Back in 2011, the gaming landscape was a fair bit different from what it is today. If indie games and smaller projects can now thrive thanks to the popularity of digital stores, this hasn’t always been the case. BloodRayne Betrayal is one such title that emerged from an era long gone on the Xbox Live Arcade. Quality indie games such as Ori and the Blind Forest or Hollow Knight are now expected to be released on a regular basis. However, BloodRayne Betrayal didn’t have such fierce competition back then. As one of the few titles of its kind, the action-platformer title was a fun little ride. BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is a remaster that attempts to revamp the title with a fresh, new coat of paint.
The paint, however, has run a little dry: and the cracks, reflecting design decisions that have aged poorly, are made all the more evident considering the quality of today’s indie games. Here’s my review of BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites.
BloodRayne Betrayal Remaster: Blood, Sweat, And Dhampirs
Rayne, the half-human dhampir, is the game’s protagonist – and while her design and move-set might leave a lasting impression, the story clearly doesn’t. BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is indeed a bite-sized affair in terms of scenario and runtime. Essentially, Rayne is dashing and slashing her way through many similarly designed levels to stop an ‘evil’ organization. The characters and plot seem to be little more than stage-setters for the title’s real meat and potatoes: the action and the platforming.
On the surface, BloodRayne Betrayal‘s action system reminds me a little bit of Devil May Cry. Stylish-looking combos against bunches of enemies, all while trying your best to obtain the best grade possible. While the first hour or so felt oddly enjoyable in terms of combat (sucking blood from your enemy to get your HP back!), it didn’t take long for me to realize some of the design flaws that plague the title when it comes to its action sequences.
For starts, it’s too easy for Rayne to get stun-locked for several seconds. Her fall animation is also a little too long, and in the thick of the action, it can sometimes feel like your character can’t make a move half the time. Indeed, visual clarity isn’t one of the game’s strengths either. Rayne’s oversized health bar tends to hide enemies on the screen (even boss mechanics at times), while some sequences prioritize stylized visuals over combat fluidity.
The caveats are a little disappointing, considering the core ideas, with the right amount of polish, feel like they could work. Blood spilling is satisfying enough – and pulling off combos does feel rewarding in terms of visuals. Your blood won’t be pumping for too long once you realize that the letter-based scoring system makes absolutely no sense. The criteria for scoring high isn’t clear, and some of the fights feel like they’re actively chaotic to prevent you from clinching that ‘A.’ Once, and if, you do get that coveted high rank, you’ll likely be disappointed to find out that there’s no tangible reward for performing well.
Dhampirs Aren’t Good At Jumping
If the action does feel salvageable at times, the platforming doesn’t. It still baffles me why you need to perform tedious backflips regularly to attain high platforms. A double jump would’ve done the job instead – the artificial difficulty is just a wrong design decision that this BloodRayne Betrayal remaster could and should have addressed. It only gets worse once you realize that some of the platforms are too small for you to even reach without having to sweat. Rayne’s clunky move-set doesn’t make it enjoyable either. Some of these moments almost made me want to drop my controller down and return to an actual Metroidvania title. It feels like platforming was merely an afterthought in the developers’ minds. If so, the game would have been better off with just pure, more refined action segments.
Players can also collect Ancient Vampire Skulls to boost Rayne’s ammo capacity and maximum health. It’s a little disappointing that you can’t unlock other kinds of weapons or new combos. That’s part of the reason why gameplay feels like it never really moves forward after the first hour or so.
Can Blood-pumping Tracks Salvage Anemic Gameplay?
The gameplay’s failings are in part compensated for by some neat, stylish visuals. During my BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites review, I found that the comic-book kind of art, which, while not ground-breaking, is rather lovely to look at. Animations aren’t as fluid as some of the more renowned indie titles of today, which leaves one to wonder whether the remaster could have improved those aspects as well. Some of the sequences involve some neat set-pieces that are pleasing to the eye – but are again let down by the lack of visual clarity. Style’s nice, but not when it harms your enjoyment and understanding of what’s happening on the screen.
In an aesthetic sense, levels sometimes ooze with personality. It’s no Castlevania, but the reference points were clear to see with the gothic themes used in BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites. It’s just sad that the actual level design left so much to be desired.
The return of Laura Bailey and Troy Baker as the primary voice actors is a nice little touch in this remaster. As expected from these veterans, their performances are strong – but neither the story nor the characters are interesting enough to make their work shine through. It’s incredibly disappointing, considering Rayne’s character could have been so much more fun to be invested in. She almost seemed like the perfect fit for Laura Bailey, but it matters little when the script and general writing are just less-than-serviceable vehicles for gameplay that’s already flawed.
BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites‘ soundtrack is one of the few aspects of the game that comes with no downsides at all. Even when the happenings on the screen were a complete blur, or if I was busy getting frustrated at the awful platforming – the heavy-hitting guitar riffs mixed with an excellent orchestral score kept my attention. It’s the kind of soundtrack you could listen to even when you’re not playing the game, and that’s some of the best praise one can give a game’s soundtrack.
BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites Review – Conclusion
Ultimately, my BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites review left me feeling polarized. If judged back in 2011, the original game would have felt like an honorable, low-budget project that deserved your attention. However, things have changed since then, and indie projects have become a lot more prominent. Compared to the more well-known 2D action games and other Metroidvania-itch-scratchers, BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites feels like a relic from the past. Its gameplay systems have aged poorly, with its art style and the soundtrack being its principal saving graces.
It isn’t a terrible game. If anything, the BloodRayne Betrayal remaster could and should have done a lot more to fix some of the issues that were present even in the original game. Platforming is the biggest offender here – and there’s, unfortunately, a little too much of it throughout the short runtime. With this in mind, BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites does feel like a missed opportunity at reviving a classic from the Xbox Live Arcade days.
BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites was reviewed on PC, with a code provided by the publisher. BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
- Character and level design art style
- Memorable soundtrack
- Combat can feel satisfying at times
- Unresponsive, clunky controls
- A pointless, unrewarding scoring system
- No enemy variety at all
- Unremarkable story
- Platforming feels like a chore
- Lack of visual clarity