BloodRayne: Betrayal steps away from its third person mayhem and carnage to be a beautiful, hand drawn 2D hack n slash platformer. The game still stars the femme fatale protagonist named Rayne as in the previous games. She is half vampire and half human as she wall jumps, back flips, slashes, poisons and explodes her enemies. The game drips nighttime charm with gorgeous animation, style, flash, flair and attitude but at the cost of the gameplay itself turning it into a battle against things you never meant to do.
Taking on a new perspective and art style breathes new life into a dead franchise and while its brave to take a step into the unknown, people may find it tough to get into a different genre. From a far, the game’s new art style is amazing; detailed environments, a giant moon and parallax scrolling. The problem is a lot of the backgrounds are black and so is Rayne’s attire, so a few times I lost sight of her while in action’s frenzy.
The game is mostly combat with a few sections of platforming and dodging hazards like spikes and saw blades on a chain. There’s an untapped depth to the combat that can get overlooked with simple button mashing. Hitting the attack can be your downfall, because some of her attacks can be unpredictable and hurl her through an enemy into danger. Sometimes she’ll attack a helpless grounded enemy that’s torn in half rather than slashing the dangerous enemy ahead of her.
BloodRayne can knock an enemy and herself into the air, and kick them to get them onto platforms and send them into hazards. So her attacks can be just as dangerous to her as her foes. She can bite a stunned enemy to poison them and then detonate them like a bomb at her whim. This is good for destroying the few walls that you’re forced to. Its also a less risky way to defeat enemies than button mashing.
You can shoot distant enemies with your limited ammunition, but if you’re busy slashing, you’ll need to wait to finish to shoot. The bullets piece everything in its path and its a good way to counteract a vampire from the distance who pulls a gun out. Its you or him Rayne. You can always find more bullets from downed enemies that should have never had them in the first place, such as frogs.
One problem that I had with the game was dying before my health ran out. When you take a hit, you’re health is gone, but then the health meter will lower accordingly. So even with half my health, I will die from a gear, lie on the ground and then the health drains. Its bizarre and frustrating. When you get up from an attack, there’s a small window of invincibility. So small that I often get knocked around once Rayne takes her sweet time standing up. Falling onto a gear or blade can mean your death as you stand up only to get knocked down again unless you’re quick enough to jump in that split second.
You see the animations as great as they look in the game are slow and deliberate. There’s no snap to them. You can push the buttons a lot faster than it takes the attack to perform. Her walk is a sheer charge with her knees as high as they can go, but for a charge that fierce, she still moves slow. Stopping sends her skidding in one direction, which will open up the window to perform a high jump backflip.
Getting from place to place is the other part of the game. You can jump, but then you can also do a back flip that is the equivalent of a high jump. This requires you to run forward, push back and then jump. This becomes an issue if you’re ever combating enemies and decide to turn and jump. You can downward attack an enemy to hop on their head to get some extra height. Its like Mario, but now you have to attack rather than letting gravity and video game mechanics take their course. You can wall jump on certain walls that seem to made of brick, but then in later levels, those same brick walls have no grip to them.
Since there’s no crouch, if you’re ever in danger from a projectile, you can dash through. If you can time it right, you’ll pass through unscathed, but most of the time I got hit. You can use the dash in the air for some extra length to your jumps.
The enemies have no real self preservation. Its easy to keep them under a bed of crushing spikes or knock them into gears that need to get clogged with their bones. Its all part of the fun, I just wish there were more animations for these specific deaths. The game has animations for common vampires who appear in the foreground and then leap into the game. Its a nice touch, but outside of the animation for the most common enemy, there are no other special animations.
Death is common and when you die, you restart at the last checkpoint. These blood fountain checkpoints become further apart as the game progresses, but that’s part of the challenge. When she’s revived, you’ll find her sipping from a goblet sitting on the edge of the fountain. Its all part of the cool factor. You can regain health by neck biting stunned enemies. I mentioned it before as poisoning them. These fountains also replenish your health when activated.
The objective is to make it through each one of the levels to your rocket casket at the end. When you get to your casket, Rayne hops inside, the doors close and its off to the next level burrowing underground. Sometimes it burrows through the dead body of a boss. When she arrives at her next destination, there’s a possibility she’ll kick the door open and straight into an enemy’s face.
There’s a few bits of exploration and alternate routes that take you to the same place. At the end of each level you’re graded on your score and how many hidden skulls you found in hollowed out walls or placed precariously where you’d never think to go.
For as long as the game is, you’ll be fighting the same variety of enemies a dizzying amount. Standard vampires, bladed mutants that slide toward you, toads that are a pain to fight, gear throwing Victorian women and insects that pop out of gooey hives. There are living hazard such as claws that pop out of the ground, swell up and explode into pieces if you’re too slow. There are lumbering fat jelly men with sphincter mouths that take far less damage and do a weak amount of damage for something that size.
Fighting this shallow array of enemies still feels fun in certain situations, you just fight them so frequent when the game halts your progress and you’re forced to clear out wave after wave. At least the game tries to have environmental diversity such as a pack of enemies with a pit or a pack with gears, electric lasers or cannons firing.
At around chapter six, halfway through the game, you get some variety as you take control a dove or some sort of white pigeon. Here you’ll need to jump to flap and attack with a short range sonic wave that feels far more effective at killing enemies than a half vampire and two long blades. The wave knocks enemies into spikes, but you’ll need to watch out for blades on chains and time everything accordingly.
The hazards are another thing I got hung up on, such as getting hit by ceiling spikes when I was on the floor above them. having to wall jump just over ceiling spikes and taking damage. Fighting in the light drains your health unless you can destroy the light, which is tough or impossible in some circumstances.
I’m stuck on this game, it has so much going for it that gets ruined with frustration movement and attacks that put you into more danger. If the game was missing its license and beauty it would be even tougher to recommend.