Published Jan 20, 2010"I've got a fever and the only cure is dead angels."
Ever since the Christmastime gaming deluge ended, I've been killing a lot of angels. Though God's messengers have been bad guys in other pop-cultural products ― His Dark Materials book trilogy, the past two seasons of Supernatural ― I can't recall angels even appearing in games, much less driving a fist or a sword through their angelic little faces.
And yet in 2010's first two big releases ― Bayonetta and Darksiders ― angels have been getting the brunt of my attacks. (And this month's release of Dante's Inferno further ramps ups the videogame holy wars.) Yes, I've also been slaughtering demons, but ho-hum, been doing that for decades. Wiping out heavenly hosts, however, is a little strange, especially when they kind of look like flying monkeys.
Created by Hideki Kamiya, the brains behind Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe and Okami, the ultra-stylized Bayonetta stars an eponymous long-legged witch with Sarah Palin eyeglasses, pistols strapped to every limb, magical hair and a tendency to appear naked whilst getting her slaughter on. Also, she really likes lollipops.
This acrobatic action game is knowingly campy ― some critics have said "gaudy," others lobbed "sexist" ― and, as with much Japanese pop culture, a narrative mess. There's some sort of war going on between heaven and hell, though you're largely ingesting angel essences to avoid returning to hell... I think. (Christianity, which includes Purgatorio, Inferno and Paradiso, is used to fuel the game's style, not its substance.)
Luckily, the wonderfully over-the-top combat, including ridiculous boss battles and sublimely silly "torture attacks," helps assuage Bayonetta's failures in storytelling.
While Okami was an argument for games-as-art, Bayonetta is a reclamation of games as adolescent male fantasy, albeit with a baroque design approach to complement its balletic violence. But for the most part, it works, and besides, there's room for both. (Sega/Platinum Game)