- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at a pair of titles loaded with sequential-art-style action.

Bayonetta (Sega, rated M for mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99) - A female warrior who mixes the best attributes of Fox from Wanted, Trinity from “The Matrix” and COBRA’s Baroness is out to destroy the heavens in this violent, cinematic and entertaining third-person action game.

A player has little time to appreciate the story about a witch named Bayonetta who was buried in a coffin underwater centuries ago and revived in a modern-day war against heavenly creatures.

Crafting a concoction containing a liberal amount of the Devil May Cry and a touch of the God of War and Brutal Legend franchises, creator and director Hideki (Viewtiful Joe) Kamiya delivers frantic, pure Japanese-arcade-tinged action with a hero using acrobatic and magical attacks along with guns that fire from all of her appendages.

The graphics always dazzle and enhance our heroine’s gratuitous beauty in battle. Besides our lady losing her leather and baring down to a swimsuit during especially heated battles, when she jumps, she sprouts colorful butterfly wings and, as she lands, a passel of the creatures fly away around her.

An activation of Witch Time (akin to the slow-motion effect of “The Matrix”) just before being hit by an enemy turns into a wondrous, color-streaked battle experience.

Additional visual moments show off an assortment of bizarre bosses, including a magma-flow-producing creature with two dragon heads and a human head embedded between them.

Not new to this style of game, but certainly fun, are mixing potions, using an assortment of weaponry dropped by enemies, and purchasing upgrades by collecting halos (that’s the currency) from a too-hip demon named Rodin.

Bayonetta certainly has some really flashy and easy-to-administer kills. Press a pair of buttons at the right time, and our gal takes an angel to the guillotine and quickly chops off its head, or she unleashes her hair, which turns into a gigantic dragon.

Equally slick is spinning her upside down like a top, guns basting away, to pick off surrounding enemies.

With combat mechanics accessible for even the most finger-fumbling gamer and action fierce enough to please the Ninja Gaiden veteran, Bayonetta offers a bloody, stylish and stress-relieving date night for the adult gamer looking to spend some time with a virtual bad girl.

Read all about it: This supernatural superheroine does not have her own comic book, but I can offer a few titles for inspiration.

Try either Top Cow’s monthly Witchblade, with the sassy Sara Pezzini wrapped in armor ($2.99 each), or any of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn issues featuring Angela, the bounty-hunting angel. I would search hard for Spawn: Angela’s Hunt, the three-issue miniseries trade paperback ($24.99) written by Neil Gaiman.

Darksiders (THQ, rated M for mature, reviewed for PlayStation 3, $59.99) - As War, one of the famed Four Horsemen, I have been wrongly accused of starting the apocalypse. It’s up to me to return to a demon-infested Earth and take revenge on those who have betrayed me while restoring the fine balance between heaven and hell.

So, how’s your day going?

Of course, a comic-book creator, Joe Madureira, concocted this third-person action game, and of course, it drips more blood and testosterone than a WWE match set in the Middle Ages.

Think about a light version of Zelda and God of War played while roaming around massive, barren wastelands, tombs and dungeons peppered with fire, brimstone and magma and at the same time forging and using the perfect combination of combat gear and powers.

This is sword slaughter at its splash-page finest, with liberal amounts of skeletal creatures, zombies and fire-belching bosses always standing in the way of missions.

Just like Bayonetta, the game revels in violently killing supernatural enemies with a wide variety of weapons and attacks. It’s just not as stylish - and no bikinis are involved.

Surprisingly, amid all the carnage, players take a break to ride a griffin-type beast, must solve puzzles to unlock areas using a crossblade like a boomerang, transform into a fiery Chaos-form beast, fly using demonic wings, collect souls to barter with the demon Vulgrim and ride War’s steed Ruin.

Dismembering, squashing heads, skewering flaming vampire bats, tossing stick bombs and popping pus-filled behemoths are all in a day’s work for this warrior.

I also should mention the wonderful cast of support characters, including a pesky fellow named the Watcher (sort of like Spawn’s unwelcome pal the Clown) with a voice like Mark Hamill’s Joker, and a too-cool demon called Samuel (think Tim Curry as Darkness in “Legend”).

Darksiders features high production values and Neanderthal combat mechanics that mix postapocalyptic adventure with that distinct “male demographic” comic-book design to deliver joyous, button-stumping fun.

Read all about it: Those who preordered Darksiders from GameStop are already reading a comic book created by Mr. Madureira that offers a prequel to the action.

I would direct those who did not get the book to check out Mr. Madureira’s work on Uncanny X-Men back in the mid-1990s, especially the Age of Apocalypse story line. Four trade paperbacks, under the title X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic ($29.99 each), feature his work on the Astonishing X-Men miniseries.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (https://communities.washingtontimes.com/) or on Twitter .

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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