Screw Charlie Sheen and his winning. Fans of re-imagined, re-worked, re-booted, and re-tooled games are the winners these days. Contra, Yars Revenge, and Mortal Kombat- franchises that were gone, forgotten, or burned out, brought back to life by injecting some new energy into them. Chalk up Bloodrayne on that list as well, because Bloodrayne Betrayal is a shock to my system as much as tongue-kissing a live open light socket in a hot shower. The Bloodrayne titles were ok, the movies were horribly bad, and that seemed to be the end of following our vampiric siren. Betrayal is a swift kick in the ass for the franchise, and opens up a door of possibilities for some interesting DLC, or another title down the line.
The big change is a drastic one, as Rayne is now a 2D-style platformer similar to the Metroidvania titles, so much so that at times I thought I was playing one of those titles . It works really well, and the game looks and plays fantastic. As for the artistic style, it's gotten a complete overhaul with a jump into the comic book-graphic novel style, and the look does the game well. There is even the inclusion of comic dialogue bubbles, which point to the character "speaking" them. Not all of them have something interesting to say, but the technique fits. Reading the soldiers being guided by Rayne to find an "underground giant hidden castle", with the reaction of them being that the mission is "ridiculous" points out that this game isn't necessarily taking itself seriously, and no intention of doing so.
Below: Two dimensions can sometimes do wonders for videogames
There are tons of enemies to defeat and, yes, there are several repeats and cookie-cutter enemies, but they all die so well, and there are so damned many of them, I welcome them with eager sword and willing gun. You can shoot them down, cut them down, beat on them, toss them into environmental hazards, or simply wait for the hazard to "accidentally" take them out. At one point, on a level where I was riding what looked like a floating pile of bones floating in a quickly filling pool of blood, enemies were re-spawning into a free-fall into spinning blades, spike-covered ceilings, or, worse, Rayne herself. I know the game shrouds itself in blood and violence, but there are female enemies in the game. It still feels weird to kill virtual women.
She fluidly takes them out, and if you need health, you can stop and hit the B button to feed on their blood to re-gain your strength. Decapitations and dismemberment are all accompanied by a large amount of blood. I'm talking gallons. One enemy spurts or leaks blood like it's going out of style. The gentlemanly-looking fellows sometimes will get cut in half, and slowly pull themselves after your to try and hurt you, but you can stomp on them until they properly die. It makes me wonder how they got away with the game having been tagged "T" for teen!
The following screens may be inappropriate for children. There words, not mine:
What would a game be without some really annoying shit? Well, Betrayal has some things like that. The thing is, they are harmless-type things. Wait for them... frogs.. and mosquitoes. They are particularly annoying, almost as annoying as the infamous Castlevania Medusa heads. Hate those stupid things, I worry about getting killed by an armed assailant, and I end up getting waxed by a fekkin' frog? But I realize, without them, the game would feel a little empty. I still hate 'em, though.
Above: The Enemy spawn symbols (the red circles), the environmental hazard known as the buzzsaw, this one being the two-saw model (to the right)
Aside from the blade-covered hazards, there are ultraviolet spotlights which shine a kind of invisible light down in some areas. I noticed Rayne was turning yellow and giving off smoke, and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on for a little bit. It was a surprise at first, but I quickly figured out what was going on. Not that it helped me avoid getting burned by the light, that certainly did not happen. Granted, like the frogs and mosquitoes, in the middle of a battle, the last thing I want to do is watch out for a spotlight that can kill me.
Your progress through the game will be saved through the stages with checkpoints marked by fountains that start pouring blood when you walk past. Doesn't sound that interesting or original, but when it happens, it manages to work very well. I walked away from the game for a few minutes, and when I walked back, I was still at a checkpoint, and Rayne was sitting there, politely drinking a cup of tea. Attention to the smaller details like this in the game I find subtly cool. Sue me.
Care for a spot of tea?
Falling in line are the sound effects. Everything sounds good, from the squish and slosh of blood, the sizzle of burning, the swipes of the weaponry. Gunfire, while limited, does sound unappealing, but it's a small part of the game's sound. Musically, the classical-sounding speed-goth-symphonic-metal sounds out of place when there isn't much going on, but sounds perfectly out of control during moments of heavy combat and death.
Below: Boss Battle, the Crab Puncher! Yep. The "Crab Puncher"? Well, not everything about the game is perfect.
The game isn't terribly long, but replay value is there for that classic beat-em up arcade fix, and there is also scoring that tracks how well you play the game. So far, my tracker says I suck, and I'm considered Worm Chow (translation: I suck). Thanks. The website teases that Rayne has been recruited by the Brimstone Society for "one last mission", which I personally hope is not true, as Rayne has never looked better (outside of a stint in Playboy, maybe) and the gameplay is something that with just the tiniest bit of polish could bring more enjoyable slaughter with Rayne. Bloodrayne Betrayal on the XBox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network comes highly recommended.
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