In 2019, Blasphemous was a surprise Metroidvania hit for The Game Kitchen. The small Spanish indie studio had already delighted with the horror adventure The Last Door, but with Blasphemous they aimed for something else. Inspired by Spanish art and the Catholic religion, it felt different from all other games of its ilk. Four years later its sequel, well, is definitely of the “bigger” variety. Fair to say, there’ll be a few surprises going on in our Blasphemous 2 review, but fans of the original are in for a good time.
Blasphemous 2 picks up not long after the ending of the original. We’re going back as the Penitent One and this time we are tasked with stopping the Child of the Miracle – a mysterious being threatening humanity and, apparently, supported by some evildoers who the Miracle tasked with guarding secrets. As expected, the Penitent one goes on a journey to defeat all of these sub-bosses to reach the Child, while learning new (and old) abilities along the way.
The abilities are back and, well, they feel classic. In how many more games do I have to unlock a double jump? Still, the main new feature in Blasphemous 2 is the weapons. Choosing one out of three at the start is not the big choice one would expect, as all of them are required to progress. Each weapon unlocks certain parts of the world. For example, Sarmiento & Centella, the light swords, can be used to teleport via small angelic mirrors or the big Veredicto can be used to break down walls.
Naturally, each weapon can be further upgraded, unlocking new attacks, strengthening the old ones and also, adding elemental attacks. Indeed, that’s another new feature, the Penitent One can now use different elemental attacks. These consist of poison (called miasma), lightning, mystical and fire. There’s a catch though – enemies can also use them. Thankfully, the Penitent One can use rosary beads for protection.
Much like in the previous game, rosary beads can be collected to augment the Penitent One’s abilities but that’s not all. Statues can be placed on the Altarpiece of Favours. These have direct effects on your attacks, health and overall powers. Some combinations can be further unlocked to access even more much-needed upgrades. Of course, health and magic upgrades are also laying around the world, waiting to be found.
Naturally, there are loads of hidden (and secondary) quests to be completed. For example, disturbing the dinner of two old folks who have been eating for all eternity, or having to help a sculptor finish his work. The atmosphere is dense and heavy with dread and terror, even though the overall mood is not sad or depressed. While the new local tions are not incredibly memorable, they all blend together nicely and have a feel of an actual world.
While there are several new gameplay features, overall none of these really revolutionize the gameplay. Sure, they make it a tad more varied, but you will find the Blasphemous experience is pretty much left intact. Explore the map, unlock new paths, dispose of the boss, and encounter NPCs who may want items from you. That’s the tried and true gameplay we’ve grown to love, along with a fair bit of challenge which never gets unfair.
Let’s look at the challenge for a moment. Many have complained about the difficulty of the first Blasphemous, but I never found it to be unfair. The sequel seems to follow this trend but fumbles up a bit at one of the final bosses. I’m not going to spoil anything, but you’re forced to re-do the first phase over and over, with the second being incredibly more challenging than the first. Not only that, but the boss also speaks before the fight, which they could have at least made skippable. Sigh.
While Blasphemous 2 is a solid follow-up to the original, the slight change in tone was a tad disappointing. The original was bloody, almost nightmarish, a horror game through and through, hitting close to home especially if you’ve grown up in a Catholic country. The sequel feels more like a Victorian-era ghost game: less blood, less horror, less religious icons. There are still quite a few unsettling images, but the switch from ghoulish and ghastly to vaguely spooky is not a good trade-off. In my bibl- I mean, book.
There are a few notable pieces of moody soundtrack that will accompany you all the way. They work as a strong contrast to the ho-hum voice acting which ends up making most characters forgettable. Graphically, there are some incredibly gorgeous backgrounds all around, coupled with amazing parallax scrolling. The Game Kitchen has kept the original 16-bit / MS-DOS action-adventure flavour, which is definitely for the best. In a world of 8-bit clones, still Blasphemous feels unique. The cutscenes, on the other hand, were not a great idea. Their almost-anime style really does not fit the tone of the game.
Blasphemous 2 will make fans of the original smile, while they run back to their Prie Dieu. The bloody and challenging world of The Game Kitchen’s religious fever dream is still as compelling as it was in 2019. While not as memorable as the original as an experience, the new gameplay additions keep exploration entertaining and the difficulty balance feels, for the most part, rewarding. Get ready to invert those crosses.
Our Blasphemous 2 review was made possible with a key provided by the publisher Team 17. Blasphemous 2 is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S | X.
Blasphemous 2: While not as memorable an experience as the original, the Penitent One is back with a vengeance thanks to solid new gameplay upgrades and outstanding visuals. – Damiano Gerli