Reviewed on Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and PC
Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list? A Metroidvania style game with Dark Souls-like qualities and combat, they must have because it sounds like a perfect game to me. Developed by The Game Kitchen and published by Team17, Blasphemous is a very grotesque, macabre game that will please platformer fans and Souls-like fans alike.
You play the Penitent One, who has taken a vow of silence and is trying single-handedly lift a curse plaguing the land. This horrid curse has driven everyone insane and ridden them with guilt. The rest of the story is told through item lore and very vague discussions with the game's inhabitants. Very much like Dark Souls, the story seems very elaborate yet deliberately obscure. Leaving you to piece what you can together as you play and discover new items and characters.
As I stated earlier, the game's influences will be apparent right off the bat. Its a nice mix of Castlevania, Dark Souls and a sprinkling of Metroidvania added for good measure. Blasphemous is a 2D platformer with a non-linear progression system, punishing combat and a beautiful yet quite disturbing art-style. It's ghastly, bloody, extremely violent and I loved it.
Combat-wise, you will be treated to a simple yet very satisfying system of cat and mouse. At its most basic you have three options, attack, slide and block. The slide gives you a little bit of invincibility and allows you to avoid attacks. Blocking, if timed correctly, allows you to counter and get some free damage in. The whole combat system revolves around using the right move, at the right time, with the right enemy. It's uncomplicated, yet remarkably entertaining.
If you manage to stun an enemy you open up the opportunity for a powerful and very visceral attack. This normally involves using the enemies weapon against them and spilling their blood all over the floor. You will decapitate them, crush them or even completely obliterate them. It's very satisfying and very gruesome. All the blood, themes of death and horror in Blasphemous will not be to everyone's taste but I really liked it. The game does not hide from this fact at all and I commend the developer for that. Its 'all in' on its dark themes and I really appreciate that.
Very much like a Souls title, your progress is saved when you reach a Prie-Dieu and if you rest there the enemies will reset. From a game system perspective though, that's where the similarities end. You do not lose your experience when you die, you do however drop some guilt. This drop reduces your mana bar and decreases your experience gain until you retrieve the guilt or pay to have it expunged. It's a nice system that does punish the player but not too heavily. It's a nice middle ground that will please most players.
You will die and you will die a lot. I certainly did. Fortunately, I think the world layout is brilliantly designed to make this a lot less frustrating than certain games that influenced it. With the lack of losing your experience when you die and the perfectly placed checkpoints, dying is rarely frustrating and not much progress, if any, is lost. Don't get me wrong, some deaths will annoy you, but the Prie-Dieu placement and death penalties will not.
Blasphemous is absolutely stunning to look at. There's good pixel art and there's great pixel art and this game absolutely falls into the latter category. The bosses, enemies, backdrops and even the architecture are all very crisp, clear and pleasant to look at. Everything is so detailed and refined. The animations and world design are top-notch. I never stopped marvelling at how beautiful this game is, even at its most dank and horrid.
On a performance level, Blashemous was perfect. I played on the Nintendo Switch and never had a single issue. No frame drops, no stutter, no crashes or any problem to report whatsoever. In fact, playing on the Switch in portable mode was a perfect fit for this game. Short bursts of horrid platforming that I could return to at any moment. I could play while watching football or TV and could play in bed. It was perfect.