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Cereza and Cheshire cooperatively attack a fairy enemy in a screenshot from Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Image: PlatinumGames/Nintendo

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Bayonetta Origins trades bullets for spell books and puzzles in charming fashion

Nintendo Switch origin story requires dexterity of a different sort

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Bayonetta’s next adventure, a storybook-styled prequel called Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, calls for a different type of the agility required to play a video game — particularly a game of developer PlatinumGames’ pedigree. Unlike the existing Bayonetta games, which are full of balletic, bullet-buffeted action, Bayonetta Origins has a much more easygoing manner. The Nintendo Switch game is powered by puzzle-solving and storytelling, not whiteknuckle ass-kicking.

But Bayonetta Origins does require a level of ambidexterity; players control two characters at once in Platinum’s new game. Cereza, the young Bayonetta, is controlled with the left side of a Switch controller, and Cheshire, a demon-infused stuffed cat, with the right. Movement for each character is mapped to each Joy-Con’s analog controller. Actions, like attacks and spells, are performed with shoulder buttons. Throw in some light combat and spells — some of which are powered by a small rhythm game — and Bayonetta Origins starts to become a more complex game than its presentation might convey.

Cereza climbs a ladder-like vine on the left side of the screen, while the demon cat Cheshire slashes at a thorny wall blocking its path on the right in a screenshot from Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon.
Cereza and Cheshire will often find themselves separated, exploring the forest in ways only each character can.
Image: PlatinumGames/Nintendo

I jumped into a game of Bayonetta Origins a couple chapters in, at which point the young Cereza is studying in and exploring the spooky Avalon Forest. As a young witch, Cereza is still learning basic witchcraft, using her spells to grow and transform vegetation called Infernal Plants. These roots grow out of the ground to build new bridges and walkways through the forest. Cereza can also ensnare enemies in a magical circle called a Thorn Bind.

In combat, Cereza is not very capable. That’s where Cheshire, a disgruntled demon who gets summoned into (and cannot escape from) Cereza’s raggedy stuffed cat, comes in. His powerful claws can slash through evil fairies and thorny roots that block Cereza’s progress. Cheshire is a hulking beast — heavy, but not very agile. He can also shrink down to regular stuffed-cat-toy size, letting Cereza carry him like the big baby he is. (Adorably, picking up and carrying Cheshire is referred to as “hug mode.” Otherwise, Cheshire is in “unleashed mode.”)

A screenshot from Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, in which the young Cereza is holding her demon cat Cheshire in her arms. The scene is presented with a storybook presentation, with dialogue and narration on the right side of the page reading “‘Release me at once!’ Even in this form, the demon did not seem happy about being cuddled.”
Bayonetta Origins’ story is told through storybook-style dialogue and narration.
Image: PlatinumGames/Nintendo

Cereza and Cheshire must work in concert to journey through Avalon Forest. And they need to stay in close proximity to each other to survive. When the duo encounter a group of bad guys, it’s up to Cheshire to claw his way through them while Cereza steers clear of danger (or ensnares one in a magic spell). And when they encounter a patch of rosemary — poison to poor Cheshire — it’s up to Cereza to summon a new path using a little rhythm game spell for her feline demon friend to follow. Together, while in hug mode, the two can jump from platform to platform, using Cheshire like a grappling hook.

Using all of these cooperative elements and co-dependencies turns the forest into a series of increasingly complex puzzles to solve. Given that my hands-on time with Bayonetta Origins was very early on in the game, how the developers can build on these puzzles is a compelling prospect. There are additional elements I didn’t get to explore, like concocting magic potions, that will seemingly add even more depth.

So while Bayonetta Origins certainly looks and plays differently from the other Bayonetta games on Switch, it’s no less intriguing. Players can discover its fairy-tale charms for themselves when Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon launches on March 17.