Before I start the review of this surprisingly good game, I just have to say one thing. I can’t stand vampires. People who suck blood? That just sounds so gross! I grill my steaks very well done so I don’t see any pink in them, that’s how bad I am. And don’t get me started on stuff like Twilight. Blech! So naturally I don’t enjoy very many vampire video games. So what makes the downloadable BloodRayne: Betrayal special? Why did I like it so much? Well you’ll just have to read the review to find out! (360 version reviewed here)
BloodRayne stars a red-headed female vampire warrior who had a couple of 3-D adventures a while back, and I think there was even a movie or two based on the games. But this new BloodRayne title is totally different. It’s a 2-D hack and slash platforming challenge that imitates several kinds of classic games, which is what I like about it. It has the setting, stage progression, and driving, catchy music of the old Castlevania games. The lead character’s movements and acrobatics, like wall jumping and dashing, remind me of some of the Mega Man X games. And finally, the variety of ways you can dispatch enemies makes me think of 2-D action games like Astro Boy: Omega Factor. Plus, BloodRayne: Betrayal was made by WayForward, who was also responsible for such excellent games like Shantae and the Wii version of A Boy and His Blob. Their newest game features beautiful hand-drawn graphics that are amazing to see in action.
Rayne the vampire lady has a variety of moves to take out the bad guys. She can slash and combo attack nearby foes, or blast them from long distances with her guns and limited supply of ammo. Once she hits an enemy and stuns it, she can grab ahold of the baddie and bite it to infect it (unless the enemy is a robot that doesn’t bleed). Once an enemy is infected, you can do one of two things with it. You can keep holding down the button to make Rayne suck the blood from the enemy to regain her health. Or you can press a different button and make the infected enemy explode in a sea of blood. Any nearby enemies will explode, too, and that’s a great way to clear out a group and earn combo bonus points.
You’ll beat the bad guys in and around a creepy castle in more than a dozen side-scrolling stages. Another reason why this one plays like a classic 2-D action game is the challenge. Levels are tough, but usually fair, as you get unlimited lives and checkpoints in the form of blood-flowing fountains that are scattered about fairly evenly and frequently. And if the game isn’t challenging enough, you can search for hidden skulls in each stage. You’ll want to collect as many as you can, because when you get enough, you can choose to extend your health bar or increase the amount of ammo you can carry.
The difficulty of the game is also its main weakness. The steep learning curve may discourage less experienced players. Things can get a bit overwhelming when you’re surrounded by foes, and it would’ve been nice to have selectable difficulty levels so players of all skill levels could enjoy it more. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to earn the game’s Achievements, even the so-called easy ones!
And while I like the play control, I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve fared as well had I not had such wonderful people demoing the game for me at E3 and PAX. If I had started playing this game cold turkey, I probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out the controls and gameplay mechanics as well. While the game does have tutorial text in the levels, it would’ve been neat to have more chances to just practice moves, such as maybe a training stage like many one-on-one fighting games have.
But if you enjoy 2-D action platforming games that hearken back to the challenging 16-bit days, then you might want to check out BloodRayne: Betrayal. Heck, it even won over a vampire hater like me, and the last time I played a vampire video game I enjoyed was Kid Dracula (And if you know what that game is, you’ve really earned my respect!).
BloodRayne: Betrayal is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptors of Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, and Mild Language. As a hack and slash, the game is pretty violent. And even though the hand-drawn graphics make the violence more cartoony, there is still plenty of blood and gore. If you could turn off the blood or replace it with green squishy bug guts, I might be okay with preteens playing this. But there are still some pretty bloody and grisly death animations for our poor vampire lady. There’s a small smidgen of cursing in the text, and the game stars a sexy vampiress, so that’s where the suggestive themes come from. But really, the best reason why this game is better suited for teens and older players is the high challenge level.