Blasphemous Demo Impressions: Bloody Delicious
Exploring a somewhat similar style to both last year's Death's Gambit and this year's Dark Devotion, Blasphemous delves even further into subversive religious inversion, providing a truly disturbing and deliciously evil retro platforming experience.
While all three games clearly spring from the same basic influence, multiple entries in this retro style is a good thing, giving players choice if one title or another doesn't suit their fancy.
Although we've only played the recent limited-time demo for the game, here's what we think of Blasphemous so far.
Dark Style & Bloody Substance
While exploring twisted dungeons and crumbling castles, The Penitent One hacks and slashes his way through a horde of religiously-themed enemies.
What exactly does he need penance for and what the hell kind of messed up world do these characters live in? Don't expect any straightforward answers; this seems like the kind of game where atmosphere and level design are more important than steady story beats.
Clearly, the name should tip you off to what this game is all about. But in case it didn't, your mileage with Blasphemous may vary based on personal religiosity. There is a lot of, well, blasphemous content here.
If you see a bloody guy carrying a giant cross and your brain thinks "torture porn" before it thinks "Jesus," you'll be at home here.
Aside from that, one of the biggest draws for Blasphemous is its devilishly dark pixel art style, complete with insanely bloody animations and crazy execution moves like beheading, dismembering, disemboweling, running through with fiery candelabras, and more.
However, Blasphemous isn't quite as devastatingly hard as the other two recent titles in this style. That's primarily because the developers ditched the Souls-style stamina meter. There is a recovery period after dodging, so you still have to time things properly, but it's not as prominent a mechanic as with other such titles.
If you take the time to learn enemy patterns, it isn't hard to get through any given section in terms of combat. The real challenge arrives when there are multiple enemies on the screen and traps in a hallway all working in tandem.
Taking out one flying pope with a trident isn't that difficult, but when you're also dodging flying projectiles and trying not to get skewered by spikes or knocked off a ledge into oblivion, you've got a challenge on your hands.
While the demo only featured a single boss, the giant level-ending enemies already show quite a bit of promise. Notably, boss attacks get more powerful and cover more of the screen when they are low on health, it seems, making these lengthy fights extremely tense.
Metroidvania For The Next Gen
Besides ditching the stamina meter, Blasphemous is a little more Castlevania and less Dark Souls than recent games in this style, too. There are, among other things, hidden castle walls to break and limited item shops to be found.
The game is also a bit more forgiving if you screw up a single dodge or combo, and you get two health potions to use before you die and the enemies respawn.
That being said, Blasphemous is still more deadly than something like Symphony Of The Night. In terms of gameplay, this is old-school platforming to the max, where you have to time jumps perfectly and strategize ladder climbs to avoid projectiles, enemy attacks, and an ever-more devious number of traps.
A skill tree offers up abilities to unlock that have that proper old-school SNES feel, and some will bring to mind the glory days of platformers like Mega Man X. In my playthrough, I was partial to an ability that lets The Penitent One get in an attack at the end of a dodge roll. Since you're going to dodge roll like mad anyway, you might as well get a kill out of the deal.
While the platforming style is workable with a keyboard (I played the demo the whole way through that way), a controller would probably feel smoother and more intuitive.
The Retro Bottom Line
Between its pixel graphics, platforming level design, and animated cut scenes, Blasphemous is a game banking on your nostalgia before utterly disgusting you with an insane level of wonderfully heretical violence.
If I have one major complaint with the demo it's that the voice acting is rather poor, as its very noticeably low budget.
However, since we've seen a small portion of the game so far, there are also still some question marks about the full version, like how much backtracking is going to be involved while exploring the map.
An answer to that question will be here sooner than later, though, as Blasphemous is slated for a September 10 release, which makes it unlikely there will be any major changes based on feedback from the demo.
If this style strikes your fancy, you can wish list the game or join in the discussions about the demo over on Steam.