It’s been a few years since a BloodRayne game has graced our consoles, but Rayne makes her triumphant, and sometimes agonizing, return on Xbox Live Arcade with publisher Majesco and developer WayForward at the helm. This 2D side-scrolling action platformer will set you back 1200 Microsoft points, but players may find themselves more frustrated than entertained by BloodRayne’s latest offering.
My first reaction to “BloodRayne: Betrayal” was that I was playing a retro Castlevania game. Indeed much of the game seems to be an homage to the NES classic. The story follows Rayne through an ancient castle as she takes on hordes of vampires and other grotesque creatures in an attempt to foil the plot of an evil vampire Lord. Sound familiar? The cell shaded graphics look like a cross between the original Castlevania and a comic book, complete with word bubbles that advance the story. Even the game’s score, a mix of classical and Goth metal, is reminiscent of the eight-bit classic.
There are two distinct aspects of the gameplay, those being fighting and platforming, that deliver such vastly different experiences that I have to address each separately. The fighting mechanics of BloodRayne are actually quite fun. Unlike the rather slow Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Rayne moves gracefully on the screen and a few simple button combos will unleash an array of satisfying and visceral attacks that will dispatch most enemies with ease. Enemies can be launched into the air or stomped into the ground and Rayne’s blades will have heads rolling in short order. When times get desperate Rayne can pull out a magnum to devastating effect, though ammo is severely limited. One of the most fun aspects of the fighting is Rayne’s ability to suck her opponent’s blood. At any time Rayne can grab a stunned foe and choose to either suck their blood, which immediately kills the enemy and replenishes some of Rayne’s health, or merely infect them, which leaves the enemy alive but makes them into living C4. The enemy can then be detonated at the player’s choosing which kills the enemy (obviously) and deals damage to nearby foes. My only quibble with the fighting was that I often found myself wishing for the ability to block incoming attacks. Rather than block, Rayne uses a dash that allows her to evade attacks, though Rayne often dashes away from one attack only to dash right into another. That aside, I found the fighting and the boss battles to be challenging yet ultimately rewarding.
Where the game may end up being a turn off to many players is in the platforming. The difficulty of the platforming in BloodRayne ramps up almost immediately and toward the second half of the game becomes excessively cruel. Rayne’s quick movements, a boon during the fight sequences, make the platforming a true nightmare at times. Even the slightest error is usually met with instant death. My level of frustration at times rivaled what I experienced as a child playing Battletoads on the NES. When you finally get through a tough area, rather than feeling a sense of achievement, all you will likely feel is a sense of relief, a, “Thank God that’s over,” kind of feeling, which is quickly replaced by a sense of dread of what awaits you in the next level.
As if to rub salt in your wounds, just when you are about to pat yourself on the back for completing a level without throwing your controller against the wall or succumbing to a stress-induced brain aneurysm, the game will give you a grade based upon your performance, which will invariably be an “F.”
Given the grading system and the ability to collect hidden skulls that are scattered throughout each level which can increase your health or ammo, I suppose this game has some replay value. If these things tempt you to revisit BloodRayne after you’ve beaten it you are a better person than I. I consider completing “BloodRayne: Betrayal” a bit like surviving a war; you may wear it like a badge of honor, but you may not be too eager to talk about it and you certainly wouldn’t want to go back if given the choice.
Although there are some fine and satisfying aspects of the game, the brutal platforming would make me hesitant to recommend this game to any but those who truly excel at and enjoy challenging platformers (and perhaps masochists).
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