Game’s difficulty kills fun

Here is an extremely important lesson for everyone who makes video games for a living. Go play “Bayonetta.” Look at how truly breathtaking it is. Then play your way to the heinous, fun-killing “Chapter VI” level called “Verse 5” to find out why I went from loving this game to sort of hating it.

First, the awesomeness: “Bayonetta” begins with an unbelievably gorgeous, cinematic battle between you (a witch) and angels; you’re fighting while standing on little meteors falling to Earth; grand opera soars in the background.

For many hours afterward, the game continues to look and play like a near masterwork, as you run through green fields, castles in the sky and other fantastical locations, fighting hundreds of angels with your dozens of fighting moves. These angels are armed to the teeth with spears, swords and whips shaped like electric fences.

(By the way, there is a nonevil reason you’re killing angels. I can’t tell you why, to alleviate your angel-murdering misgivings, without divulging spoilers.)

Anyway, on and on, the death parade goes. “Finishing moves” are insane. You can use magic to turn your witch character’s hair into a tornado-size bird that eats angels; or turn your hair into a giant magical guillotine, then watch as an angel’s head gets squeezed into it and chopped off; or turn your hair into a huge vice that squeezes an angel to death.

Now for the worst thing: Some levels are so ridiculously hard that they sap every scintilla of fun-having out of me.

In the “Verse 5” level, I have to kill four huge angels in a very confined, 40-foot hallway. These angels move as fast as cougars. They hit me with electric whips even when I’m currently hitting them, which defies all laws of physics, even fictional physics.

So there is no way to kill these four angels without A) magically turning into a panther to outrun them to a corner of the hallway; B) then unleashing some quick and small attack against them; C) then turning back into a panther to run from them again … and so on forever until you slowly injure them.

This repetition could take 20 minutes to accomplish. If you make one mistake, you die and start all over. I am an excellent gamer. I tried to beat this level for two more hours and failed.

So you know what? No matter how close “Bayonetta” comes to being a masterpiece, to hell with these hyper- frustrating, hyper-repetitive levels of suckitude.

There is a saving grace: I played the game on the hardest initial setting. I’m still going to give this game three and one-half stars, because you can choose instead to play it on the “easy” or “very easy” settings, which should make the hyper-hard levels more beatable.

I was going to start the game from scratch, on “easy,” to see if that’s true. But I’m afraid I may break this game disc in half, in three … two … one …

(“Bayonetta” by Sega retails for $55 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 — Plays like great fun but can become intensely, frustratingly hard. Looks phenomenal. Very challenging. Rated “M” for blood, gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language and suggestive themes. Three and one-half stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at He blogs at

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