Trying to resurrect a long-dead franchise is a risky venture, especially one that was never truly beloved in the first place. Bloodrayne: Betrayal, Majesco and WayForward's return to the half-vampire heroine of the early 2000's, is just such a risky venture. Not only does it completely shrug off the formula from the first two games in the series, transforming from a 3D action-adventure title to a sidescrolling platformer, but it tries to do so after Uwe Boll has stunk the franchise up even more with another miserable movie. With the odds stacked against it, how does Bloodrayne: Betrayal even hope to succeed?
Dare I say it, the game turns out surprisingly well given its putrid pedigree. While the first Bloodrayne game is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, the sequel and movie adaptations are painful at best. The threadbare plot this time around is that our favorite filleting femme fatale is forced into one last mission with her former employers at the Brimstone Society to bring down her vampiric father. It's an excuse for players to guide the lightning-fast Rayne through a series of spooky gothic environments ripped straight out of the last 5 or so Castlevania titles, but it's serviceable in spite (or perhaps because) of its inherent cheesiness.
In fact, the game seems to absolutely revel in its cheesiness, bathing in its blatant B-movieness like a modern-day Countess Bathory. In fact, the tone of the game actually becomes nostalgic for a time before even the first Bloodrayne came out. The animation style, hamfisted dialogue, and sheer absurdity (Rayne travels between levels using a rocket-powered coffin, for fuck's sake) hearkens back to the sugar-crusted Saturday mornings of my youth and the cartoons that were little more than 28-minute toy commercials. The vibe is so pitch-perfect I can practically taste the Count Chocula.
Speaking of Count Chocula, you'll probably need a big heaping bowl of the stuff to succeed at Betrayal's supersonic, twitchy combat, which will put even the buzziest of gamepad jockeys to task. While the combat is deceptively simple, using literally one button for actual attacks, the game's scoring system is positively sadistic. I think I placed above an F-score for a level a grand total of once, and it was a harrowing experience. Mercifully, the game doesn't really fault you for scoring so low at its blazing combat, but seeing the giant "F" slam onto the screen is the sort of staff-sergeant style humiliation that can keep players returning to prove that they are not, in fact, Worm Food as the game has told them.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal is probably the most successful resurrection of a franchise that you can imagine, eschewing the tone and feel of the previous entries for a thick slab of cheesy goofiness that just works. It's not deep, or provocative, or mature in any fashion, but it's nothing if not a hell of a lot of fun.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal is out now on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 MSP and Playstation Network for $14.99.