Bayonetta’s bravest trick is to throw out the usual rules on what you can do with on-screen action and third-person cameras in a videogame and just presume that you can handle everything going completely and utterly mental. And, as it turns out, you can.
When the best play Guitar Hero, they never see the party going on behind the notes they’re hitting. A gamer’s brain is a remarkable thing, prioritising what matters and shelving the rest at the back where it can’t interfere with all the important things, like pretending to be a musician or stabbing an angel in the chops. Sit back and watch Bayonetta from afar and it’s a mess of sound, colour, movement, and sexual innuendo, but pick up the controller and it all instantly makes sense.
As if to prove a point, Bayonetta opens with a fight on the face of a clock tower as it tumbles on all three axes, plummeting from a mountaintop which apparently touches the very edge of space, and it only gets crazier from there. You’re assailed by endless enemies, and you flip effortlessly over the clock tower as it spins through the void. It’s breathtaking. After you’ve played a level of Bayonetta, everything else seems a little subdued by comparison.
Following the clock tower there’s a tutorial, a fight in a graveyard to the sound of a remixed Fly Me to the Moon and a drive along a freeway which is abruptly halted when the car is rammed by a 747-scale jet. There’s a fight on the wings of the jet, a train ride, a visit to a gun shop which doubles as a bar, a puzzle, more fights, a boss fight, another boss fight, and an introduction to the lead villainess, and the time on the clock is barely at the 25 minute mark.
Meanwhile, the plot goes crazier than one of Hideo Kojima’s bedtime stories. Bayonetta herself has risen from the dead and presently exists in Purgatorio, halfway between our world and Heaven. She kicks back with a Joe Pesci-a-like and a gigantic arms dealer who sips cocktails from a thimble-sized martini glass. She’s forever sucking a lollipop, as if we don’t know what that’s all about, and generally sauces about the place hacking curiously demonic ‘angels’ to pieces while remnants of her past strike back in the present day.
It’s a rulebreaker, then. Bayonetta is jam-packed with clever tricks that the game pulls once and once only, before rushing you on to its next great idea. You’re fighting flying bus-sized upturned statues one minute, then speed skating, motorbiking, and running on the ceiling the next. It’s the Devil May Cry template from the man behind the original Devil May Cry, dragged into the next generation in a way DMC4 never managed.