Blasphemous is a 2D Metroidvania set in the accursed world of Cvstodia. The desolation and downfall of this land is due to “The Miracle” and its inhabitants have fallen victim to its devastation. Play as the Penitent One, a survivor whose task it is to rid the world of the curse and slay all those who stand before him in the most satisfyingly gruesome way possible.
The combat in Blasphemous works on a precise attack, parry and dodge system that keeps it from ever growing stale and repetitive. Learning the attack patterns of enemies and bosses alike is the key to victory and is essential for your playthrough.
The Penitent one is a heavy armoured character which directly translates to his movements. Those who are more familiar with Metroidvanias that feature quick and agile moving characters – Metroid, Hollow Knight, etc – may have a hard time adjusting to this slower pace at first, but you’ll soon grow accustomed to the Penitent One’s movements. I am confident in saying this as the gameplay and technical performance is so fluid and precise that not once did I not blame myself for a death or notice a technical hiccup of any kind.
Each boss towers over you, immediately applying a menacing sense of dominance. They’re attack patterns are simple enough to grasp, but that doesn’t take away from the challenge that they offer.
As you continue to explore the world, you’ll find equippable abilities that are known as Prayers. These abilities use up what is referred to as Fervor, a type of SP that recharges the more that you engage in combat. You will also find Rosary Beads scattered around the world which provides The Penitent One’s stats.
Mea Culpa Alters allow you to learn new skills by spending the points that you gain from your victories in combat. While it’s not the most creative means of introducing a skill tree, the context in which it is provided fits perfectly within the game’s presentation. You can also equip Sword Hearts to modify your sword, Mea Culpa, but these upgrades act as a double-edge sword (pun intended), providing both a perk and a flaw.
For the completionists out there, you’ll find 38 Children of Moonlight scattered across the game’s world. There are also, in addition to the Prayers and Rosary Beads, collectibles that whilst not adding any statistical value, are trinkets that provide lore building.
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The HD Rumble in the Nintendo Switch version of Blasphemous is incredible, with amazing attention to detail. Not only is it active during gameplay, but also in cutscenes, heightening the impact of the game’s graphical nature.
World / Level Design
Much like any Metroidvania, you’ll travel through different areas that contain various enemies and abilities. The general world design won’t stand out among the rest, but it’s serviceable.
For a Metroidvania that can pull you back a far way between save points, it’s disappointing to see how many bottomless pits and instant death spikes there are. It’s one thing to make a game difficult but when it comes to annoying instant-deaths in a Metroidvania, it makes certain deaths feel cheap.
As is the case for most Metroidvania’s, it pays to venture down the road less travelled. You may often find yourself in precarious and challenging situations, but they are always rewarding with relics and various collectibles.
The game does not hold back and certainly earns its M rating. Within the first 10 minutes of the game, a woman repenting is skewered through the chest, you awaken in a bed of thorns and you fill your helmet with the blood of your first enemy put it back onto your head.
The presentation is not rushed, rather it is very well paced makes forces you to take in the world you’re exploring. The dialogue delivery is melodic yet ambiguous and the world’s surroundings make you stop and analyse every step and stone. Every line is voice acted and to a high quality, yet there are occasional slips through the cracks that can come across as a little awkward.
Everything in Blasphemous has lore and reason. Every Prayer ability has lore; every collectible; every quest item; they all help to shape the world and “The Miracle”, helping to flesh out the game world whilst not making it mandatory.
Graphics / Art Direction
Pixelated graphics look incredible, with stunning artwork that is both beautiful and hair-raising. You will often find yourself stopping just to simply gaze at the incredibly detailed backgrounds, to the point where it is unbelievable how much detail The Game Kitchen managed to encapsulate with its pixelated art style.
The gameplay animation is silky smooth, with enemy designs and movement so fluent and rich with personality that makes this utopian world feel that much more alive.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is grand and epic, with atmospheric subtleties and classical stringed instruments during quiet moments and dramatic … during tense moments and boss fights.
The sounds effects are just as gory and gruesome as the game’s visual presentation. It’s oddly satisfying to hear your blade crunch into an enemy or when falling onto spikes, the sickening sound of steel slicing through flesh and bone.
Final Score: 90%
Blasphemous is gruesome in the best ways imaginable. The gameplay is slick and the world and its inhabitants wonderfully tells the tale of an accursed holy land. Its most prominent flaw is the game’s frequent instant deaths coupled with a lack of save/autosave states but in order to play devil’s advocate, the game never promises to be easy and forgiving.
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- Belinda Cubitt