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BLASPHEMOUS REVIEW

Repent of your sins in this bloody Metroidvania.

“Exemplars Excomvnicationis.” I don’t know what these words mean at all, but every death comes with the same grim message so I’ve seen it a lot. Blasphemous is a 2D Metroidvania set in a Catholic-themed apocalypse and it seems that every second game released now is clearly inspired by Dark Souls. With its stunning and bloody pixel art style, mood-filled soundtrack, and brutally tortured enemies, it’s easy to get caught up in Blasphemous’s world of suffering and doom.

You play a giant needle head who is ominously dubbed the “Repentant”, who begins his mission after waking up in a castle awash in the naked corpses of his comrades. Obviously, the night before was out of reach. The small grains of the legend are nourished through the various characters you meet in the flesh outside the world: saints, gods, and pilgrims who carry guilt, all sufferings have something to say.

Suffering is the perfect word to describe Blasphemously. The world is drowning in perpetual pain, the enemy is suffering by their own existence, everyone is dead or dying and cannot make progress without a few ridiculous deaths of your own. Even the healing action requires you to smash a cup of blood in the face. Every moment in Blasphemous made me insecure and my sick curiosity dragged me from one screen to another. What evil spectacle will I see being tortured next? The world is horrible and even more fascinating to it. It feels like I’m killing people without mercy.

Fighting is simple. You start with a combination of three taps of a button that can be upgraded to four with a few endings in different directions. There are several upgrades you can unlock to increase your move, but they’re all basic. You get a skimming attack, plunge, range, and electric attack, none of which you need to use. There are special “enthusiasm bar” abilities called prayer, each time can only equip one capacity. Unfortunately, the prayers are coming and there is not much diversity. They feel insufficient strength and do not bring a feeling of satisfaction like attacking the enemy with a sword.

Instead, the focus of the battle is to learn enemy patterns and accurate positioning —dodge or jump over projectiles, avoid fast attacks and dodge over unlocked objects. Blasphemous peaked when I jumped over a screen full of fast attacks, the perfect time to hit the ballistics while looking for space to attack. However, once I learned the battles, the implementation became simple.

The stars of the Blasphemous show are undoubtedly bosses. Their difficulty can be from being too simple, easily obvious in the second try, to an hour of trial and error, each death will chip an inch more than the boss’s blood bar.

Hidden throughout the game, usually behind a boss, are altars that increase damage to your attacks. While this makes it easier to run through previously explored areas, it has the unfortunate impact of triviality in some boss battles.

As a Metroidvania, Blasphemous gives you freedom in the order of your progress — each area is connected via hidden elevators, elevators, or lock doors. I seemed to have gone in an unwanted order, leading to a few hours of difficulty but fun, followed by long yawns through the next area that I clearly had to settle in advance.

Blasphemous’s biggest pitfall is its foundation — some jumps require slightly higher accuracy. Most of my deaths were due to missed exact time in just a second. Specifically, it was the mutant hole that I had the most problems with. For all the other jumps, the pinhead automatically clings to the ledge and has a bit of a flaw, but you can’t stand that mercy with countless falls scattered around the world.

Constantly dying in front of enemies or bosses is one thing. I’m studying. Finally, I will find a way to tear their heads off and feel that sweet, sweet touch. Constantly dying from foundational obstacles? There is no catharsis to be had. I can’t kill it, there’s no victory. Dying from the same jump for five minutes in a row is a very disappointing thing. It’s an upset between me and the real fights. I have planned for the routes around them.

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Written by Lauren Morton

Lauren loves long books and even longer RPGs. She got a game design degree and then, stupidly, refused to leave the midwest. She plays indie games you haven't heard of and will never pass on a story about players breaking games or playing them wrong.

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