I will admit that I was one of the people who really enjoyed the original BloodRayne games. They were cheesy and not the best action games, but I did find them enjoyable. With so many years passed, you may be wondering why anyone would bother to resurrect this mediocre Dhampir. Well, the guys at WayForward more than likely had a Castlevania game up their sleeves, and when it fell through, they decided to visit one of gaming’s other bloodsuckers to fill the void. BloodRayne: Betrayal is a 2D action game that harkens back to the days of extreme difficulty and, unfortunately, mostly due to the poor platforming mechanics.
As far as the story is concerned, it feels about as tacked-on as you can get. Rayne is working with a small collection of troops that never seem to help you in battle, as she storms the castle (see, more Castlevania nods) of her vampire father because she is none too happy with him. That is pretty much the gist of the entire plot. You will get some minor dialogue sequences that play out in comic-style speech bubbles, but to be honest, most of it was hugely forgettable.
The heart of Betrayal is not its narrative, but its nod to 2D action games of the past. WayForward has created a legacy for themselves in the 2D space with such amazing titles as Contra 4 and the more niche Shantae. BloodRayne: Betrayal is a 2D powerhouse featuring extremely slick animations and plenty of vibrant colors flooding the screen. The frame rate keeps a steady tick at all times, and the designs of almost everything will have your nostalgic bell ringing with delight. This game is certainly a looker. The one visual sore spot is the backgrounds. They simply repeat too often and feature some bland designs at times.
Combat is the core of the game here. Betrayal is simple yet deep at times, with plenty of confusion thanks to a lack of a proper tutorial. You see, Rayne has a nice array of moves at her disposal, but the game poorly instructs you how to use them. For instance, she can choose to either suck the blood of her foes or infect them with the same button. The only difference is holding as opposed to tapping it. Once infected, you can detonate them at will by tapping the Y or triangle button, something the game flashes across the screen in a flurry, and honestly I missed it on my first time through. Combat constantly suffers from this and while you may get to the end of the level, your score will suffer for it.
One standout portion is definitely the boss battles. Demanding more than standard combat, these encounters actually force you to use everything you have learned up to that point. They are definitely the more inventive areas of the game; not to mention, they are downright gorgeous. These animations had me gushing on more than one occasion.
You see, not only is BloodRayne: Betrayal punishingly difficult, it also mocks players who don’t perform up to the game’s excruciating standards. In my playthrough, I never scored higher than an F ranking, which deems me Worm Chow. Playing this game requires a level of sadism that is simply staggering, and then, when you should feel accomplishment, it smacks you in the face, I am sure there are plenty of people out there who enjoy being punished time and time again. There is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from scoring S ranks on games that make it near impossible, but note that not everyone will appreciate being told they suck after every level.
Once you get the combat down and start flying through levels, another problem arises. The platforming in this game is frustrating beyond belief and mostly due to the spotty controls. Rayne runs off at full speed upon pushing either direction. This is fine and dandy for combat, but when you need pinpoint precision for some of the later platforming segments, this becomes a major issue. You will fall to your death over and over in the same spots. This type of design might have cut it back in the days when games were meant to last kids months, but now, it is just fabricated difficulty. Yeah, telling someone you beat this game is definitely impressive, but no one will blame you if you didn’t.
Still, even with these issues I couldn’t help but find myself coming back for the gorgeous animations and characters, as well as the fast-paced combat. Yes, the game is punishing and will likely make you want to throw a controller in anger, but it is still fun. I will never earn the Achievement/Trophy for getting S rank on all levels nor do I want to, but my nostalgia for the character and my love of 2D games helps me look past the game’s glaring flaws. BloodRayne: Betrayal is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you enjoy the style and genre, you can find a lot to love about this vampiric action platformer.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.