This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Bayonetta 2.
Seems like these days there are a lot of people banging on about how we need more gender diversity in games and more roles for women besides being the focus of stealth snogging tutorials and then something like Bayonetta 2 comes out and they turn around and say: "we need more gender diversity in games that isn't that." Well geez guys, I don't know what you want anymore! I mean Bayonetta's clearly powerful and in control of her life. Admittedly she looks like a flag pole with various items of sporting equipment nailed to it, but the debate over whether she represents female-empowerment or sexual objectification is for me a fairly swiftly resolved one, process of elimination really, she can’t be a sex object because she has the proportions of an internet meme horror character; I’m trying to imagine having sex with her and it feels like rubbing my dick on the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still. My mind can’t quite get to the point of having lustful thoughts because I’m too worried about where I’m going to find a step-ladder at this time at night.
Still, Bayonetta does give much needed representation to one severely neglected demographic and that’s: people who are capable of enjoying themselves! Every aspect of the game has the sense of sheer joyful energy running through it, from the music, to the walk animations and given a choice between Bayonetta and the reboot Lara Croft say... I’d rather have sex with the latter but only because it’d be possible without erecting scaffolding but Bayonetta is the one I’d rather be stuck opposite on a long train journey because she doesn’t stink of grim determination and caked-on goat shit .
“Wait, I thought we were gonna talk about Bayonetta 2 Yahtzee, so far this could apply to either 1 or 2?”
And there you’ve glanced off if not directly hit the nail on the head, viewer. I don’t know if this is true everywhere but the only version of Bayonetta 2 I could get hold of came bundled with Bayonetta 1, thankfully for no extra cost but I can’t help feeling that this was somewhat ill-advised. I get that it needs introducing to a new audience now that it’s Wii U exclusive and incidentally I’m still crossing fingers for Bayonetta being added to Smash Bros. just so the mothers of the world have to field some fucking awkward questions.
But if someone plays through Bayonetta 1 and then immediately moves on to Bayonetta 2, their first thought will probably be “Hang on, didn’t we just do this?” Yes, I’m sorry to say Bayonetta 2 is the bad kind of sequel, the kind that finds it impossible to move on from the original or carve out its own identity, descending instead into parades of nudge wink references and environments that are either copy-pastes or so similar it makes no odds.
“How can you say that? This classical European-style town with a suspiciously large number of open plazas has a completely different name to the previous one!”
So what is there that is new? Well, Bayonetta’s got short hair now; of course her outfit is supposed to be woven from her hair and now we know it wasn’t woven from the hair on her head. EWW! And the setup for the plot is a bit more coherent this time around: Bayonetta’s sister Jeanne has been dragged to hell and we’re off to rescue her straight Alighieri style. It’s a story involving actual emotions and comprehensible motives such as what human beings might have , so of course it gets unceremoniously booted out of the game two-thirds of the way in to be superseded by pseudo-theological cosmic warfare bollocks, so I guess it’s one of those “Liked the original? Well here’s more of it so you can put off leaving the house for another 12 or 13 hours" dealies.
I could probably just link to my review of Bayonetta 1 at this point and knock off for a crafty one; it’s about as Platinum Games as Platinum Games gets: absurdly large-scale action set-pieces, references to other Platinum Games, characters with weird hard to place accents and an emphasis on challenging up-tempo to which arcade combat design for people who really miss high-school and like being evaluated and graded every alternate step. Although I scraped through the first game with the lowest grades, I was a solid B student this time: silver medals across the board, so either it's eased off a bit or all those hours clocked in with Dark Souls have paid off.
The only combat mechanic that’s new for Bayonetta 2 is that as well as QTE torture attacks, you can use your magic meter to activate what I can’t help but think of as ‘Rage of the gods mode.’ But the practical effect is the same as the QTE attacks: you activate it then treat the controller like the face of a disobedient spouse for a few seconds and hope everything dies before your wrist dislocates.
But lest we forget it’s Wii U exclusive now and you know what that means: waiting half an hour for the fucking console to update before I could play the fucking thing. Also there’s the usual benefit, you can go off and play it on the screen controller if someone else wants to use the TV. Wii U, I’m playing a game about a pole dancer fighting demons! Obviously I live alone. Oh… well you can also control the game with the touch screen by touching where you want to go and what you want to attack like you’re a small child pointing insistently through the window of a sweet shop, or I suppose you could just use the buttons? OR I COULD JUST USE THE FUCKING BUTTONS, COULDN’T I? Because then my hand wouldn’t be getting in the way of my view of the touch screen and being distracted by own body parts is exactly why I took the mirror off my ceiling! And what with the Wii’s preference for geometric shapes over the organic controllers design favoured by other consoles, the concept of good-sense, and people with working hands, the frantic button mashing gave me finger cramp after a while. It’s like trying to beat the speed record for seducing a VCR.
When I first heard that Bayonetta 2 was going to be a Nintendo exclusive my first thought was that that felt instinctively wrong, part of it’s that you could never imagine her being introduced to Smash Bros. because it’d be like enacting Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to warm up a PTA meeting. The Nintendo universe is so quintessentially sexless she could tear a hole in the fabric of reality with a single swing of her engorged clitoris. But on the other hand the Wii U is still the only console to have kept 'have fun, play games' on the top of the priority list and Bayonetta’s fast-paced arcade action and sheer colourful joyousness does fit in with those kind of retro sensibilities, which is why it feels so lurchingly out of place whenever characters swear. Bayonetta’s supposed to be a classy and in-control sort of lady, so when she goes "Fuck off! "In the middle of a combo like a cockney market-stall vender noticing a police man, it feels a bit incongruous. What, so you just disco danced a purple frog into existence and made it lick a centaur to death, but now it’s time for some gritty realism? I like my swearing, but in the wrong place it brings down the whole gosh darn tone, you cunt.
- Is he human or is he a dancer: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Bet you're glad I resolved that whole gender diversity in games issue for everyone, you'll have so much free time on your hands now
- Now let's all have sex with each other