If you’re a gamer who longs for the days of classic Nintendo hack-and-slash platformers, a time when gameplay didn’t involve so much hand-holding—when figuring out the right way to defeat each type of enemy without taking damage involved a good deal of trial-and-error (or consulting a guide), and games didn’t always have difficulty settings to let those lesser players waltz right through the game—then you’ll love BloodRayne: Betrayal. (I might also recommend Xbox Indie game Parasitus: Ninja Zero for only $3.)
However, if like me you hold no nostalgia for games that required so much dying-and-retrying, and mastering all the little nuances of your character’s movement in order to minimize the amount of damage taken from the waves of enemies dropped on you, then you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
While the term “Metroidvania” was being thrown around early on by people reacting to preview videos, let’s be clear here: the game skews much closer in style to earlier Castlevania installments than anything Metroid-esque. Fans of exploration will be disappointed, as the only items to be found are collectable skulls, which usually involve tricky jumps rather than an ability to seek out hidden areas.
The collectable skulls also act as the closest thing to a power-up in the game: for every five you collect, you can choose to increase your health bar or your ammo cache. This isn’t a game where you’ll be unlocking much in the way of new abilities; it’s all about taking the time to master all the skills you’ve been given from the start, some of which are explained to you up front and some of which you have to just sort of figure out on your own.
Your primary weapons are a sword and a pistol. The pistol’s clip is fairly small (and you only have one clip), so you’ll be using the sword most of the time, though certain enemies do drop bullets fairly regularly.
However, one thing enemies do not drop is health. In what I thought was one of the more inventive aspects of the game, you can regain health any time by pressing the Grab button when an enemy is stunned, and drinking their blood. The only tricky part is not accidentally finishing them off with your sword first, and making sure no other enemies are about to attack you.
You also have the option of letting go of the enemy before you’ve drained them, after which they’ll turn green. If you press the Taunt button while they’re in this state, they will then explode like a bomb, taking out any other nearby enemies. Not an ability I was aware vampires had, but whatever works.
I should also say the visuals are really nice, with hand-drawn cel-shaded characters that make you feel like you’re playing a violent anime-inspired animated series. Unfortunately, like a lot of Flash animated videogames, the controls can at times feel a little on the sluggish side.
I will freely admit I did not finish BloodRayne: Betrayal. It’s a genre that exists for a certain type of gamer, with a high threshold for frustration. I have a feeling that many of those gamers will enjoy WayForward’s 2D take on the BloodRayne franchise, I can only acknowledge that I’m not one of them.