Blasphemous (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 23.12.2019

Review for Blasphemous on Nintendo Switch

Another indie game, another 2D "metroidvania." The two go together like love and marriage. Often the developers will throw in some Dark Souls influences, because that's what is popular with the kids these days. Gaming has gotten so saturated lately there is hardly anything special about 2D metroidvanias, so why care about Blasphemous? As it turns out, a little bit of stylish presentation and artistry can go a long way. After tasting the Xbox One version, get ready to go on a crusade on the Nintendo Switch, as Cubed3 reviews Blasphemous.

The initial impressions of Blasphemous make it easy to assume it is going to be another metroidvania' with souls-like gameplay. While it does share a lot of aesthetic flourishes that are common among titles inspired by the venerable From Software series, such as the UI design, atmosphere, and even writing style, anyone going in expecting Dark Souls-esque RPG mechanics will be left wanting. This is not the kind of experience where one can expect character customisation, unique builds, classes or levelling-up at all. If anything, Blasphemous is firmly rooted in Castlevania: Simon's Quest territory when it comes to nonlinear level design and progression.

The penitent one is an interesting protagonist in that he is a violently devout follower of a fantasy religion that is very clearly meant to be inspired by Catholicism. A great deal of attention to detail was given to every aspect of his faith, and all the varying accoutrements and interesting relics he will find - each with a deep lore entry that sparks the imagination. The penitent man's vow of silence was also a creative means to get around the fact that he is also a silent protagonist. His design, while being unusual, but also intimidating, is inspired by the capirote which were worn by Spanish inquisitors. A very fitting design for such a brutal hero. Expect to torment enemies and boss alike with some hilariously vicious finishers that may cause those with weak stomachs to wince in empathic pain.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Nintendo Switch

The quest to punish the sinners and profane corruption of the church, is wrought with lots of exploring and fighting. Blasphemous is very much similar to Simon's Quest rather than Symphony of the Night. Sometimes not having to micromanage tons of equipment, stats and an endless cache of junk, can really make a platformer feel so freeing. Focusing mostly on a very intricately connected world and its many zones, while playing detective with all the key items needed to figure out how to progress is an old school method that is rarely explored in 2D action games nowadays. Usually it's expected that the penitent man would just gain some special gear or abilities that would allow him to explore to greater extents - that does happen in Blasphemous but nowhere near as much as seen in any Metroid-inspired game. Usually the penitent man has to negotiate a gauntlet of challenging platforms and enemies or solve some fiendish puzzle.

Like a good crusader, the penitent one's holy arsenal will come with deadly prayer books which operate like magic or special moves, his rosary which can equip a variety of beads with passive bonuses, and, last but not least, the mea culpa. This divine blade of the almighty's justice functions like any sword, but can equip some risky passives that come with a rewarding payoff. It is in these relics where players will get some semblance of customisation, just don't expect extremely wild builds. No matter what, the penitent one will always play like a swordsman, and the range of options for tweaking really are here just for some variety, or for making some boss battles not too spicy.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Nintendo Switch

Death is also handled in the least punishing way compared to every other soulslike on the market. Falling in battle leads to a small reduction in max fervour (Blasphemous' take on MP), and getting it restored is extremely easy. Even the in-game currency remains intact after losing, so it's easy to sacrifice a pittance to restore the maximum amount. Gaining fervour on the fly is always ebbing and flowing since it is gained by attacking or punishing sinners/enemies so being able to use these useful abilities is rarely stalled. Despite how lax Blasphemous is with punishing failure, it is still a healthy challenge to conquer.

Much like Simon's Quest, this is rife with perilous platforms that can be guarded by a zig-zagging flying enemy type. Being able to climb certain surfaces may seem like a boon at first, but then it is swiftly revealed to become a challenging obstacle climb, where it becomes easy to be vulnerable to a belligerent phantom. There are times when the crusade against the corrupted grand pontiff can feel utterly exhausting, and it is these moments where Blasphemous becomes very immersive. Even the simple act of expanding the total number of healing vessels, is a process that involves finding a depleted jar and then a fountain to physically fill it. This applies to many side quests where there is a multi-step process with items that have to be investigated and thought about. The attention to detail just shows how much care was put into the world building.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Nintendo Switch

Figuring things out is part of an enjoyable experience in most cryptic action games. Sometimes the way things work in Blasphemous can be too obtuse, where the penitent guy will find himself wandering aimlessly trying to figure out what to do next. While this in itself is not terribly game breaking, the fact that the Nintendo Switch version has loading times that are slightly longer that needed, can add minutes to a session. Compounded with the nonlinear exploration the world is mapped out, even with fast traveling trekking around, these dilapidated cathedrals and dungeons drag on thanks to these egregious load times.

If there is one thing that nobody will criticise Blasphemous for, it would be its impeccable art direction. The imagery and visuals are incredibly striking, and evoke a pixel art vibe of a biblical Hieronymus Bosch painting. Figures are tormented and twisted, and the profane creatures are vulgar and putrid. Unbelievable attention to detail was put into character animation. Gestures are fluid and performed very naturally. Every aspect of the world and its inhabitants was researched thoroughly to make it authentic, despite the fact that it's all set in a fantasy world. The artists of Blasphemous should be extremely proud of their creation.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Blasphemous is an admirable piece of art. It does the whole metroidvania thing in a much less tedious way than most indie games do these days, and is bolstered by its distinct flavour and style. While fans who adore the character-building gameplay of most soulslikes will be found wanting, anyone who is nostalgic for Simon's Quest is going to find respite in finally playing what could be best described as the latter's best outcome. Maybe with a couple of tweaks and minor adjustments, and with a patch or two, this could be perfect. In its current state with slightly annoying quibbles, players are still going to be floored by its insane imagery and the penitent one's crusade for purification.

Developer

The Game Kitchen

Publisher

Team17

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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