Release date: Available now
We can’t all be Lara Croft. That’s the hard lesson BloodRayne learned when she first debuted on the PlayStation 2. This vampire assassin was cut from the grindhouse mold, and despite starring in a handful of engaging action titles on that generation’s consoles, the feisty femme fatale couldn’t quite reach Lara’s level of celebrity. Instead, she seemed stuck in her B-movie-esque roots long before film director Uwe Boll grabbed hold of the property in his one man battle to drag gaming as far from art as possible. As a result, a promising property died well before it could find its stride. Enter WayForward, a talented team of developers who have performed some real-magic in the 2D platform space, with such notable titles as Shantae, A Boy and His Blob and Contra IV. With Bloodrayne: Betrayal in their mitts, hope was renewed that this vampire would rise once again.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a 2D platformer that sends Rayne on a quest through a gothic castle and the surrounding spooky forest. Playing similarly to 8-bit classics like Castlevania, Mega Man, and Ninja Gaiden, Rayne finds her journey through this crumbling edifice populated with hordes of the undead and a number of alarming death traps: the kind that used to be one hit, one kill. The game plays homage not only to those classic titles but also their notorious difficulty spikes and players will need to master Rayne’s complex series of combat and evasive moves in order to work their way through the 15 sprawling levels.
While Rayne’s primary offensive attack is found in her vicious melee assault and the ability to combo a string of moves to fight off the charging creatures, she can also rely upon her trusty sidearm to take down enemies from a distance. A number of fiends will often sit back and take pot-shots at her, and Rayne’s ranged attack helps even the odds. In addition, players can choose to weaken enemies with an initial assault and then drain their blood for a health boost or to infect the enemy, which essentially turns them into a walking bomb. The infected enemy will wander the screen allowing the player to detonate it when near a group of creatures. Each level is scored with bonus points awarded for stylish combat, speed runs and the total of hidden skulls collected during a playthrough. Getting those higher grades will require some serious commitment to mastering the nuances of Betrayal‘s combat.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal is yet another title that benefits from this age of digital distribution. For $15 on either the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade, gamers get a fairly lengthy 15-stage single player campaign that offers up a healthy challenge reminiscent of the classic controller mashers of yore. That being said, players who stick with the game and learn the combat mechanics, as well as study the level layouts, will get a great old-school level of satisfaction dressed up in new-school duds. One thing WayForward does exceedingly well is pair exquisitely animated visual aesthetics with classic game design. By painting BloodRayne in bright colors and deep black outlines, this title looks ripped from the comic pages. The art style might not be for everyone as it definitely references some heavy anime character designs, but I found the look fits the property well.
While the game play provides a decent but not insurmountable challenge, and the actual visual style is quite striking, I do think the game suffers from some of its elaborate animation. Rayne herself looks great in action, but once a player initiates a move it can be quite frustrating waiting for the animation to conclude while the screen fills with more creatures looking to rip you apart. Too many deaths or energy draining attacks could be avoided if you could pull out of these canned movements. It’s not a deal breaker but it does lead to some frustrating moments, especially later in the game as the challenge truly ratchets up.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a welcome return for this vampire vixen. By melding this character with old-school platforming, WayForward has developed a game that has its toes in the classic form while embracing contemporary combat mechanics, proving that nobody can keep a good vampire down. Not even Uwe Boll.