Back in the 1990s sprite-based games were all the rage. Fighting games, RPGs, platformers – almost everything used them. But with the advent of systems such as the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation, the era of gaming shifted towards 3D worlds outside of rare games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. So when developer WayForward and publisher Majesco announced BloodRayne: Betrayal as a throwback to that long-forgotten genre, it's understandable that a lot of veteran gamers' interests were piqued, but does BloodRayne betray those fans or provide them a throwback to the good times of old?
BloodRayne: Betrayal plays a lot like side-scrolling action platformers such as Metroid and the more recent 2D Castlevania titles. Rayne, the titular vampire who shares the game's namesake, has a number of moves available in her repertoire. Players can do basic slashing attacks which are modified depending on what direction the control pad or stick is moved in, a gun to shoot enemies with (which is limited by bullets which are picked up from downed enemies) and just for fun, head bouncing. She also has the ability to dash to avoid enemy attacks but the key move she has available is to suck the blood out of her enemies. While it only partially recovers health, it also allows her to "infect" her enemies. If Rayne lets the enemy walk into other enemies she can remotely "detonate" them and damage any enemies caught in the blast radius.
Tying together these moves becomes a key mechanic early on in the game as Betrayal tends to have multiple enemies surround Rayne when she hits specific checkpoints, blocking off her path in both directions until she defeats enough enemies. Unfortunately, Rayne's animations can't be canceled mid-move so players who perform an action too early and wind up in the attacking range of the enemy will end up regretting their actions. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the player but it does force the player to think instead of spamming out moves in a desperate attempt to push through the game as fast as possible. Betrayal requires players to think first before they act, so once players grasp the full extent of the game's controls it becomes incredibly fun to infect multiple enemies while dashing around and blowing them up in gloriously gut-busting messy unison.
This is helped by the game's amazing art style which looks amazing on a high-definition TV set. The art is all hand-drawn and the impressive quality really shows in the final product. This approach does come with its costs, however. More than once it was hard to tell that an enemy is lying in wait until Rayne walks right into it and lost some of her health or if a certain object was breakable or if a part of the background was walkable or scalable. Generally these types of issues are the same throughout the game so eventually you will learn to watch out for them, but some decluttering of the backgrounds could have helped a lot in this regard, especially when some of the battles take place in areas where Rayne and the enemies are silhouettes against the background. The game also has some issues with SDTVs because it widens out the display making Rayne much smaller than she appears on a HDTV. Getting closer to the screen helps with this but those who have setups that are far away from the TV will have issues here.
Considering the game takes after titles such as the classic Symphony of the Night, it's disappointing that the game doesn't include much in the way of upgradeable weapons, only being relegated to a new gun halfway through the game and the ability to increase Rayne's health and bullet stockpile by collecting red skulls that are hidden throughout the levels. On the flip side this does allow the game to be shorter and more concise, ending up at around six hours for most players, but a few more upgrades couldn't have hurt. Enemies fall into the same trap with the same types of enemies appearing throughout the game but with minor modifications. The bosses, while falling into the "find pattern and abuse it" cliche do have enough variety when compared to the generic enemies to keep players interested.
All in all, BloodRayne: Betrayal is a throwback through and through to the simpler style of games from years past. It isn't the longest game, it has its gameplay quirks and it doesn't have a lot of variety to it --- but what is there is incredibly polished and makes you want to give it one more try each time you fail that particular portion of the stage. If you can accept it for what it is you'll have a bloody good time.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Network.
|» Beautiful hand-drawn graphics look amazing in HD.|
|» Controls are great once you get used to how they function.|
|» Bosses are pretty decent for this type of game.|
|» Some might not like the fact that moves can't be canceled mid-move.|
|» SDTV users might have trouble seeing the game if they are far away from the screen.|
|» Sometimes the graphics hide enemies and objects.|