[Review] Blasphemous – Nintendo Switch

Written by Schwetty
  • Developer: The Game Kitchen
  • Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd
  • Release Date: 10/09/2019
  • Price: $24.99 / £19.99
  • Review code provided by Team17

Sorrowful Be the Heart

Obsession can be a very nasty word. Having a thought or idea constantly infiltrate your mind and not let go can be invasive.  The idea just won’t unleash it’s grasp as it burrows deeper and deeper into your brain. Gaming obsessions in particular are painted in the worst light. With this being said, I found myself completely enthralled and, dare I say, totally obsessed with Blasphemous. I warn you; it has the power to pull you in as well, let us all be captive of the Miracle.

Back in summer of 2017, the Game Kitchen unveiled their idea of Blasphemous to the world via Kickstarter. It was funded in the first twenty-four hours and the world showed they were ready for a tough as nails metroidvania set in an extremely dark and desolate world inspired by European religion and culture. Now, two years later, the world is set to experience Cvstodia and its dark religion, firsthand.

You are the Penitent One in Silence, a lone warrior who is on a quest to reach the Cradle of the First Miracle. To attain this, you must perform the Three Humiliations. Right off the bat, these names and titles can be a bit pompous, but it fits the atmosphere of the game all too well. This title is so soaked in lore, it can easily convince the player that the dark and twisted world of Cvstodia has been around for an unimaginable period of time.

Penitent One, Full of Clemency

Blasphemous at its core is a metroidvania action game, through and through. What sets it apart is its punishing difficulty. The Game Kitchen have taken inspiration from the Dark Souls games and it shows. Just like the Souls games, death is around every corner and it will set you back to the last altar you have visited. Unlike them though, you do not lose everything upon death. On the contrary, you lose a portion of your Tears (the games currency) which can be regained by touching your guilt statue. Upon dying, your magic meter is also shortened a bit, but it is returned to normal once you claim your guilt.

Combat is fast, fluid and satisfying. To begin with, the Penitent One has a basic three hit combo, a few air attacks, a dodge and a counter. This is everything you need to fend off the denizens of this cruel world, and more are available once you find Mea Culpa altars. These gargantuan structures strengthen your sword attacks with each one you find, while also giving the player a chance to use their tears to learn new moves.

Exploration is key to any metroidvania, and Blasphemous is no different. The world of Cvstoida is filled to the brim with more secrets than I thought would be imaginable. While it may be possible to obtain everything in one playthrough, I found myself completely bewildered by some puzzles and quests. Upon starting my second playthrough, I had already found an NPC than I missed, which lead me to a different side quest that was not available. This is where the game feels more inspired by the Souls series, as choices you make will determine the outcome of the game. While I said I was bewildered by some of the puzzles and quests, I don’t mean that the game didn’t explain it. I had missed a set piece that was vital, making some quests unobtainable. This was a downer for me, but it encourages multiple playthroughs as this world is still so drenched in secrets that I am bound to learn more on two or three playthroughs.

One of the only downfalls I found in the exploration involved an area with some very challenging platforming such as the Sleeping Canvases section in which you must jump over spike pits and dodge pendulums. This caused quite a few deaths and moments of intense rage. I really wish there was a way you could fast travel through this section, as certain elements of quests require you to go through it, and almost all entrances to the Sleeping Canvases are surrounded by pits of death and swinging axes.

Children of the Golden Face

The game’s story is presented with in-game dialog and some beautifully animated cutscenes. The dialog is fully voiced and delivered very similarly to the Souls series. This is a common theme with Blasphemous. If you are not a fan of the Souls games, this may be a hard sell as story elements in those titles are not straight forward either. Their stories are usually doled out in cryptic messages or lore found in item descriptions. Blasphemous gives a bit more, but it is possible you may be scratching your head some.

The look for Blasphemous is heavily based on European architecture and it is lovingly animated in pixels. The amount of detail the backgrounds ooze is astonishing. I found myself stopping in game and just taking it all in, like I was visiting an art exhibit and each stage was a new masterpiece from one of the greats. The character design shines as well, with each one looking more grotesque than the next. The bosses take the cake, as they are often screen filling monstrosities that are perversions of religious and cultural icons. My favorite had to be the giant child being held by a wicker woman. There was such an unnerving element, seeing a blindfolded baby in the arms of a wicker statue wreak havoc.

Not to be outdone, the music in Blasphemous was a joy all by itself. It was soothing, tense, creepy and hallowed. There were often moments I would just sit back and close my eyes, letting the music take over. After doing a bit of research, I discovered one of the stretch goals in the Kickstarter involved getting studio time to record the music. I am very thankful that this happened as the music really did elevate the entire experience.

Sword of Guilt

In my over-twenty hours spent with this title, I was able to play extensively in both docked and handheld modes. In my time with both, I never noticed a huge gap or even that much of a difference in gameplay. The game still ran perfectly either way. I did, however encounter one bug that froze me on a loading screen. It was immediately after loading my saved game, and I moved two screens over. I sat and watched the loading screen for a minute before closing the game and retrying. Thankfully it never happened again.

Final Thoughts

Blasphemous is a brutal, dark, mystifying and satisfying action platformer that taps into some of the darkest parts of humanity. The journey is never fully explained, but those questions that remain urge me to complete my second playthrough to see the alternative path I did not take. I cannot sing the Game Kitchen’s praises enough and I hope that we will see much more from this series in the future.

Pros

  • Huge Interconnected Game World
  • Dark & Gruesome Characters
  • Challenging Combat

Cons

  • Moments of Frustrating Platforming
  • Story is Not Completely Clear

Verdict

Blasphemous is a standout in the metroidvania genre that will surely be remembered for its gloom and ghastliness. The Game Kitchen have lifted the bar and everyone should take note.

5/5

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