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A few months ago I wrote a review of the Japanese release of Bayonetta. But reading back recently I'm now having second thoughts. The game had left me uninspired so I wrote the review out of a desire to produce some early reactions. But along the way my discussion took me away from what was really important - that Bayonetta left me cold. It was a situation where I could see what the game was doing, but only more recently started to appreciate it.
In the last few weeks Bayonetta received its Western release. Podcasts and online reviews got me thinking again about why I was left so unenthused by my own outing with the game.
All the chatter around Bayonetta on both 360 and PS3 has revolved around the spectacle of the set pieces and the responsiveness of the action. I cast my mind back, looking for when it was the experience became bland to me - the moment when the awe of the spectacle became a trudge of monotony. My realisation was sudden and complete. Bayonetta allowed itself to be played in a way that was not conducive to excitement or tension.
As I wrote my original piece on Bayonetta I applauded it for its generous checkpoints. It allowed me to constantly progress, never punishing me for failure or unwillingness to engage more completely in the intricacies of the combat. However a side effect of this system was that the game lost all sense of risk. Even boss encounters, while impressive, had a number of checkpoints through out their progression. I knew that the only cost of death was a lower score, and when my goal was solely to progress this seemed like no great punishment.
It required me to bring my own desire to improve my skills but when I was able to brute force my way through monstrous screen filling adversaries with a few memorised moves I never felt compelled to.
I have played action games similar to Bayonetta that required me to become well versed in their combat. Without continually advancing my own mastery of those game it became impossible to progress. At times it became almost impossible to progress, infuriatingly impossible to best. I would have to comb through game move lists, trying to work out new and better methods of attack. Even when nothing was offered to guide me, I was forced to learn and to teach myself. They were gruelling, frequently requiring long breaks before returning afresh to the challenge. But such games were rewarding and always managed to retain their tension and excitement.
Like other titles in the genre, Bayonetta offers little in the way of higher-level tuition, but equally offered me no impetus to delve in to it. It required me to bring my own desire to improve my skills but when I was able to brute force my way through monstrous screen filling adversaries with a few memorised moves I never felt compelled to.
I could see the possibilities lying just beyond my reach, but like a tired drunk I was happy to grab the closest bottle of Tesco's Value whisky rather than search for the Laphroaig. Unfortunately like the Value stuff, after finishing it I was left not wanting to indulge again for a while, and so may never force myself to find out what I am missing.
Bayonetta simply went too easy on me.
I've stopped reading much of the praise now, although I know much of it is warented, for me it just reminds me of the game I didn't pursue. Maybe this is my fault, or maybe it's the game design, either way Bayonetta simply went too easy on me, and I never rose to the challenge of getting better at it.
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