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Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon Review: A Book You Won't Want To Put Down

EDITORS' RATING : 8 / 10
Pros
  • An imaginative new look at Bayonetta’s world
  • Tir Na Nog Puzzles feel like Zelda shrines, in a good way
  • Dual protagonist mechanic leads to a fun take on familiar ideas
Cons
  • Combat can get repetitive
  • New abilities could be unlocked faster to improve pacing

A Nintendo Switch code was provided to Zaaz for this review. "Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon" is available now for Nintendo Switch.

Bayonetta is known for her wild dance moves, sex appeal, and flashy combos, but who was she before she strutted onto the stage with magic guns in hand? She was Cereza, an unfortunate young girl who was shunned by her clan and separated from her parents. This scared child is a far cry from the confident action hero that earned enough fans to get Nintendo to back an M-rated game. Yet, somehow, Cereza commands attention and affection just as well as her adult counterpart. This is a testament to the way "Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon" commits to a very different experience than its predecessors, and even more to how it pulls it off.

The story of "Cereza and the Lost Demon" is closer to a Studio Ghibli movie than an over-the-top action game. Through storybook sequences, players learn that Cereza was born from the forbidden union of a dark witch and a light sage. Pages literally turn on screen to show how Cereza grew up visiting her mother in prison and being treated as an outcast. At 15, Cereza is visited by a mysterious boy in her dreams who promises her the power to free her mother. The young girl journeys into a fey forest despite her strict teacher's warnings, with nothing but beginner magic and a possessed stuffed toy to accompany her.

It Takes Two

Similar to a Ghibli film, the tale takes turns into charming and tragic territory with skillful ease. Cereza accidentally summons a demon into her toy, Cheshire, leading to the dynamic of two unlikely allies who grow to become friends. In gameplay, Cereza takes the left Joy-Con, while demon Cheshire takes the right. The pair literally cannot get too far apart or Cheshire will lose his magic and revert to toy form, while Cereza is mostly defenseless without her infernal bodyguard. Playing through their codependency brings this relationship to life more than cutscenes ever could, as you personally experience all the close calls that are conquered via teamwork. That said, the children's book style more than does its part to establish this tale of trust and believing in oneself.

In some ways, this two-in-one control scheme brings to mind "The World Ends With You." Even though they use the same buttons, the characters have their own unique play styles. This reinforces their personalities with Cereza hanging back to cast spells while Cheshire rushes in to tear everything apart. This also reflects their growth over time as Cereza starts to unlock bolder, more impactful moves. For his part, Cheshire gets access to more strategic powers. Outside of combat, the act of simultaneously controlling the pair lends some novelty to simple exploration puzzles.

We've seen this game before

Cereza and Cheshire are trapped in a forest full of fairies, and escaping means defeating these tricksters to dispel their illusions. Combat is as straightforward as it gets. Every fairy specializes in a particular attack such as blasting a bazooka or laying down traps. Cheshire just needs to get close to them and smack them until they disappear. If the enemy can't be reached, then Cereza probably needs to use a spell to bind them so Cheshire can hack away. Later foes, and of course bosses, add more layers to this pattern. Yet it can be slow going in the first few hours as you repeat the same attacks until you unlock the skill tree.

The same can be said for activating environmental triggers. Cereza must use magic to stimulate a lot of plants throughout the forest to create bridges, gather materials, etc. This is done through a sequence of control stick presses in time with her dance. Usually, three such sequences are needed for one plant, leading to it getting old fast. It is cool from a lore standpoint to see how Cereza developed what becomes Bayonetta's iconic dance-based magic, but even the cutest animation can overstay its welcome.

No illusions, just a good time

Dispelling illusions is a lot more fun thanks to the Tir Na Nog. These pocket dimension puzzles are scattered throughout the forest like "Breath of the Wild" shrines and offer similar bite-sized challenges. Their layouts make clever use of the dual protagonist gameplay and Cereza's magic while offering a trippy visual experience to boot.

"Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon" weaves a bewitching web thanks to its colorful art, engaging characters, and mysterious setting. The puzzles require critical thinking, precise timing, and coordination between the two protagonists, making for an engaging and satisfying experience. While the combat certainly doesn't reach the heights of Bayonetta's adult outings, the dual-protagonist puzzles prove that Cereza has plenty to offer on her own.

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