Thursday, September 15, 2011
Available: Xbox Live Arcade, PSN
Do you miss your original Nintendo console? Are you longing to see a Castlevania map, hack at mid-air enemies "Ninja Gaiden"-style or dodge cannon fire while hopping pits like Mario? If so, then BloodRayne: Betrayal is the game for you, especially considering it has all of these. It’s probably to be expected from developer WayForward, a studio that has gotten praise with its recent old-school approach to gaming. As a new direction for the BloodRayne series, I definitely wasn’t expecting what I got, but for those seeking a difficult hack-and-slash platformer that looks ripped from the 16-bit era, this is one of your few choices on HD consoles.
Like most classic platformers, there are some things you have to know and accept about Betrayal before embarking on your quest. This game is hard. It’s almost annoyingly difficult, to the point that you may find yourself yelling at the screen as if you’re speaking directly to the level designer. Additionally, main character BloodRayne controls in an exceedingly loose manner, including floaty jumps, not something you want when attempting nerve-wracking platforming. The game also has some flaws with hit detection, allowing enemies to pummel you while you frantically attack a blind spot in the middle of their bodies. Normally I don’t like to lead with a game’s main flaws, of which BloodRayne has a few, but once you accept them you can begin to enjoy how good this game is, flaws and all.
You won’t notice much in the opening levels of your quest, aside from how violent the game is — I still don’t know how a bloody mess like Betrayal snuck by with a Teen rating. These early stages are mostly to tutor you in how combat and platforming works, allowing you to hone your basic skills. After reaching level six, the difficulty begins to ramp up and you suddenly wonder if you’ve brought enough patience for the entire 15-level journey. By the end of the game each new area is accompanied by heartbreaking tasks, but like so many other games of the past the sense of accomplishment is frequent and satisfying. Also to its credit, each level does a great job at preparing you for the next without feeling like a tutorial, which is completely nonexistent. This “stacking” format to learning the ropes is great for additional playthroughs and this game is tailor-made for replays. Boss battles have massive scope and harken back to the days of pattern recognition. There’s no way to cheat into a quick boss win.
The first time I completed the game, my hand was twitching and I had to sit back in appreciation for what I had just done. It was one of the first games where I sat there satisfied through the entire credit sequence. Immediately following the credits I was compelled to replay the game. Masochistic as it seemed, I found the skills that I had learned the first time through helped me significantly improve my second playthrough. Not only was I able to figure out how to access hidden areas and discover collectable skulls with ease, but my actions were more controlled. It was like Neo figuring out the Matrix. Not everything was perfect, I still have no idea what one needs to do to get decent scores. I rarely earned better than a D on any of the levels, even the second time around. Still, I definitely had more fun and appreciation for Betrayal the second time through.
When I heard that BloodRayne was getting a 2D reboot I had my doubts, and had I known it was going to be an old school platformer I would have probably been discouraged even more. As a fan of the previous titles, I’m not sure how this will sit with that crowd, but those that know what to expect will surely enjoy it. Unfortunately I don’t see today’s gamers putting up with a game like this, so proceed with caution if you don’t like getting stuck. The new cartoon-like aesthetic makes me nostalgic for the days of 16-bit sprites on the SNES. Although Betrayal isn’t as difficult as an SNES title; with frequent checkpoints and unlimited lives, once you complete a tough sequence you can move forward, but it may take you 20-25 attempts to get to that point. In the end, Betrayal is still aware that game design has moved forward in the past 25 years but will provide you with a tight-knit experience that will surely test your abilities. On the other hand, if you don’t miss the days of a required perfect run, you may want to give this one a pass.