Joystiq Top 10 of 2014: Bayonetta 2

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Joystiq Top 10 of 2014: Bayonetta 2
ATTENTION: The year 2014 has concluded its temporal self-destruct sequence. If you are among the escapees, please join us in salvaging and preserving the best games from the irradiated chrono-debris.

Bayonetta 2 is exactly the game I needed in 2014. While major developers and publishers seem to cram more and more into every project – giant maps, hundreds of objectives, skill trees, systems, sub-systems, meta games, companion apps – Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U is an eye-opening, high-heeled kick to the teeth. It drops you headfirst into its bizarre world, where the bombastic war machinery of Heaven and Hell collide, your only real task being the gleeful destruction of it all.

The titular witch, Bayonetta, is as perfectly posh as ever and just as deadly, with a healthy supply of imaginative weaponry to dispose of holy angels and vile demons alike.

In Bayonetta 2, developer Platinum Games has taken the "character action" formula – think: Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry – and polished it to an absurd shine. Combat is a dance of perpetual motion as Bayonetta flits around the screen, weapons attached to both her hands and feet, and it rewards you for boldness. Rather than allowing you to hide behind a block button, Bayonetta 2 doles out a few seconds of slow motion whenever Bayonetta dodges just before an enemy attack connects. This, in turn, allows you to continue your combo unbroken, and it's key to earning coveted Platinum metals during encounters. Fail to do this, and you'll earn only a paltry Gold or Silver or – oh, the shame of it – a Stone medal.

Thankfully, whether you're racking up Platinums or piling up Stones, taking on the angelic and demonic hordes is positively delightful. Bayonetta's moves are fluid and intuitive, and her arsenal is inventive and brutal, whether she's skating around on a set of huge chainsaws or pirouetting on enormous swords like a nightmarish yet graceful spider. Bayonetta 2 also gives you the tools to play however you want, offering special in-game trinkets that alter the flow of combat worn as stylish accessories, of course. One of these, for example, will automatically activate slow motion for you, while another gives you an effective but risky counter that requires precision timing.

The obvious care that went into Bayonetta 2's impeccable combat suffuses the rest of the game, from the impossible set-piece moments – fighting atop the wings of a speeding jet comes to mind – to the outlandish designs of Bayonetta's enemies. Battles with mechanized, holy dragons and gigantic, bug-eyed stingray demons are counterbalanced by Bayonetta's own peculiar brand of magic, which sees her summoning a fantastic menagerie of beasts woven out of her own hair. And let's not forget that Bayonetta's coven of witches has its own private army of magic-fueled robots, complete with machine gun fists and shotgun legs.

To call Bayonetta 2 strange would be the understatement of the year, but to call it anything less than spectacular would be a crime. It executes its combat splendidly, and it embraces its own ridiculous nature with childlike joy. And then there's the level
where Bayonetta transforms into a humongous cobra, complete with earrings and a tiara. How could that not be one of the best things of 2014?
Joystiq is highlighting its 10 favorite games of 2014 throughout the week. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal picks in Best of the Rest roundups.

The list so far:​​
  1. Bayonetta 2
  2. Shovel Knight
  3. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  4. Sunset Overdrive
  5. Alien: Isolation
  6. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
  7. Mario Kart 8
  8. Far Cry 4
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