Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Hands-On Preview – A Witchy Win

A mighty strong start for a little witch.

Mere months after Bayonetta 3, Platinum is already offering another adventure with the coquettish witch. But this time, it’s different for so many reasons. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a prequel and shows a pivotal moment in Bayonetta’s life – before she was Bayonetta. It’s a new angle for the story that I’m not even sure we needed, but it takes a lighter and more whimsical approach to its plot. The result is an action-adventure game with light puzzle elements that discards the action-heavy roots of its predecessors. Fans could be sceptical – I was. But after some time with the first six hours of the game, I’m surprised at how much fun I’m having with it.

Cereza and the Lost Demon presumably takes place long before the events of the original Bayonetta game. If you have finished Bayonetta 3, you’ll know why I say presumably. You play as Cereza, who has seen her mother locked up by the Umbran Witches for conceiving a child (namely, her) with a Lumen Sage. Fed up with her strict Umbran teacher, she eventually heads into the mysterious Avalon Forest. Invertedly, she summons her first demon and names it Cheshire. Cereza wants to find a hidden power she believes will help her mother, while Cheshire wants to get home. Together, they head deeper into the forest and form a bond, but it’s never that simple.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Little Demon Review

While this is the story of Bayonetta in her formative years, a Bayonetta game, this isn’t. Suppose I had to lazily liken it to other games in a pinch. In that case, I’d say it’s like a haphazard mix of Little Nightmares puzzles, from an isometric viewpoint, with some very light elements of Metroid sprinkled on top. It’s an approach that was unexpected, especially so soon after Bayonetta 3, but it surprisingly works rather well so far, and I’ve got a feeling that beyond my time with this preview that it will only get better.

In the game, you control Cereza with the left Joy-Con, while Cheshire controls with the right. Cereza isn’t Bayonetta yet, so she can only use her magical abilities to manipulate the world to progress or debuff enemies during combat. Cheshire, on the other hand, is the primary damage dealer of the two. He can attack with his claws by himself, but there are benefits to combining particular abilities of Cereza’s. For instance, binding an enemy with Cereza and performing a special move on them with Cheshire will offer a newer, flashier and more damaging combo instead.

The combat itself is serviceable and feels unique. It’s not so much about style, like the Bayonetta games, but more about ensuring you properly utilise Cereza and Cheshire and their unique skill sets. In the early chapters, some enemies can only be attacked from behind. Cereza can bind them, while Cheshire can finish them. Others have objects on them that need to be pulled off using Cheshire’s abilities. In contrast, others need to be made visible by Cereza’s magic so that Cheshire can hit them. It has tinges of Bayonetta, but it plays a lot similarly to Astral Chain. However, I prefer Bayonetta Origin’s combat overall.

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There is a nice sense of synchronisation between the two characters in combat, which carries over to how they interact with the forest. When not in his battle mode, Cereza holds Cheshire as a shrunken doll in the adorably named “Hug” mode. In this mode, Cereza can throw Cheshire to other areas, often getting him to loop around to solve a puzzle or open a pathway for Cereza to rejoin him. It’s stuff we’ve seen in many games before. However, it’s still nice to see the same abilities that are useful in combat become useful in exploring Avalon Forest.

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Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Little Demon Review

Partway through the preview, Cheshire is given one of the four elemental stones Cereza looks for throughout the forest. This stone unlocked a new form for Cheshire, allowing him to turn green and perform different attacks. On top of this, it also meant that Cheshire could unlock certain gates with his new vine-like tongue, opening up new areas and providing the opportunity to backtrack. This is where Cereza and the Lost Demon really surprised me – there’s a bit of backtracking you can do to unlock more currency and upgrades, so the world feels semi-open. I’m keen to see what else Cheshire will learn to do as the story progresses in the final game and how (or if) the puzzles and platforming increase in complexity as time goes by.

When not exploring or doing battle, there are also longer puzzle rooms to solve called the Tír na nÓg. Borrowing their name from celtic folklore, these areas are otherworldly rooms that behave similarly to shrines from Breath of the Wild or even the trials from Immortals: Fenix Rising. In them, Cereza and Cheshire sometimes battle waves of enemies or solve puzzles to open up more areas of the main map to explore. They’re visually quite distinct and offer a more honed puzzle experience for players to solve, breaking up the action of the main game.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Little Demon Review

At the end of my time with the opening hours of Cereza and the Lost Demon, I’m left with a few concerns, but not many. For one, it remains to be seen just how well-paced the rest of the game is and whether it will overstay its welcome, given how simple it can be. The mechanics are simple and easy to pick up and play, but hopefully, as I play more and unlock more of Cheshire and Cereza’s dormant abilities, the complexity will start to float to the surface. I’m not expecting the same complexity as the other Bayonetta games, mind you, but I am hoping it will become more nuanced as the later chapters unfold.

For now, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is an enjoyable spin-off that is better than it has any right to be. Not only is it visually distinct, but the way it brings together both Cereza and Cheshire to offer a unique combat and puzzle-solving experience is something to get excited about. Here’s hoping it’ll continue carrying that momentum in the final game when it releases later this month.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon launches on March 17th 2023 for Nintendo Switch.