Bloodrayne: Betrayal Review (Xbox360)

Vampires are trendy, cool, the in thing. They're the best undead friend a guy or gal could ever wish for, apart from maybe a zombie. Ghouls get lost, wraiths take a hike, skeletons just don't ever come back.

But what about Dhampirs? That's what the main character from BloodRayne is, having a vampiric father and a normal mother. Rayne is the star of two previous games, with this and a 3DS one on the way. Let us also not forget the three utterly woeful movies and some comics.

See what we mean about the penis monsters?

Even the agony of three Uwe Boll adaptations hasn't been able to destroy the franchise, but it has been slimmed down from the full fat 3D versions. It's a side-scrolling platformer with interesting cartoon visuals and over-the-top gore and violence. It's also quite difficult and features some really annoying sections that'll cause severe distress to anyone without a cool, calm and collected demeanour.

On the face of it, you've got a fairly standard platform romp, hammering X a lot to take down enemies, leaping over tricky obstacles and figuring out how to get to the hidden crimson skulls for the achievement.

It can be quite entertaining when you get into a flow, performing a rush attack to decapitate an enemy then spinning to blast a row of advancing foes with your gun. There's a reasonable variety of moves to make combat interesting, with air attacks, head bounces, the aforementioned gun, forward rushes and so on.

The problem is that most of the time you won't be in full flow, but will be consistently grounded in frustration because nearly everything that touches you knocks you to the ground. As Rayne is really quite sluggish at getting up, you're constantly getting more and more frustrated, especially when some bits are really quite unfair and badly thought through.

Like there's a bit where you are jumping vertically up while avoiding spikes on platforms, but if you hit the side of the platform, nowhere near the spikes, you still take damage, as there must be a huge box o' death around the spikes. It gets worse when you take into account the 'high jump' mechanic, which involves running away from where you're meant to go and then quickly turning and jumping back. Try doing that on a small platform under pressure.

As you can see, the artwork is one of the best things about the game

Luckily, the environment proves just as hazardous for enemies, providing some light relief from all the challenges you're facing. Position yourself in an advantageous place and they'll often stumble into spikes or get fried by deadly lasers.

Providing a bit of relief is a Lander-style element where you take control of a friendly white raven with a secret, who flutters soars through areas you can't get to. It's scripted when you can avail yourself of your avian chum, but it does at least provide a new bit to get frustrated and angry about when you start bouncing between floor and ceiling spikes like a lunatic.

You'll do this at least once because it's very hard to add a little finesse to your movement, especially in the air. Difficult platform leaping is made even harder because a tiny directional tap or nudge can send Rayne or the bird too far, leading to acid pit death or whatever. The usual bugbear of oft-poor checkpoint positioning then rears its ugly head.

At least you'll be able to admire the animation and scenery during your frequent trips to the ground or back to a distant checkpoint. One of the positives is that the game has a nice gothic vibe to most of the backdrops and Rayne, when she's not on her arse, does move with a sense of grace. However, there aren't enough different types of scenery and most of the ones you do come across are similarly grey and dank – which is kind of what you'd expect from a vampire game, but still.

Each level, regardless of the art style, can be 'beaten' quickly and/or thoroughly in order to get rankings and points totals, although to get anything other than the basic F grade is actually very tough indeed. It'll take a hell of a lot of effort to get top grading on each level, and you'll basically have to be some kind of psychotic obsessive to even try.

You can see how spectacular things can get here, but only when it 'works'.

So yeah, it's only for people who are really, really (repeat for a while) really into their tough platformers or those who love Rayne's exploits so much, they can't live without experiencing this. While there are moments of fun when things all come together, there are far too many anti-fun times to tip the scales towards negativity. Someone else might sum this all up with the following sentence: “Good sometimes, but not often enough.”

And we're not even going to go into the whole thing with the bulbous penis monsters and the flying tampons/blood/menstruation angle.