Let Platinum Games whisk you away in a whimsical and bewitching faerie-tale in our Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon review.
Since her debut in 2009, flaunting her flamboyant flare on our screens for the very first time, Bayonetta has remained a Platinum Games staple. Wielding the powers of hell itself whilst doing so in the most stylish way possible, the Bayonetta series is known for its ridiculous set pieces, larger than life characters, and blisteringly intense action sequences. But this couldn’t be further from the case in its spin-off, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, a stunning storybook tale exploring the beginnings of our beloved Bayonetta.
Okay, they took “storybook” very literally.
Avoiding its action upbringings entirely, Bayonetta Origins instead adapts fairy-tale and folklore into an action adventure/puzzle platformer simply oozing with childlike charm. Where prior Bayonetta games have been helmed by Platinum veterans like Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe) and Yusuke Hashimoto (Bayonetta 2, Resident Evil 4), Origins hands the reigns to Abebe Tinari, who began as a humble fan of the series, now director of his very own game.
Does his new vision for the series breathe fresh life into the over-the-top action game? Open the cover on our Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon review to find out.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review – Story
Once upon a time, in a forest far away, lived a young Umbra witch in training, who dreamed of harnessing creatures summoned from the depths of inferno. Though she studiously toiled under the guidance of her mentor, a devilishly powerful witch by the name of Morgana, this cheeky pipsqueak’s powers just couldn’t match. And despite making little progress, the young witch remained persistent, as she had but one steadfast motivation: to save her mother.
You definitely need to harness dark magic to afford a property like this.
As the daughter of an Umbra Witch and a Luminary Sage, the young witch was born of a forbidden relationship. With her mother locked away and imprisoned in a solitary cell, the news of her expulsion into the deeper, darker depths of the prison is simply too much to bear. Given no other option, the young witch ventured into a forbidden forest, known only as Avalon, after being lured by a mysterious White Wolf.
Wait, wasn’t Avalon Forest supposed to be scary?
Hoping that the secrets of the forest hold the key to unlocking not only her own power as a witch, but the prison cell that holds her mother captive, the girl entered the forest all on her lonesome. Little did she know, but Avalon Forest was a trap designed to devour all those who enter, as any within its grasp fall victim to the wicked Faeries that call the Forest home.
But that didn’t stop the stubborn young girl. Calling upon the powers of the underworld, she successfully summoned a despicable demon into… her stuffed cat? Against his will, the demon, playfully named “Cheshire”, had to accompany the young witch and aid her quest if he had any hope of returning to Inferno. And so, the pair set off, with the opening chapter of Cereza and her Lost Demon beginning to unfold.
If you’ve played Bayonetta 3, this should be a familiar face!
Don’t be fooled by its whimsical and childish demeanour, or its resemblance to a fairy-tale. This is a gripping origin story that weaves the tale of Cereza’s beginnings as a rookie Umbra Witch-in-training. Though it may appear playful and upbeat, Cereza and the Lost Demon is littered with mature undertones that rely heavily on the relationship between the pair of protagonists. If The Brothers Grimm were to craft one of their distinctly dark fairytales around the world of Bayonetta, this would be it.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review – Gameplay
If you’ve played any previous Bayonetta game, you’re going to be in for a rude shock. That’s because Bayonetta Origins is nothing like them at all. Hopping to a completely different genre, this spin-off adopts a slow-paced and cosy experience, with a blend of platforming, puzzle-solving, and co-op combat all while being controlled by a single player. Though that’s certainly not to its detriment, as this is arguably the most unique Bayonetta game to date.
The vast majority of Bayonetta Origins takes place in the sinister Avalon Forest, a curious and colourful environment overrun by hostile Faeries. Broken up into multiple distinct locales, Cereza and her companion, Cheshire, must progress forward towards their goal at the heart of the forest. Of course, this would be boring without a few obstacles to hinder their progress. Every area contains environmental puzzles requiring you to simultaneously control both Cereza and Cheshire to push onwards. Think of it like single-player co-op (if that makes any sense).
It’s basically co-op, but for people who don’t have friends.
Throughout the game, you’ll stumble across several “Elemental Cores” that unlock hidden powers within your demonic feline companion. By harnessing the power of the elements, at the tap of a button Cheshire can transform his appearance and ability to overcome both foes and obstacles. Grass Cheshire can launch a vine from his mouth like a chaotic chameleon, Stone Cheshire can ground-pound to demolish dead-ends, Water Cheshire can launch a tactical torrent, and Fire Cheshire burps burning boulders. These skills are used to traverse the environment and clear puzzles, but can also be wielded in combat.
More than just an ugly face.
Where previous games saw Bayonetta dishing out the damage, in Origins she prefers to take a back seat. In fact, she lacks any ability to deal damage at all, instead utilising magical thorns to stun and immobilise enemies. With enemies trapped, Cheshire can leap in and bring a world of hurt through his variety of elemental attacks. The two must be controlled in tandem, with Bayonetta moving and taking actions through the left Joy-Con, and Cheshire lumbering about and unleashing his claws through the right Joy-Con. It’s an incredibly clever control scheme that feels unwieldy at first, but will quickly become second nature.
Stand back and let Cheshire do the work.
