Wayforward Technologies is slowly becoming a watched developer by hardcore gamers. While they have over 30 games under their belt, several have really catered to the older generations’ retro-mentality. A few examples being Contra 4 on the Nintendo DS, A Boy and His Blob on the Nintendo Wii, and now, Bloodrayne: Betrayal on PSN/XBLA. Drastically different than the original games in the series (they were all third-person action games), Bloodrayne: Betrayal takes the half-vampire half-human protagonist into a side-scrolling environment.
Before I get into everything good about this game (and it is good, trust me), let me go ahead and address the elephant in the room: the art direction. I love games done in a hand-drawn-like manner. I love the graphics in this game. The scenery, the monsters, everything looks great and crisp; except the human characters. They look so poorly done, it’s just a big disappointment. The monsters have a nice touch of detail, and while Rayne looks a little better than the soldiers that accompany her from time to time, it’s simply baffling how bland the humans look. Let me stress again how beautiful (even with the gory nature of the game, it can be beautiful) the environments are.
Now that that is taken care of, let’s move on. When the game starts off, and pans past some castle gates, then reaches the coffin Rayne bursts out of, I expected the opening music to Castlevania (the original, kids, not Symphony of the Night) to kick in. That was the exact feeling I had; some weird deja vu back to my childhood of playing Castlevania over and over again just to die and have to start over. While Betrayal isn’t on that caliber of difficulty, it is still a test of your action-platforming skills.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal is split up into 15 chapters, but don’t worry, not each level has a boss (thankfully). When you do get to a boss, though, be prepared to jump. They come out of nowhere and catch you off guard. The cleverness behind defeating the boss’ made me enjoy them, even though I almost broke my controller in frustration a few times. They aren’t a simple “jump in and attack after they attack and quickly jump back” affair, instead (in one case) you have to infect an enemy, make them explode near the enemies weak point which is encrusted in rock, then attack the now-defenseless weak point. It’s design choices like that that make me appreciate the boss’ in this game over some games I have played that are similar.
Attacks and abilities are given to you from the start, but they introduce them as the game progresses instead of all at once. So you’ll be doing things by accident, and a few levels later, you’ll realize how that’s useful. Like biting enemies just long enough to infect them, then make them explode. One of the most used abilities is her health drain bite, which sucks the life out of the enemy, killing them and healing you. You can do this with any enemy (some need to be stunned first), so health usually isn’t an issue. That said, you will still die more often than you would think. A nice design touch was being invincible while draining health, otherwise, it would be an almost-pointless attack because of the amount of enemies on the screen. Outside of her bite attack, she has a standard melee attack, and a pistol attack. The latter requires ammo, which can be picked up from defeated enemies, and will shoot through anything in its path.
Horde rooms are parts of the stage I love; wave after wave of enemies, with a countdown timer for a bonus if you clear them in time. Something about slaughtering a few dozen enemies at a time makes for a great, relaxing time after some of the puzzling parts of a stage. After turning the last enemy into a gooey mess (or pile of bones), the screen blurs to let you know your free to move on. It’s a gratifying experience and trying to race the clock makes it more so. Getting bonus points adds to your score, obviously, and at the end of each stage you are graded for your efforts, and also compete in leaderboards with friends and other players.
A few nice touches to the game are lamps and the way she moves. Of course, being half-vampire, Rayne gets damaged by walking through light emitting from lamps in various spots in the stage. You either have to jump over it, or take the easier route and break it, which also nets you points. It took me a few times of walking through the rays of light to actually figure this out, so let that be my helpful non-spoiler hint for this review. Her movement is realistic in the fact that she doesn’t stop on a dime like a lot of games in this style, which has it’s pros and cons. On the plus side, it is cool that she skids to a halt (from a visual standpoint). However, when trying to stop between two sets of lowering spikes can be a royal pain if you use your conventional timing skills.
Replayability, a common decision-making factor when purchasing games like this, is there if you enjoy the game. Getting all of the trophies/achievements in this game would require some major skill and controller-finesse to mop up. Clearing all of the stages with a Damphire rating alone would make most gamers quake in their boots.
Also of note, the music fits the game perfectly, having an upbeat, electric-metal feel to it. If you weren’t pumped enough before you started, you get that way quickly.
In terms of action-platformers, Wayforward developed a sound game that stands among some of the best in it’s genre. With smooth graphics, fantastic sound direction, and great replay options, it’s a solid buy for anyone wanting to touch that Castlevania-itch many games try-but-fail to scratch.