other popular creations. So why all the caterwauling this time around?
First is the spectacle. The opening scene tosses you control of Bayonetta in a dark-side-of-the-rainbow world where she acrobatically blasts and hacks at a horde of angel-like monsters. And she's doing that while "riding" a Big Ben-size clock face that's tumbling end over end into a rock-strewn abyss.
That's just the laid-back prologue. From there things really get hopping as gamers are enveloped in something close to sensory overload.
The second very noticeable element that's making a lot of critics go crazy is Bayonetta herself. "She's a cross between an S&M strip club dancer and that teacher all the boys used to fancy at school," opined the reviewer at telegraph.co.uk. The guys at gamershell.com called her "a geek-bondage fantasy girl, all legs and chest and covered in painted-on latex." And according to gamervision.com, "Everything Bayonetta does carries an undertone of sexual power and allure; when she walks, she walks like a stripper, when she activates a lever, she makes sure to wrap her legs around it first … and when she finds a suitable stripper pole in the environment, she puts on a performance that would make dollar bills fly from men's pockets."
So this quip-tossing lead is as much randy vixen as universe mender. And that sensuality carries over into the slashing and bashing combat as Bayonetta takes out angels in as many ridiculously over-the-top ways as possible.
Catwoman Times 10
When the beehive-permed witch jumps into a purgatory zone to battle angels, she carries four guns—one in each hand and one strapped to each ankle. This setup affords her plenty of spread-eagle battle poses as she blazes her way through scores of cooing attack combinations. And as the game moves on, she acquires bladed weapons—including katana swords and ice skates—that can lop off heads or rip bodies from stem to stern.
Bigger attack flourishes end with Bayonetta summoning a devastating demon that materializes through her magically imbued hair—which is what the temptress's curve-hugging outfit is made of. So as the attacks unfold, so does her outfit, leaving her naked except for tiny bits of well-placed scenery or strategically tweaked camera angles.
There's more. Special Torture Attacks involve everything from iron maidens to artery-rending chain saws to guillotines. And they too sport their own brand of sexuality. (Including a vivid sequence revolving around Bayonetta's stiletto heels.)
So, between the sexually suggestive enemy punishments, Bayonetta's erotic poses and her innuendo-laden dialogue, every major battle becomes a striptease-like come-on.
Breaking Off the Bayonet
Take that snapshot and cover it with spattered blood, and brimming ladlefuls of f- and s-words, and you've got a cartwheeling mess. A mess that even some appreciative reviewers are forced to acknowledge:
"[Bayonetta is] a sensual ballet of hyper-kinetic violence that makes no pretense to be wholesome entertainment," reads a review on gameshark.com. [It's an] orgy of sadistic mayhem."