Between exploration of Avalon Forest, combat sequences, and creative boss fights, you’ll be tasked with navigating a variety of Tir na nOg. These are essentially miniature dungeons that offer challenges to put your skills to the test. These range from simple combat challenges through facing waves of enemies, all the way through to more complex puzzles taking full advantage of Cheshire’s new skills. Most are quite straightforward, but offer a pleasant change of pace and entrancing, otherworldly designs showcasing the superb aesthetic of the game.
I hope your left and right brains get along well.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review – Visuals
Like its storybook setting, Bayonetta Origins crafts a delightfully playful aesthetic to match. Abandoning the sexualised style of its predecessors, you’ll instead be treated to a colourful yet horrific world that I’m sure Tim Burton would approve of. Every single design of Cereza and the Lost Demon screams creepy yet cute, with characters like Cheshire and the game’s Faerie foes sporting colourful yet disturbing designs. It’s a brilliant contrast of style that works almost too well, particularly during the game’s cutscenes which literally turn page-by-page.
But where the vibrant visuals of Bayonetta Origins truly shines is through Avalon Forest itself. Divided into multiple distinct locales, each area brings with it a new style like starting a new chapter in a book. These look absolutely superb in handheld mode, particularly on the OLED Switch where the saturated colours are at their brightest. When playing in either docked or handheld, Bayonetta Origins is a visual feast and easily one of the most unique looking games on the console.
Even slight touches to the game’s UI to resemble its storybook style emphasise the effort that has gone into achieving such a unusual style. Flicking through menus feels like reading a book, skills blossom onto tiny trees resembling Cereza and Cheshire, and even simply sorting through the compendium is a sight to behold, with stunning illustrations on every page. The animations throughout are equally charming, with Cereza’s spells transformed through ballet which has been specifically motion-captured for accuracy and artistry.
Even the skill tree (yes, a literal tree) is absolutely adorable.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review – Audio
No storybook would be complete without a gripping narrator. Many of us would have grown up being read fairy-tale books by our mother or grandmother as we drifted off to sleep. Bayonetta Origins perfectly captures this sound through the warm voice of Jenny Lee, who plays not only the game’s narrator, but also many of its characters. Her performance and ability to adapt are downright astonishing, bringing a gripping voice to the narrative and guiding you through its pages. While Angeli Wall delivers an adorable performance as the young Umbra Witch, it’s truly Jenny Lee who steals the show.
Every line of text throughout the game is wonderfully narrated.
But there’s far more to love about the audio of Bayonetta Origins than its voice acting or narration. I’m of course referring to the soundtrack, which is a collaborative effort between no less than five separate composers, including my personal favourite, Rei Kondoh, who is responsible for the music of Okami. This amalgamation of composers makes for an entrancing soundtrack that sounds truly magical. Elements of Okami can certainly be heard throughout the game’s music and sound design, blended with the magical influence of John Williams’ scores for Harry Potter, and sprinkled with some Bayonetta charm. Just take a listen:
The game’s main theme, with flourishing strings and the magical sound of the Celeste.
A delightfully joyful track that plays upon destroying each elemental core.
Even some boss tracks contain nods to fan-favourite Bayonetta songs.
Lastly, credit specifically should be given to the immersive 3D audio/stereo mix employed throughout the game. This especially helps immerse the player in the game’s story, as you specifically place where Cereza and Cheshire are on screen through the distance of their sounds. As an added touch, you even have the option of changing the audio position of the narrator, as if they’re reading beside you, or eerily speaking directly behind your back.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review – What Else?
Even once the credits role and you think you’re done, there’s plenty more to enjoy in Bayonetta Origins. Completing the game will unlock an entirely new story, allowing you to play a short one-shot campaign as Bayonetta’s fellow Umbra Witch, Jeanne. This lasts for just over an hour, but is worthy added bonus for a touch more story and insight into another iconic character.
Now where have I seen “Charles” before?
And for completionists, this game is truly a delight. Avalon Forest is awash with secrets waiting to be uncovered, from hidden areas, optional Tir na nOg dungeons, through to the game’s 40 “Wisps” that are scattered throughout each area. There’s plenty to track down and ensure you get the most value out of your gameplay. You’ll even earn additional costumes for Cereza and Chesire if you’re particularly diligent!
For a spin-off to stray so far from the gameplay of its source material is a huge risk, and yet Bayonetta Origins somehow delivers this in spades. Crafting a charming narrative exploring Bayonetta’s beginnings, this game does so with a delightfully unique visual style and unbelievably polished audio design. By blending fairy-tale style with intuitive single-player co-op that relies upon the relationship of its protagonists, Cereza and the Lost Demon is an origin story you won’t want to put down until you close the book on the final chapter.
So, why should you play Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon?
- Delightfully charming storybook narrative with loveable characters
- Unique single-player co-op style combat, platforming, and puzzles
- Distinct visual style with a stunning, vibrant aesthetic
- Soundtrack and audio as magical as the game itself
- Plenty of additional content for completionists
But why shouldn’t you play Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon?
- Expecting an action-packed Bayonetta game? You may be sorely disappointed
- Not a fan of fairytales, even ones with dark undertones
A review code was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of our Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to read our Bayonetta 3 review and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about the Bayonetta series!