PETER HOSKIN: Meet Bayonetta…During her childhood spell
PETER HOSKIN: Meet Bayonetta…During her childhood spell
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon (Nintendo Switch, £49.99)
Verdict: Child-friendly witchcraft
Bayonetta is one of the weirdest characters on Nintendo consoles — and certainly one of raciest. A winking, slinking witch who weaves spells from her voluminous hair and shoots bullets from the guns that double as high heels at the end of her very, very long legs.
Yet even Bayonetta was once a child. Such is the premise of the very, very long-titled Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon, which gives us the story of Cereza, a young witch who hasn’t yet adopted the B-word as her name.
It’s not just a change in the character’s age; it’s a totally new look and feel for the series. Instead of the mad action-spectacle of Bayonettas 1 to 3, Origins is a laid-back affair, a painted storybook that sets its protagonist — and you — wandering through a mysterious forest.
It’s more beautiful than berserk. There’s more fairy-tale than fighting. And it’s very much suitable for children.
Not that Origins lacks delights for Bayonetta’s adult fans. As Cereza goes deeper into the forest, accompanied by her possessed cuddly toy, Cheshire, she encounters more monsters and gains more powers with which to overcome them.
Bayonetta is one of the weirdest characters on Nintendo consoles — and certainly one of raciest
It’s not just a change in the character’s age; it’s a totally new look and feel for the series
Cereza herself is controlled with one of the Switch’s analogue sticks, while Cheshire is controlled by the other; a setup that recalls 2014’s (tonally similar, now I come to think of it) Child Of Light and that also adds to the sense of challenge and mastery towards the end of Origins.
Indeed, by that point, Origins has started to feel a little bit more like the original Bayonetta games. This witch has got some skills — and you’d better have some skills, too. Don’t they grow up fast?
Octopath Traveler 2 (PlayStation, Switch, PC, £49.99)
Verdict: An eightfold epic
I spend at least 27 per cent of my life explaining daft video-game names. Here’s another daft name, and another percentage point for the clock.
The ‘Octopath’ in Octopath Traveler 2 means that there are eight paths through this Japanese role-playing game. You start by choosing between that number of characters, from an amnesiac apothecary to a raccoon-looking wild gal, and then, well, ‘travelling’ through your preferred character’s story. Pretty soon, you’ll start bumping into the other seven, and you can choose to travel through their stories too; or just incorporate them into your own.
And the ‘2’? That simply means that this is a sequel to 2018’s Octopath Traveler, although you don’t need to have played the original to enjoy this one. In truth, you might enjoy this one more anyway — it’s the more ambitious, more successful game.
What I love most about both Octopath Traveler games is how they look. They are throwbacks to classic JRPGs from the 1990s — series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest — and their characters are little 2D pixel people from that era. But the fantasy world that those characters are wandering through is a 3D thing of light, shadow and depth. The combination is exquisite.
But the gameplay is also a throwback. Just like in the classics, it feels as though your characters’ journeys are interrupted every five steps by yet another encounter with yet another monster. You’re whisked to another screen to take part in a turn-by-turn fight…again and again.
Different gamers’ patience for this may vary, though Octopath Traveler 2’s story is likely to keep most of them going. This is an intricate epic, weaving eight narratives together in exciting, sometimes unexpected ways. Now bring on the nonapath — or even the decapath.
ust like in the classics, it feels as though your characters’ journeys are interrupted every five steps by yet another encounter with yet another monster
What I love most about both Octopath Traveler games is how they look. They are throwbacks to classic JRPGs from the 1990s
Scars Above (PlayStation, Xbox, PC, £34.99)
Verdict: Derivative with occasional delight
Scars Above sure is a game. In fact, they might as well have called it Video Game: The Video Game.
It looks just like 2021’s Returnal, which also crashes its leading spacewoman into a murky, mysterious planet. Scars Above’s spacewoman has a touch of Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft about her.
She encounters various horrors that are reminiscent of everything from Alien, the movie, to Resident Evil, the game series. There’s die-and-try-again combat that is clearly influenced by Dark Souls.
It looks just like 2021’s Returnal, which also crashes its leading spacewoman into a murky, mysterious planet
She encounters various horrors that are reminiscent of everything from Alien, the movie, to Resident Evil, the game series
In other words, Scars Above is so derivative that it sometimes feels as though someone asked one of those online AIs to ‘make a typical video game for 2023’.
Except a computer surely wouldn’t produce something so unpolished. There’s a moment at the beginning of the game when one character delivers what’s meant to be a stirring speech — but, unintentionally, thanks to the writing, it comes off almost as a parody. At least it sets the tone for much of what’s to follow. This is a game of clumsy cutscenes and underdeveloped graphics.
And yet, and yet. There’s an earnestness about Scars Above that occasionally, much like that speech, puts a smile on your face. Its makers clearly have a lot of love for the games that influenced this one, and occasionally their tribute act starts to look like the real thing — in the exacting precision of a particular fight, or the terrible beauty of a particular landscape.
It certainly kept me pressing on for the whole eight hours. By the end, as I waded through my final puddle of ick and shot my last electric bolt, I came to regard this one as Video Game: The Calling Card, instead. I’m eager to see what these guys do next.
There’s an earnestness about Scars Above that occasionally, much like that speech, puts a smile on your face
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