Bayonetta's an extremely self-indulgent tale about nothing in particular. The constant waffling from the game's mish-mash of characters is wholly Japanese, but filled with subtle nods at both Western and Eastern popular culture that almost serves as a Michael Bay constructed satire rather than a video game plot. Abundant out-of-place caricatures fill the game with a sense of style and humour that act as a showpiece rather than a narrative, but only for patient players.
Bayonetta is an extremely self-aware game. Its constant reference to Western and Eastern culture may be jarring for some, but the subtlety in its writing delivers a game much more intelligent than its surface appearance. Plus any game intent with referencing classic gaming heritage and Alice In Wonderland so consistently is a win in our eyes.
Essentially the plot tracks Bayonetta, a sassy over-designed witch who's in search of the meaning of her past. In other words, the plot here is a sideshow for over-the-top cut-scenes and a sequence of arena like combat sections. Coming from Hideki Kamiya, the game takes a leaf out of Devil May Cry's book, with an emphasis on flashy combo-based combat. Kamiya claimed to have been inspired by God Of War, something that is apparent in Bayonetta's love affair with huge set piece moments; or "climactic action" as developers Platinum Games themselves have billed it.
Playing as Bayonetta, you're privy to a number of satisfying attack strategies. At the heart of Bayonetta's combat is a 'dodge and let rip' philosophy, emphasised by the Witch Time mechanic. Witch Time is essentially a Matrix-inspired combat mechanic that rewards last minute evasion with attack opportunities. Attacks vary between punch, kick and gun attacks, each assigned to an alternate face button. Bayonetta is equipped with weaponry on her feet (they're her stiletto heels, actually) and arms, so combat moves between straightforward martial arts attacks and ranged weapon attacks. If that wasn't enough, Bayonetta's unique hook lies in its Torture Attacks which rewards consistent evasion with ludicrously powerful finisher attacks. Couple that with special moves initiated via Bayonetta's hair and you have a combat system filled with flourish and replayability.
Sex, satire, parody, self-indulgence. Insanity. Bayonetta will put off many players before they hit Chapter II. Bayonetta won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's outlandish artwork and level design create a world of complete fantasy. The game perhaps lacks a sense of variation, but it makes up for that in the amazing design of some of its later levels. Unlike God Of War, Bayonetta is all about the up-close thrill, but there are moments of enormous scale that remind you you're truly a generation away from Devil May Cry and other similar experiences.
Despite all Bayonetta's insanity, it can feel a little formulaic in the middle. In fact, it borders on predictable. Arena - fight - arena - fight - cutscene - easy puzzle solved with Witch Time - sub-boss fight - arena - fight. You get the idea. It's a shame that a game intent with being so unusual could get predictable. Outside of a ten hour campaign there are numerous collectables and leaderboards to keep keen players going.
Of all the things that Bayonetta does phenomenally well (there are plenty), its soundtrack will live longest in our memory. Taking the visual's pseudo-sexy style of presentation, Bayonetta mixes a soundtrack of driving rhythm and nu-jazz to create a mind-numbingly amazing audio experience. Every note of every bar is extremely well considered, and immaculately performed. This is up there with Jet Set Radio, and we really don't compare with that game very often. Video game soundtrack of the year in early January? Yup, it's right here.
With all those positives, it's disappointing to see Bayonetta fall at the hands of poor programming. The game struggles on PlayStation 3, not due to hardware limitations, but due to inefficient coding. Textures are muddy, framerates are inconsistent, and colours are saturated. That's not to say Bayonetta is without its moments - at times it can look truly gorgeous, which only emphasises the problem. This should have been one of the best looking games of the year; but technical issues have hindered Bayonetta from ever coming close to that status.
If Bayonetta on PS3 was locked at 60FPS like it's supposed to be, we swear we wouldn't have died through the campaign as much as we did. Framerate issues stutter the performance and lead to dizzying lacks of accuracy. We can only hope Bayonetta 2 receives much better attention, especially when a game like Bayonetta rightfully belongs on a PlayStation system. It blows the mind that Bayonetta can transition between gameplay, epic cutscene, and huge set piece without loading, but then take five - ten seconds to load the pause menu. What game has to load the pause menu? Seriously? Poor show.
Bayonetta's ostentatious sense of style just about manages to offset a string of performance issues apparent in the PlayStation 3 iteration of the game. The game's intent on filling the screen with the most downright bonkers set pieces is uncompromising, and at times covers for its formulaic under-structure. Still, we challenge anyone not to smile at Bayonetta's relentless pacing.