By a show of hands, who here remembers the BloodRayne games, the two action-adventure games starring a sexy vampire released last generation? Maybe you remember the movies based off the game from “director” Uwe Boll? Despite being decent games, the previous two installments of the BloodRayne franchise failed to light up the sales charts, and so publisher Majesco Entertainment has instead decided to revive their undead heroine in the digital realm, this time enlisting in the help of developer WayForward Technologies (known for Contra 4, the Wii remake of A Boy and His Blob, and the underrated DSi gem Shantae: Risky’s Revenge). This time, instead of the navigating 3D environments, Rayne is restricted to a 2D plane as she slashes her way through a charming and incredibly bloody adventure.
BloodRayne: Betrayal plays like an action game right off of the SNES, only with more style. You travel through the game level by level, slicing through enemies, collecting points, and battling the occasional boss. Where this formula takes a turn for the awesome is in the combat system. In older action games you’d generally be limited in your offensive capabilities, whereas in BloodRayne: Betrayal you have an incredible variety of moves at your disposal. Basic attacks are performed with a single button, but combining your basic attack with directions and timing allows Rayne to perform a wide array of combos and moves that keeps the fighting interesting. This is good, because Betrayal is all about the combat. Exploration and puzzle solving is kept to a minimum, and most of the game is dedicated to visceral, satisfying brawls against a surprising variety of enemies. Having so many options to dispatch your enemies is a little daunting at first, but luckily the game eases you into it by slowly but steadily ramping up the number of enemies you fight at one time, giving you enough time to learn the intricacies of combat before throwing you into the deep end.
And throw you into the deep end it does. It only takes a few levels before the game starts to throw enemies at you en masse and really put your skills to the test. Usually, the number of enemies isn’t the problem, it’s the amount of damage they deal. Most enemies do enough damage to finish you off in only 4 or 5 hits, so mastering Rayne’s dash, a move that thrusts you forward and allows you to dodge most attacks, becomes essential. However, taking damage isn’t the end of the world. Being a vampire, Rayne has the ability to suck blood from her enemies to restore her own health. She also comes armed with a gun that allows her to shoot enemies dead in a single shot in case you’re being overwhelmed.
Exploration isn’t a large factor in Bloodrayne: Betrayal, but it still is present. Stages are mostly linear affairs that see Rayne traveling from point A to point B, but scattered throughout are a series of surprisingly well hidden skulls that encourage you to explore your surroundings. Collecting all of these skulls results in an achievement. While this adds some replay value, the majority of the replay comes from the rankings you get in each stage. After beating each level, you’ll be presented with a ranking based on the number of points you earned. The best way to earn points is to beat the levels quickly, and each encounter has a timer that counts down. The faster you kill enemies, the more points you score. This encourages replaying each stage for a better score, and each time you play you’ll get better. Eventually you’ll learn each stage and string together wonderfully powerful combos, and at this point the game flows so well it becomes less like combat and more like a beautiful, deadly dance.
The game is also filled with neat little details. One such example is the spotlights that are scattered throughout the game. Being a vampire, being in the light damages Rayne, and so taking out these lights not only gives you bonus points, but it makes the fighting easier when your health isn’t being slowly drained.
One thing WayForward has always been known for is it’s gorgeous 2D animation, and Bloodrayne: Betrayal is certainly no exception. WayForward has not been shy about advertising the fact that Rayne herself has over 4000 unique frames of animation, to say nothing of the multitude of hand drawn backgrounds and NPC animations. Even the blood (which the game features plenty of) flows with a shocking amount of detail. Bloodrayne: Betrayal is simply breathtaking to behold and ranks among the very best looking 2D games ever made. Every single animation, from the flurry of quick swipes with Rayne’s blades to the way saw blades rock precariously as they spin is fluid and believable. When it gets right down to it, Bloodrayne: Betrayal looks like something that would come out of an alternate world Disney; A Disney where they aren’t afraid to show plenty of blood and violence.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal may be a gorgeous game, but it’s not without it’s own (minor) faults. Chiefly among them is that the music, while good, is awfully repetitive. It doesn’t have much of a soundscape and only features a few songs and sound effects. For the most part this isn’t a big deal since the sounds that are there fit well, but by the end of the game you’ll find yourself wanting a little more. Also, there are a few bits of gameplay that get in the way. Towards the end of the game, there are a handful of sections that become more frustrating than fun with the number of enemies that swarm at you. These sections will take you just a few too many tries to complete. Finally, some things aren’t always too clear as to what you can interact with and what you can’t. For example, there are sections in some of the stages where you can climb some of the walls (if you’ve ever played the Megaman X series, it’s very similar to that) but not all of them. Which walls are climbable and and which are not is never clearly laid out, and some that seem like they should be are not.
Despite whatever minor flaws the game may have, Bloodrayne: Betrayal is definitely a game worth picking up. Between the outstanding animation, fun combat system, and overall quality of the title, Rayne’s newest adventure is worth tagging along for.
*Majesco Entertainment provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.