It took us all of 30 seconds to realise that Bayonetta's world is as crazy as it's ever been. We're battling winged centaurs atop a jet plane as it roars through a city as flocks of bloodthirsty angels fly nearby. We tackle giant dragons, tentacle monsters, and end up summoning a giant demon out of Bayonetta's hair to chomp down on hulking enemies. it's hard to argue that any of the absurdity or insanity of the series has been toned down.
Bayonetta is your average 500 year old Umbra Witch, whose clan was wiped out by angels, and has been living the quiet life since disposing of God and its creator Jubileus in the first game. That is until something disturbs the balance between angels and demons and the collapse threatens the entire world.
This time sent you off for the mountain Fimbulvinter, which is surrounded by a beautiful island and seaport. The mountain acts as a bridge between heaven and hell, and is key to your sudden and mysterious attack. The environments are beautiful, the colour palette rich, as if Platinum has taken criticisms of the first title's slightly one-note colouring to note.
The original lost some of its frantic pacing due to being swamped with backstory. While story still isn't taking a backseat this time round, Platinum Games has learnt its lesson; most cutscenes see Bayonetta and company dispatch spirited one-liners before gameplay swiftly resumes.
And there should be no doubt that combat is the main attraction here. Battles are just as insane as our first time wearing the pistol stillettos. There's rarely a moment to breathe, and it's important to keep moving, juggling enemies and calculating tactics to adapt to new combinations of foes, dodging both melee and long-range attacks. Witch Time returns, slowing down time if you dodge an attack successfully at the very last second, and in turn letting you pummel angels and demons easily. This is where the essence of Bayonetta lies - you'll be given plenty of opportunity to link up brilliant attacks if you first master the art of timing your movements.
It's rapid-fire combat, but responses need to be measured, planned. Combo chains weave out with possibility, and you need to know exactly the distances and directions required for Bayonetta's attacks. This is a game that makes a point of punishing the player's lack of caution. If you barely make it through one battle, you're quickly thrown into the next encounter without proper time to heal. It comes across as a little unjust, even if it only punishes your mistakes. But as a result, it's easy to fall head over heels (pun intended) in love with the combat system, and it quickly becomes a quest to perfect the fluidity with which you traverse the levels and deal damage.
There are bosses all over the place. You will be drowning in them and it keeps up the variation. Your next boss encounter will always be bigger, more impressive and more difficult than the last one, and we repeatedly found ourselves with mouths ajar at how fantastically exaggerated they are, and several end in spectacular fashion, that we won't spoil here.
After completing each fight you're assigned a grade depending on how well you did in terms of combos, avoiding damage and finishing in within a reasonable time. Much like in the predecessor it is extremely addictive to chase after the highest grade. We went back several times to replay chapters for the sole reason of bettering our scores and gaining better rewards that are used to purchase new costumes, powers and abilities. The selection is vast and it soon becomes a necessity to overcome these challenges.
Bayonetta 2 is a visual tour de force. Everything from the beautiful harbour town, the journey to Fimbulvinter and everything - screen-sized enemies, increasingly preposterous combos - is gorgeous to behold, running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. This is without a doubt the best looking game on the console (and doesn't look half-bad played through the GamePad either).
As the story reaches its conclusion, there are Verse Cards that you can use in a multiplayer mode called Tag Climax, letting you play co-operatively online with either a friend or stranger. Verse Cards, selected by both players, determine the combination of enemies you face and you bet credits that one of you will reach the end of the scenario. The higher your bid, the higher the reward, but the difficulty also scales: from being able to take a sustained beating to suffering only two blows before collapsing. Good thing then that there's two of you as your fellow witch can revive you.
The game's already out in Japan, so we spent most of our time teaming up with Japanese players, and one thing we've learnt is their persistence in attempting the hardest setting no matter how many times they fail. It can be a source of annoyance, since you take turns deciding what Verse Cards to use and how much to bet, that we continually lost money as our partners repeatedly went all-in. You can also play with a computer controlled partner, but it takes much of the fun out of the mode. As the populace grows come retail release though, things will likely become more diverse. The Tag Climax mode is sure to keep Bayonetta 2 alive for a long time. Extremely addictive and lots of fun.
If you're new to Bayonetta you should make sure to get the Special Edition of Bayonetta 2, as it includes the first game. The predecessor has been polished up and made to shine for the re-release on Wii U - even the framerate has been given an overhaul and it is now running at 60 frames per second.
When the credits rolled we were left completely exhausted. It's been a very long time since a game required this amount of energy and reward all the frustration it takes to learn to master the game. Anyone can jump in and start being violent, but when you're really skilled the result is something of elegant, brutal beauty. Something that's wholly satisfying from beginning to end, and a workout that's in a class of its own. It's one of the most compelling reasons to pick up Nintendo's console and if you already own one, own this as well.
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