Before you write off Bayonetta as a straight Devil May Cry clone, a weird Japanese hack'n'slash, or another sad attempt by a game to be sexy - STOP. Although it has elements of all these things, Bayonetta rises above such simple classification by being the boldest, most explosive and downright unashamed game we've played for years. It isn't a whacky genre game - it actually defines the genre it sits in.
On the surface, Bayonetta rightly draws comparisons to the likes of Ninja Gaiden, Dante's Inferno and Devil May Cry. At the core of the experience you're pushing face buttons to create combos that devastate your opponents. There are a huge amount of moves available, and you can switch weapon sets mid-combo to create an almost infinite string of blows. And it's all seriously easy to execute. Button bashers will be chuffed to see spectacular results from their pad-mashing (because Bayonetta uses her hair as a weapon and clothing, the more extravagant your combos, the more you see of our heroine) and - at the same time - purists will delight in mastering the more complex moves and the timing needed for a perfect dodge.
It's an incredible system that never punishes a lack of ability, but always rewards moments of skill. Pull off a last-second evade, for example, and you trigger 'Witch Time' - several seconds of slow motion that allows you to execute a massive combo on your enemy without fear of being hit. Later on certain enemies can only be damaged in Witch Time but, by then, you'll have it nailed. Similarly, if you land a flurry of moves without being hit your magic gauge will fill up, allowing you to pull off a spectacular 'Torture move'.
As you progress you can buy new moves and animal forms for Bayonetta to temporarily transform into, but none of them are essential and you can quite easily finish the game with the massive amount of moves at your disposal from the start. There are new weapons to unlock (which bring fresh combos) like a whip, a sword and, er, ice-skates. You can even engage Automatic mode, which handles evades for you, leaving you free to button-mash your way through the game. Thanks to its simultaneous accessibility and depth, this really is head and shoulders above its closest rivals.
However, the true beauty of the combat lies in the scenarios. This isn't just a mindless slog through armies of faceless samurai warriors, or pipe-carrying thugs - Bayonetta is taking on weird and wonderful creatures that range from simple 'angels' with halos and oddly distorted faces, through to abominations the size of small towns. Just when you think you've beaten a truly show-stopping monster, something even bigger and more impossible rolls along for a kicking. The penultimate boss, for example, throws a sky-scraper at you and yanks down a satellite from space to try and crush you. The boss fight before that takes place on the side of a multi-story building as it collapses and then moves on to the back of a speeding missile . It's so wonderfully over-the-top that when you finally activate the killer blow (known as Climaxing - really) you'll punch the air. No exaggeration - when we finished some of the later bosses we literally slammed our fist into nothing and shouted at the screen.
These intense fights are broken up by smart platforming sections, simple puzzles, and basic level-exploration. However, this being Bayonetta, these in-between moments are far from throw-away and sedate - one moment you're freezing time to walk on water across a fountain, the next you're motor-biking up the side of a rocket launching into space. Really. It's all part of the grand, 100 miles-per-hour spectacle, and it's what makes Bayonetta the new bench-mark for pure action games.