BloodRayne is best categorized as one of those series of games that fell through the cracks. Neither praised nor lambasted by critics and never selling above average, it didn’t manage to make much of a name for itself despite the allure of having a sexy vamp beheading Nazis. Coming at that problem from a different angle is developer WayForward, boldly reimagining BloodRayne‘s world in 2D with Betrayal, a downloadable sidescroller.
There isn’t much of a story to tell. The events of Betrayal amount to nothing more than another mission of half-vampire Rayne to thwart the evil machinations of her father Kagan. Its setting is the typical gothic castle and surrounding environs that are inhabited by numerous monstrosities, chief among them vampires. Betrayal evokes the spirit of Castlevania with its music and overall atmosphere to pleasant effect. As a 2D title it manages impressive animations and detailed sprites that would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of BlazBlue.
In contrast, the actual combat in Betrayal is rather limited. Rayne has little variance in her attack animations, with the exception of an air-lauch combo and a heavy attack, there’s really only one attack pattern that’s going to be used for the majority of the game.Her combos can’t be interrupted and it makes dealing with multiple enemies problematic, which is a frequent occurrence as the game throws out dozens of enemies at a time. It’s far too easy to attempt to grab a dazed enemy only to target one that isn’t unintentionally. There’s a dash to avoid enemies, but it often ends in Rayne running right into an attack instead of by it and a magnum to keep enemies across the screen at bay.
Later in the game, the ability to bite enemies and then detonate them like bombs becomes available, but it serves more as a device to navigate levels rather than a viable combat strategy. A new weapon is added towards the end, but for the most part Rayne’s abilities remain quite static. The only way to increase her health and the amount of punishment she can dish out is by collecting a series of red skulls spread throughout the levels. It takes a handful of them just to unlock one upgrade, and it feels like an unnecessary hurdle to become stronger rather than getting tougher by killing enemies.
Most likely it’s probably just a cheap tactic to lengthen the time it takes to complete the game. At around fifteen levels, Betrayal‘s length is about average for a sidescroller, easy to beat within the span of a few days of dedicated playing despite its difficulty. The scoring system also seems to be another method of keeping players coming back. Betrayal revels in assigning D’s and F’s like some sociopathic schoolmarm. Attaining an S-level ranking requires an almost legendary combination of speed and memorization of every level’s enemies and traps.
Despite the hordes of enemies, Betrayal is primarily a platformer and has no bones about putting difficult obstacle courses in the player’s way. Expect giant saws to relentlessly chase you as you spring over thin platforms floating atop pits of acid. Dying is quite frequent, and thankfully so are the checkpoints, but it’s not just due to the inherent difficulty of the game so much as it is the controls. There’s a bit of a delay between jumps and Rayne’s movements can be rather slippery, so it’s very easy to miss a jump or land incorrectly.
Using Rayne’s somersault ability is equally tricky. It requires precise timing by running one way, quickly turning to the opposite, then executing a jump. It’s needlessly complicated and would work better if there was a button devoted solely to somersaulting. Somersaulting is a three-act process that’s difficult enough on its own, let alone when there are enemies to deal with and frequent pits to avoid. If Betrayal leaned more towards action than tricky platforming, this wouldn’t be a problem, but in a game like this precise controls are paramount, not to mention that it’s aching for the inclusion of a double jump to relieve some of these issues.
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a game that looks better than it plays. The silky-smooth 2D sprites can’t make up for frustrating controls and its platforming emphasis with said controls is equally irksome. Gamers hungry for a challenging title might enjoy it, but for everyone else there’s little incentive to take a midnight stroll with Betrayal unless they enjoy repeatedly retrying the same tired level. Maybe Rayne should stick to 3D and let the Belmonts handle all the 2D vampire-slaying from now on.