BloodRayne Betrayal review: Re-animated

WayForward's BloodRayne: Betrayal doesn't just succeed as a game despite the baggage of the moribund BloodRayne license. WayForward took the franchise fully into "campy" mode, turning the characters and settings into something you're clearly not supposed to take seriously, presented in an incredibly sharp hand-drawn cartoon style. Rayne herself is even kind of uncharacteristically cute.

That presentation is married to a combo-heavy brawler that you must take seriously at all times, at the risk of oft-repeated death. Just surviving the game requires near mastery of Rayne's repertoire; to actually earn a grade higher than "F" in the game's score-based rating system requires ... well, I still have to figure that out.

Rayne is transported via "coffin rocket" to the exterior of an underground castle, where she's to guide a bunch of soldiers in and help destroy her father, the caped and stereotypically diabolical Kagan. Rayne is, of course, the only one capable of making any progress through this castle, and so she is left alone to fight armies of identical, frilly-cravatted vampires, green demons, electric frogs, bloodsucking bugs and, of course, mummies.

To make her way through the periodic gauntlets of enemies, she has a variety of combat moves with an emphasis on crowd control. Enemy attacks must be constantly interrupted by timely slashing, kicking, shooting and, for lack of a better term, head-bouncing. Combining those moves with a dash allows her to juggle multiple enemies, and the ability to bite and "poison" an enemy, then cause it to explode with a button press, allows her to set up a chain reaction to dispatch all of them at once.

Many of the same abilities are equally useful in locomotion. Rayne must frequently jump kick onto stationary flying enemies, to bounce between them on her way up a vertical shaft or across a chasm. The dash can be combined with a jump for extra horizontal distance, and she can execute a backflip by running, switching direction, and then immediately jumping for extra vertical distance.

As a result, it's extremely fun to simply move Rayne around the screen. You can kick a vampire into a toxic sludge, jump onto his floating body, and then use a flamethrower-like weapon as a jet to propel yourself around. Fun. Occasionally (I'd say in exactly two places) the enjoyment is overwhelmed by difficulty, but those spots can't take away the goodwill I have for the game as a whole. And I begrudgingly respect the design of those spots, after having died around 50 times trying to get through them.

The 15 levels won't take you too long to get through the first time, but completionists will want to hunt down the red skull items WayForward hid throughout the campaign, five of which can be used to upgrade your ammo or health capacity. Chances are, you'll miss most of them your first time through, or you'll see them without knowing how to get to them.

I don't even think those skulls, or the brutal scoring system, were needed to encourage replayability. Bloodrayne Betrayal has enough style, substance and butter-smooth combat to pull me in for a sweet reprise.



This review is based on a pre-release PS3 version of BloodRayne Betrayal provided by Majesco. The game will be available today on PSN and September 7 on XBLA.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.