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Bayonetta 2 Review

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Wushoe warrior

★★★★★

2009’s Bayonetta was the epitome of the cult classic game – although perhaps too way-out to be mainstream, it elevated the popular third-person action-adventure genre to new heights and generated a beyond-quirky game universe that was a constant joy to inhabit. And now Bayonetta is back – bizarrely, on the Wii U – and as ever, she kicks more ass than any other character in the history of videogames. All the while clad in an outfit that wouldn’t look out of place on a stripper, with guns embedded in her high heels. Already the debate has started about whether her confidence and air of dominance over all others makes her a feminist icon or more of a male fantasy. And it is true that within maybe 30 seconds of booting up Bayonetta 2, she is flying in the skies above New York, while her (civilian) clothes are being sliced from her body, in extreme close-up. But whatever your opinion, male or female, it's hard not to adore her.

Those who played the original Bayonetta will feel at home in Bayonetta 2 – it doesn’t mess with the franchise’s general format. So you get a constant stream of encounters with enemies (initially angelic ones, although Bayonetta does descend into hell to rescue her friend Jeanne), in which you need to nail punch/kick combos that launch special attacks involving giant swinging fists or stockinged legs – and when you chain enough combos together, hilariously inventive finishing sequences that see enemies dismembered in torture equipment. Keep your combos going long enough against bosses, and you get Umbran Climax moves, in which Bayonetta summons a range of demons (the giant hungry toad being our personal favourite). Bayonetta can also trigger Witch Time, slowing down everything around her and giving even more opportunities to build up devastating combos. All of which means that the sense of satisfaction you get from encounters with enemies is immense.

Plus there are exploration and platform-style sequences, the action chopping and changing to bring an admirable sense of ebb and flow – Bayonetta might have to trigger Witch Time to walk through the eye of a static tidal wave, for example, or surf on a broken door, avoiding debris. There are loads of things to collect, and Rodin is back with his Gates of Hell bar, where you can purchase invaluable items such as weapons, and lollipops that power up health and magic. Bayonetta can also descend into a netherworld to test her skills against waves of enemies under severe time-constraints. And there are plenty of fighting styles to acquire – there are noticeably fewer environmental weapons to pick up than in the original Bayonetta.

It would probably be possible to get through the 15 chapters of the main story in about 15 hours, but racing through the game would be downright rude. You’re rated on your performance at the end of each chapter, so there's a lot of incentive to replay segments. There’s also a co-op mode where you and a friend can battle enemies, competing to outscore each other. Factor in Nintendo’s generous decision to throw in (the definitive version of) the original game for free, and you have one of the best-value games ever.

And we haven’t even mentioned Bayonetta 2’s visuals, which are utterly impossible to mistake for anything you’ve ever seen on a screen elsewhere. Platinum Games has pushed the Wii U’s polygon-shifting capabilities to the max, and the end result is a feast of Gothic S&M that will, at times, cause your eyeballs to revolve. It looks even more bonkers than the original – the absolute acme of that peculiar ability Japanese developers have for creating worlds that are both outlandish and somehow believable. Bayonetta 2 belongs to that rarest of breeds: a game that you will enjoy watching someone else play.

If you had to quibble, you might contend that some of the cut-scenes can lapse into cheesiness – particularly when the annoying Noo Yoiker Enzo is involved. But Bayonetta 2 is a mighty tour de force. Whether it’s enough to trigger a much-needed spike in sales for the Wii U is a moot point, but it will certainly give Wii U owners some considerable – and much-needed – bragging rights.