There are few things in life more satisfying than pulling off a complex combo. There’s something magical about putting the boot into an enemy so ferociously and rhythmically that they can barely back away, let alone retaliate. Happily, for the players of Bayonetta 2, the opportunity to serve up such combos comes early in the piece, and the fun rarely lets up for the game’s duration. In a Wii U exclusive, Nintendo have locked down one of the more controversial and competent games of 2014.
First, the controversy. The original Bayonetta was marred with accusations of being overly sexualized, and suffering from existing solely within the male gaze. The sequel is no different, and amid recent events, the scrutiny a title featuring an at-times scantily-clad female character faces is stronger than ever. Despite its overwhelmingly tongue-in-cheek demeanour and representation of central female characters, Bayonetta 2 suffers unfair resistance from some factions – a shame as the central character is not only empowered – but powerful, and executed with aplomb.
The competence comes from the obvious signs of developer pedigree present in the games delivery. Bayonetta 2 is a game that lives or dies by its ability to translate frantic gamepad prodding into fluid and mesmerising ass-kicking on screen, and this game is bursting with life.
Playing with the Wii U GamePad works reasonably well, but the game takes on another dimension when playing with the Wii U Pro Controller. Control mechanics are simple enough to be functional when things get tricky onscreen, but complex enough to allow for some stunning set-pieces and finishing moves. The game offers an additional mode of control for beginners and more casual gamers on the GamePad which uses the touchscreen, but it’s next to useless in the later stages of the game.
From the prologue of Bayonetta 2 the player is treated with subtle and well thought out cues on how to play the game itself. Nice touches like allowing players to practise combos in loading screens along with the inclusion of a mode to finesse particular techniques in-game lead into the larger scoring structure of the game. Each chapter that is completed gives a score breakdown and rewards, imploring players to return and do better.
As Bayonetta progresses through the campaign, weapons and perks are unlocked turning her into a fearsome monster of her own. Throughout the game, Bayonetta can take on the form of a wild cat to speed through levels, and there are also mini-games packed in to keep repetition at a bearable level.
Anyone suitably geared up for a scrap needs someone to take it out on, and Bayonetta 2 is stocked with an incredibly diverse and well-designed flock of bad guys to explode. The designers have gone all out in this game – vastly elaborate enemies tower over the rapidly-changing battlegrounds and give the impression that each battle is a fresh and urgent task to attend to. Each differing class of foe has unique tells and strengths, which means the player can’t simply go into a trance and automatically blast through combat unscathed. Simply standing back to admire the creations which range from classical to art deco is good cause to repeat a chapter in itself.
Visually the game is impressive on the Wii U, with the action remaining free-flowing at what feels like a solid 60fps even during the more hectic battles. This is achieved by a fairly low level of textural detail which becomes apparent up close. Importantly, the animations of both friend and foe are very well executed, allowing the eye to forgive some of the more obvious technical limitations set by the platform.
Bayonetta 2’s sound effects are sharp and give satisfying dimension to the collision of stiletto and monster husk, which is all anyone could ask for. The game’s theme music (oddly) is a trashy Japanese disco cover of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River”, which stacks on top of the absurd theme and style perfectly.
The game’s storyline isn’t what anyone will be rushing out to the store for, but while it verges on daytime soap drama mixed with poorly-translated reality TV, it has an endearing comedic edge which will force even the most cynical to crack a smile on occasion. Some side characters such as Enzo are nothing more than crude caricatures brought to life and they grate on the players mind, but thankfully only for a small fraction of the game’s runtime.
Slot together a wonderfully responsive control scheme, slick graphics, and a sense of design that rivals any other game and you have a gem. Bayonetta 2 adds to its predecessor in virtually every way, and does so with confidence. It joins the handful of Wii U titles released so far that can be considered must-haves. Give it a bash.