I love WayForward. Of course, if I were to check the official EGM handbook of standards and practices for proper review writing, I’m probably not supposed to say things like that. Especially not as the opening sentence of my review.
And yet, here I am, saying it. To be clear, this isn’t the sort of love that would taint my ability to fairly review a particular title of theirs—say, their latest project, BloodRayne: Betrayal—nor the type of love that grew from having a long history with the company and an overinflated sense of nostalgia for their past offerings. This is more a love that comes from the admiration of a group of men and women who obviously have a lot of respect for something we both equally hold dear: 2D gaming.
WayForward doesn’t just create 2D games—it crafts them. That’s an important distinction, and it’s part of the reason I had interest in Betrayal. When I heard the developer would be developing a new 2D side-scrolling action title based around the BloodRayne franchise, I was curious; when I saw early screenshots and video, I was excited.
I can’t mention anything about Betrayal without first bringing up that element—the visuals—because no matter how entertaining or lackluster you end up finding the actual game to be, it’s what you see that will by far make the biggest initial impact. This game, in a word, is gorgeous. Gorgeous. With every attempt that I can make to assure you of my lack of baseless hyperbole, I can legitimately say that it’s hard to remember the last time I was so impressed by a 2D game. Thankfully, it isn’t just the artistic style of Betrayal’s character sprites and backgrounds that gives the game the sort of “interactive cartoon” feel that it possesses—the game’s level of animation is also pleasantly high, an aspect that unfortunately often gets cut short due to the huge time requirements of quality hand-drawn artwork.
Though I can’t say I’ve ever played a 16-bit game that looked as good as BloodRayne: Betrayal, it reminded me of the glory days of my beloved Sega Genesis. Betrayal feels old-school—not in a clunky-and-cumbersome kind of way, but in that slicing-jumping-shooting-platforming-spike-dodging-boss-battling kind of way. Even if you grew up in the post-polygon world of videogames, I think you can still have a lot of fun with what Betrayal has to offer. That said, I absolutely believe your appreciation for the game will increase the further back your history with videogaming goes.
There’s another way in which BloodRayne: Betrayal exhibits a passion for the past—that classic “get good at the game or else” school of difficulty—and it’s here that I’m disappointed with some of WayForward’s decisions. Small quirks in Rayne’s movement and jumping make her never feel quite as accurate as she should. For most of the game, this is a minor annoyance; once you get into Betrayal’s final batch of stages and are presented with some of the ridiculous platforming challenges contained within them, the game can get downright brutal.
Even if Rayne’s control weren’t an issue, the deeper problem with these final challenges is that some of them simply aren’t fun—they’re hard for the sake of being hard, not for the sake of being enjoyable. Difficulty should provide the player with the drive to get better and overcome the obstacle; playing Betrayal’s last few chapters felt instead like punishment, something I had to endure in order to finally see the game’s ending.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is thus frustrating in two ways: In terms of actual gameplay, and in terms of the overall product itself. If I’d only played the first 12 of Betrayal’s 15 stages, I’d have been able to recommend it with very little hesitation. Instead, I must say that BloodRayne: Betrayal is a quality experience if you’re looking for a beautiful old-school-style action side-scroller—just, once you get deep into the game’s fourth quarter, please remember how much today’s controllers cost before hurling yours across the room.
SUMMARY: A quality old-school action side-scroller with gorgeous graphics and classic gameplay marred by occasionally frustrating difficulty.
- THE GOOD: Great action titled blessed with beautiful sprites
- THE BAD: A sadistic level of difficulty at times
- THE UGLY The expletives I unleashed while playing the “No Birds” stage