Bayonetta 3 proved that there’s very little that will stop the bespectacled witch. But what if the bespectacled witch was in fact very little? Before she became the vibrant, volatile voluptuary, she was known simply as Cereza. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon lets us join her on her journey as an apprentice witch, setting out on a heartrending quest to save her mother. As the title suggests, she’s certainly not left the denizens of Inferno too far behind, and despite the newfound youth of our protagonist she’s still a formidable companion, as her foes fall before her.
This must be one of the most interesting pivots in style that a franchise has taken in recent memory. Cereza and the Lost Demon is a playable storybook, with painterly cutscenes interspersed by the turning of the pages. Where Bayonetta has been known for its 3D excesses and powerfully sensual protagonist, the tale here shifts to the childlike worries and wonder of classic fables like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
While Cereza and the Lost Demon leans heavily into its book-bound style, the soundtrack is a storytelling device all of its own, and the evocative orchestral work lavishes each scene with added meaning. Dark cello undertones writhe menacingly beneath tender piano, introducing a powerful auditory juxtaposition that’s mesmerising at times. It brings a sense of magic and classical fantasy that follows the thematic idea that Cereza is the living embodiment of the light and the dark.
She’s younger and more naïve, but no less headstrong, foregoing the warnings of her teacher and deciding to set off into Avalon Forest – known locally as The Forbidden Forest, if you’re wondering how well it’s likely to go. With a cryptic message from a dream talking about white wolves and the like, she takes it as her destiny to head into this terrifying place and seek out a solution to her mother’s incarceration.
This is not Bayonetta 4. It’s not even Bayonetta 0. Cereza and the Lost Demon is a different infernal beast all together, and you’ll realise that within a few moments once the game is done with its lengthy hands-off opening. Your first ability is a Witch Pulse, and you can utilise it to perform different magical tasks like helping plants grow. All you have to do is hold ZL, and then once the Umbran clock dial begins turning you have to stop it at the right moment. If it proves too difficult getting the timing right there’s the option to have Cereza perform the motion herself, which is a nice offering for those trainee witches or wizards out there with no sense of rhythm.
While she might not have guns or hair-empowered attacks to help her on her quest, Cereza can call on a demon to help fight off the less-than-friendly faeries that live within the forest. That demon is Cheshire, a vicious cat creature that we spent time with in Bayonetta 3, and whose origins lie in Cereza’s toy cat. After he possesses the stuffed toy he finds himself permanently bound to Cereza, and since she hasn’t learnt the spell that can return him to Inferno, he decides to become useful. It’s lucky really since there’s little chance she’d survive this adventure without him.
At points, you control both of the characters at once, with the left analogue moving Cereza and the right one for Cheshire. While Cereza can hop about different ladders and platforms, and perform her magic spells, Cheshire’s role is generally to slash enemies into ribbons, a job he’s very good at. It can sometimes be difficult splitting your brain between the two – a feature inherited from Bayonetta 3 – but the pace here in the opening is much more sedate. Taking different routes through the magical undergrowth is pleasingly tactile, and early on you start to get a taste of the puzzle mechanics you’ll need to employ to get them both safely to the end.
My only question at the outset is who exactly this game is aimed at. It’s free from the sexualised excesses of the mainline games, and as the franchise’s army of fans clamour for more of the Devil May Cry-influenced action this diminutive fairytale adventure feels incongruous. However, the production is really quite lovely, and experiencing a different side to such a beloved character is intriguing and beguiling in a wholly new way. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon feels like a storybook that deserves to be taken off the shelf.