Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 review: It’s switch time
Update: While Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 can both be bought as digital downloads on the Nintendo store, it’s worth noting that the physical copy of Bayonetta 2 comes with a download key of the first game. If you’re looking to grab both games, your best bet is therefore to order a physical copy of the sequel.
At the time of writing, Argos is offering the game for £40.99, as is Amazon. Our review continues below.
There is quivering flesh beneath the stony faces of angels. In Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2, the armies of God wear uncanny masks, blank expressions, and there’s pleasure to be had in punching these visages to a bloody pulp. Now, thanks to their arrival on Nintendo Switch, you can do it all on your morning commute.
PlatinumGames’ Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 have been given a spit and polish for Nintendo’s console, amping up its kaleidoscope of holy carnage to a super-smooth 60fps. Beside an upped framerate, the real attraction of their arrival on Switch is the ability to play these games anywhere you like. Given Bayonetta’s structure around short, explosive setpieces, it’s a way of playing that makes a lot of sense; well suited to half-hour bursts on the train or lunch break.[gallery:5]
If you’re unfamiliar with the world of Bayonetta, it centres on the titular witch as she romps around a Dantesque land where the forces of Paradiso and Inferno have fallen out of whack. It’s an exuberantly camp adventure, often incomprehensible, but full of tongue-in-cheek humour and a compelling main character. Bayonetta is sexualised, sometimes with the tact of a teenage fantasy, but often with humour and a seam of irreverence that runs throughout the two games.
This latter aspect meant family-friendly Nintendo wasn’t the most obvious choice to bring Bayonetta 2 to market, which it did as a Wii U exclusive in 2014. The relative unpopularity of that ill-fated console, especially compared to the success of the Switch, means this port is likely to be the first time many people will experience the game – and that’s a very good thing. Bayonetta 2 refines and builds on the first Bayonetta, cutting the original game’s baggier aspects whilst improving the mind-bending visuals and tightening its stellar combat. With a Switch-exclusive Bayonetta 3 on the horizon, there’s no better time to delve back into this madcap series.
Rhythm and flow
Both games are very similar, emphasising stylish, frenetic combat. The flow of the fighting in Bayonetta is amongst the best you’ll find in a video game, even within PlatinumGames’ own stable of titles. If you enjoyed the combat in last year’s Nier: Automata, for example, you’ll find a lot to love in the balletic swoops and twirls of Bayonetta’s fighting style. Keeping combos running can be a real challenge, particularly on harder difficulties, but the power of PlatinumGames’ design is in how it makes you feel powerful and precise, even if you’re semi-aimlessly mashing buttons.[gallery:23]
The heart of this is Witch Time; a slow-mo, purple tinted mode that activates for a precious few seconds when you successfully dodge an attack at the final possible moment. It’s immensely satisfying to pull off, and a core part to keeping a sense of flow during prolonged fights. Throw in a heap of different weapons and combos, and Bayonetta gradually builds an impressive array of attacks around this central pillar of attack, dodge, slow time, attack harder.
Most aspects of Bayonetta’s combat carry on directly into Bayonetta 2, although the sequel includes a ‘rage’ mode called Umbran Climax that can be activated when the magic meter is full. The second game also irons out a few of the most annoying aspects of Bayonetta 1, such as a repeated puzzle that involves dodging lightning bolts to slow down time. Tweaks and visual improvements aside, however, Bayonetta 2 is very much a similar beast to the first Bayonetta. So much so, in fact, that unless you’re keen on picking apart Bayonetta’s noodled storyline I’d recommend grabbing the iterative sequel over the first game. That said, it’s worth mentioning the physical copy of Bayonetta 2 comes with a free download code for the original Bayonetta.
The Switch release comes with Nintendo-themed costumes for Bayonetta: a female Link outfit; a Princess Peach outfit; and a Samus outfit, each with their own set of special abilities. Like the Wii U versions, you can also use the Switch’s touchscreen to play the game – although this is pretty useless when you have more than a couple of enemies on the screen. Handheld mode works excellently, but with so much happening on screen there were a few moments I lost track of the action. The crazy setpieces can be confusing when on they’re playing out on your TV, and that’s compounded when shrunk to a smaller screen.
A sense of confusion is part of the Bayonetta experience, though. This is a pair of games, after all, that see you fighting on top of a moving fighter jet, or jumping around an enormous, upside-down angel face, flagged by a pair of dragon heads. The whole thing is so vibrantly odd that’s you’ll forgive a few moments of befuddlement for the joyful chaos of firing bullets from your high-heeled boots. An absurd delight.