Review – Bloodrayne: Betrayal. 2-D Action Bliss, or Terrible Miss?

If you grew up on Mega Man and Castlevania, chances are that the fresh 2D Bloodrayne: Betrayal has caught your eye; but will you be taken back to the nostalgic memories of yesteryear, or end up a frustrated, disappointed mess? Let’s find out, shall we?

Bloodrayne: Betrayal has some outstanding artwork, and this is one of the simpler areas.

Bloodrayne is a stylish, hand-drawn, 2-D action game with a strong emphasis on platforming. It gives players most of the tools one would expect from something in the vein of a Mega Man game: a dash and air dash that both grant temporary invincibility, a high-altitude back-flip, a couple of melee combos, a low-ammo gun, a mid-air face stomp that lets you repeatedly jump on enemies’ heads, a sweep, ground stomp, air-to-ground stomp (for stuns), wall-jumping, and some air combos. So, yeah, there’s quite a bit to work with. Bloodrayne, our protagonist, also has a unique ability to suck the blood out of enemies to replenish her health, though they may have to be stunned with an attack (no, the enemies will not just let you have their way with them). By quickly tapping the same button used for blood-sucking, players can infect a regular enemy, turning them into a walking bomb which can be detonated whenever the player feels like it. The game will actually teach you that you can turn an enemy into a bomb, then use one of Bloodrayne’s combos, or mid-air kick, to launch enemies away from you and blow them up (also doing damage to enemies nearby). So, it has just about everything you could ask for in an action platformer, right?

While the game does give players a wealth of awesome moves, I do have some gripes with the controls. There is a boss in the game that resembles a crab. He is in a vertical shaft going downwards while you’re standing on top of him. You’ll be trying to avoid flies that swoop down and hit you, mutant enemies that attack and rush you, rocks that fall from above, and blades that come out from the sides. Now, these things don’t all come at once, but you will often have to deal with two of them at a time. The problem is that Bloodrayne’s controls aren’t equipped to deal with an area this small. These attacks during the boss fight require you to move just a little bit to the left or right to avoid getting hit. However, Bloodrayne will either barely move, or move way farther than you need her to, resulting in annoying hits. Fortunately this boss only appears twice in the game, though the second time around even more precision is required, making it all the more evident that Bloodrayne is ill-equipped for this kind of situation. There are a few other places in the game in which players may find Bloodrayne’s lack of subtle movement an annoyance.

Another frustration that pops up now and then is that the ground stomp is accomplished with the same button that you use for regular attacks. This causes players to ground stomp downed enemies rather than the ones standing right in front of the player and ready to attack. This problem could have been easily fixed by requiring players to hold “down” while pressing the attack button to ground stomp.

Here's that "delayed" combo in action. Why doesn't it require more delay though?

There are two major combos in the game, a regular one, and a delayed one. I found it strange — and I’ve gone back and tried this out a few times — that the player is required to rapidly tap the attack button much faster than the four-hit combo occurs. If I pre-load the movement of Ryu or Ken’s shoryuken in a Street Fighter game, I’m still pressing the attack button right when the move happens, not before it. So there’s this strange disconnected feeling between the player and the main combo attack. If you press the attack button in time with the combo, Bloodrayne will surprisingly do her delayed combo instead.

Bloodrayne also does not have any invincibility frames after getting hit. There are numerous places in the game in which one hit can turn into at least two, possibly causing a frustrating death. Sometimes these hits/deaths feel very cheap.

The gun is basically a nice way to vent your frustrations. It works.

Getting past those frustrations though, the game can actually be quite fun. Grabbing enemies at the right time for some blood-sucking action gives you temporary invincibility, making it a very useful battle tactic. Once I became familiar with all of Bloodrayne’s moves, I was zipping around on the ground and in the air, performing combos, dodging, exploding enemies at will, and generally wreaking havoc. Air kicking an enemy is pretty satisfying too, as there is some oomph to it as it sends your enemy of choice sailing across the screen. There isn’t much to the enemy variety, but the enemy placements and combinations of enemies and obstacles keeps things interesting throughout the game. For example, you might be fighting a similar set of enemies as a previous level, but there will be a few added enemies on the sides who throw projectiles at you. All in all, the general combat in the game requires that you keep your eye on all of the enemies on the screen, no matter how far or close they are to you. Even the most basic of enemies will pull out a handgun to shoot you from afar, always keeping you on your toes. Aside from the combat, there is also a large amount of platforming to be done.

There will be additional obstacles during fight scenes to up the challenge.

The basic level structure of Bloodrayne combines action with platforming, while also making players stop once in awhile to fight a group of baddies. Pretty normal stuff, right? Well, welcome to the thumb ninja dojo, students. For those of you who have obtained a black belt in thumb ninja previously, I’m afraid that you’ll have to be retested for competency. There are a few levels in which players must actually use Bloodrayne’s mid-air face-stomp move to remain in the air for short sections of a level. For example, one section had a couple of flies, one above the other, and to their right is a saw blade moving up and down. Now take that and multiply it by seven or so. Players will have to decide, in the moment, whether they want to jump off of both flies (or just one), and exactly when they should air-dash past the saw blade (above or below it). This particular section takes some good timing, and though I failed a few times, there was a convenient check-point right before it; thus lessening the frustration would-be thumb ninjas may have. While some reviewers have complained about these kinds of difficult platforming sections, I really enjoyed them. I saw them as platforming puzzles. You’ll have to quickly make a decision about the environment around you and jump to the next safe spot. Sure it’s tough, but I found these parts to be some of the most satisfying sections in the game. Also, my thumbs are now super ripped and ready to be admired.

There are a few bosses in the game (other than the annoying crab) that gave me almost as much bliss. Dodging lasers with dashes, doing back-flips to get up to a boss for a little bit of payback, and learning the attack patterns of these (usually) gigantic beasts can be a blast. After beating some of the bosses, I felt triumphant in my victory, but enjoyed the bouts so much that I wished they were a little longer.

Throughout the game, levels use several layers to give the game more depth.

The overall presentation of Bloodrayne is quite nice. The whole game is hand-drawn, with animations of both enemies and the protagonist herself flowing quite smoothly. I especially liked the sparks that fly off of the bladed-arms of the mutants as they tear through the ground with eager anticipation. Both the characters and the levels themselves are very detailed. There are often multiple layers in the levels, at least a foreground and background, giving off an explosion of detail in any given location. In many cases there are around four layers happening all at the same time, giving Bloodrayne’s world a more realistic feel than most of her other 2-D counterparts. In short, this game is quite pleasing to the eye. As for the music, it ranges from a somber melody to a rock orchestra in high gear. There aren’t many tracks, and they may not find their way to your MP3 player, but they also (probably) won’t get in the way of your enjoyment of the game either (unless you really hate intense, orchestrated rock music).

Bloodrayne: Betrayal will probably be initially frustrating, even for veteran gamers. Some may find it too much to bear and simply move onto something else. However, those willing to put up with some frustrations may find that they surprisingly like the game, even if they first hated the game and didn’t think those feelings would change (that was me). There are plenty of secrets to be found, and perfecting a level can be extremely challenging. Aside from just getting through the levels, there are optional blood-filled casks strewn throughout levels, and some of them are difficult to get to. Players looking for the ultimate challenge will find themselves beating levels without getting hit, destroying said casks, and speedily navigating their way through to obtain high scores. If you’re up for a challenging action platfomer, Bloodrayne: Betrayal might be right up your alley.

Bloodrayne: Betrayal is available now for Xbox 360 and PS3 for $14.99. It was developed by WayForward Technologies and published by Majesco.

Grade: B

Facebook Comments