I admit I was a huge Bloodrayne fan when it was released in 2002. The Devil May Cry style of games was the drawing point for me, and the badass main character design tied it all together in a gory 3D hack and slash adventure for the ages. Since the poor movie reception, the series was placed on the shelf until 2011, where Ziggurat and WayForward teamed up to give fans Bloodrayne Betrayal. This 2D Viewtiful Joe x Castlevania love child is equal parts stylish and punishing. This is where Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites takes centre stage, as a cleaned-up, well-balanced port to consoles that remains true to the 2011 instalment.
The narrative sees the titular Rayne, a Dhampir, recruited by the vampire hunting Brimstone Society on one final mission to investigate a castle filled with creatures of the night. A Dhampir is a human-vampire hybrid that has roots in Balkan folklore, which is a nice touch that lends credence to the rich lore of the storyline.
After the introduction, you are transported directly into the action with a tutorial that does not hold the player’s hand. The art style of this game is fantastic along with the music, and the cooperation between the artistry flourishes with Castlevania-esque Gothic rock. It’s a fantastic soundtrack throughout, that coincides well with the beat-up style of gameplay. There are a few primary functions the player can utilize to slay foes, but the combat system is well oriented as well as simple in design. There is a main attack button that can perform different combos based on button press timing, and a dodge dash mechanic that sees a small period of invulnerability while in action. A magnum is used with limited ammunition as a crowd control device when battles become overwhelming. The best advice for this game is use the dash and magnum a lot. The enemies pile up, and absorbing hits sees Rayne knocked back heavily. Although there is few options during combat, the fight sequences are easy at first but scale up to brutal.
“The artwork and visuals of the game scream style and harmonize perfectly with the music and sound effects.”
The combat flows smoothly, and Rayne’s attacks hurt her enemies. A cool nod to the original game is not only her design. Rayne’s spinning arm blade attack also hearkens back to her origins. Upon arrival on each stage, Rayne pops out of her coffin-rocket, but if the player presses the attack button upon landing, she kicks the door right off its hinges. Rayne is the one who knocks. Her comrades in the first stage voice audible doubt about working with her, to which she replies, “How about you shut up and let me do my job?” showcasing her no-nonsense attitude.
The artwork and visuals of the game scream style and harmonize perfectly with the music and sound effects. Level design is straightforward. 2D platforming goodness, with very challenging segments. The navigation features a sliding backflip jump that allows Rayne to reach higher areas, but this is a huge issue. While navigating, the level design requires the player to use precision to reach the next area. The sliding mechanic leading into the backflip has ended Raynes life countless times in my playthrough, and so have unwarranted backflip jumps. Utilizing an unused button for the high jump could have solved this issue promptly, instead of allowing a slide that has multiple frames of pure vulnerability to happen. This mechanical flaw happens throughout the game and creates unfair deaths for the player when it occurs.
The game is littered with checkpoints in the shape of stylish blood fountains. When Rayne’s life runs out and she respawns at these checkpoints, she’s seen sitting on the edge of the fountain sipping out of a goblet, the attention to detail here is very noteworthy as even this small point is saturated with personality. The voice acting of the game is very well done, but there is not much dialogue to be had, or narrative for that matter. There are very few storyline driving scenes, but they add to the game and give it direction. Those who are searching for a game with a rich narrative are searching in the wrong place.
The graphics of the game are heavily upgraded in this remaster from 2011. The framerate flows better, and the game overall feels more responsive. The addition of the ‘standard’ difficulty is also a godsend, as the ‘classic’ difficulty is punishing. After a few levels, though, the player becomes well acquainted enough to slay enemies without much effort. In each level there are hidden collectibles scattered throughout in the shape of a red skull. These off the beaten path items upgrade Rayne’s maximum health bar, or maximum ammo. Not only does this inclusion give the game a layer of replay ability, but incentive to return to levels where a skull may have been missed.
Arcade style scoring makes an appearance in this game. Playing each level with mastery nets different level ratings. Unfortunately, I was only decent enough to obtain an F- Worm Chow rating on most of the levels. The highest-level score I achieved was a B – Blood Sucker. I am a Worm Chow style player though, I snail trailed through most levels in search of the red skulls and died MANY times. This game’s difficulty is not for everyone, as repeating certain scenarios is almost assured due to unfamiliarity with the situation the player finds themselves in.
The game mechanics overall work very well and have tight responsiveness. Wall-kicking to navigate up vertical ascents, and the Duck Tales/Shovel Knight style ‘pogoing’ off of certain enemies to advance are fun challenges that make the player want to try again and again to succeed. Feeding off of enemies mid-fight is also a Bloodrayne staple and gives the player more breathing room during tough fight sequences.
“Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is a beautiful 2D action game that has incredible sound and very tight responsive controls that can keep gamers from the intermediate level to an expert entertained.”
However, there were a few platforming sequences during gameplay that shortened the lifespan of my controller. There was one segment where there were Rayne-sensing lasers, an acid pit that was a one-shot kill, and mosquito like enemies all thrown at you at once. Due to the severe knock back the player receives on getting hit, you can fall into the acid and die immediately, forcing a respawn. The enemies that throw things at you were also annoying, but upon a press of the jump button when hitting the floor, Rayne springs up much faster than normal, so a skilled player would have no issue with these enemies.
The biggest flaw in gameplay, is the lack of a duck option. Pressing down does nothing to shield the player, and in a game that features a lot of precise dodging, a crouch or duck would have been a glorious help. Although pressing down and attack makes Rayne do a sweep which technically does make her duck, the sweep is weak and has many frames that leave Rayne open for damage. There are frog type enemies that are the bane of fight sequences without a reliable duck attack. Using regular attacks misses these enemies and allows them to counter you cheaply. This is easily the most aggravating thing in the game.
Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is a beautiful 2D action game that has incredible sound and very tight responsive controls that can keep gamers from the intermediate level to an expert entertained. The game has amazing design choices, and style that are carried throughout the entirety of gameplay. Bloodrayne is a difficult game, players who are looking for a walk in the park may not like this game much, and some flaws in the mechanical structure can leave fans frustrated. This is also a relatively short title, with only 15 stages, but the arcade style leaderboards and collectibles can extend the game’s lifespan. Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is a worthy port to consoles featuring a beloved cult character that has finally returned.