A Viennetta is a tasty dessert consisting of layers of vanilla ice-cream and thick milk chocolate. Viennettas come in a variety of flavours, so I initially assumed that a Bayonetta would consist of layers of vanilla ice-cream and thick metal stabbing devices. As it turns out, this is not the case: a Bayonetta is an acrobatic witch with guns on her arms and legs, a warrior in emo specs with the power to kill people using her hair.
Bayonetta is the star of a forthcoming SEGA game of the same name, and it's looking to be a damn good one, too. The director of the project is Hideki Kamiya, the brains behind the original Devil May Cry as well as top-calibre titles like Resident Evil 2, Okami and Viewtiful Joe. In short, he's the kind of guy you pay attention to, and Kamiya-san himself has stated that he sees this game as being similar to what he'd have done with the DMC series had he stayed aboard the franchise.
Precious few details have emerged about Bayonetta since it was announced in the middle of 2008, and SEGA seemed keen to remain tight-lipped when I visited them a couple of weeks ago. If anything this sense of mystery worked to make the game even more interesting, and even though concrete details were relatively scarce it's already clear to me that the bullet-happy witch has buckets of potential. The visual style, for one thing, is immediately striking - with levels and enemies that recall Ancient Greece spliced with contemporary Japanese cool. It's super-slick too, running at what appeared to be a butter-smooth 60 frames per second.
In terms of core gameplay, Bayonetta seems fairly reminiscent of Devil May Cry and other mainstream action titles. There's the mandatory third-person perspective, large quantities of enemies on screen at once and an emphasis on show-off combos. Though I've yet to play the game for myself, it seems as the four face buttons will correspond to Bayonetta's pistol wielding limbs. A tap of a button might unleash a close-range kick, but holding that same button down results in the feisty witch blazing away with one of the firearms on her foot - striking some kind amazingly acrobatic pose as she does. By stringing these moves together you can create a lengthy chain of attacks to send your combo through the roof.
As cool as all this four-limbed blasting is, it's the second set of attacks that seemed to have grabbed the public attention. By collecting purple orbs dropped by bad guys Bayonetta will fill a gauge that eventually allows her to pull off Torture Moves - flashy executions that involve some rather innovative use of her hair. At one moment her dark locks become a fist that smashes the enemy into oblivion; a few minutes later it's a giant stiletto heel that crushes someone underfoot. And there are even stranger kill methods: during my demonstration the witch summoned a sinister-looking guillotine, and later an Iron Maiden that closed around one hapless enemy.