All Thumbsticks Game Review: Blasphemous

Who knew that a small Spanish video game studio could make a true magnum opus?

Blasphemous, developed by Game Kitchen, published by Team17 Digital, and funded on Kickstarter, is a pixelated Action Platformer with heavy influence from the Dark Souls, “Metroidvania”, and Spanish Catholic imagery. Its narrative core of penance and suffering combined with interconnected locales and stylized gameplay makes for a delightfully dark game with clunky controls. 

The story of Blasphemous takes place in the ruined land of Cvstodia where you play as a silent protagonist named “The Penitent One,” on a quest to seek penitence and to cure the land of “The Grievous Miracle,” a curse that has blessed or corrupted the people. As The Penitent One, you must save or destroy the poor souls that are in your path and confront the root of the Miracle itself.

The meat of Blasphemous’s gameplay is punishing, but in a good way. As you defeat enemies with your basic sword attacks, you gain Tears- your currency- which allows for you to buy moves at Mea Culpa shrines. You are given a deflect button, allowing you to time and counter enemy moves, and a slide to go through enemies and attack their behind. You also have a Penitence bar, which you can use to perform magic attacks with a minute cast time and flasks of blood just in case you need to heal yourself. But make sure you’re not in any danger, otherwise you lose that bar or health flask. Or until you make it to a checkpoint shrine and activate it to restore yourself to full health. 

Its platforming system is weighty and at times can make you fall down into a pit of spikes, but it makes sense to have it. You’re able to climb up certain walls by attacking panels, slide underneath low barriers, and collect other abilities to help with traversal.  As long as you time your jumps right or climb up platforms when you have to, the movement controls are easy to pick up. 

Blasphemous’s large nonlinear maps allows for connective pathways and rewards you for exploring areas with items, such as prayer beads to minorly boost your stats, collectible skeleton pieces, and quest items to exchange for more items. Each locale is different, from exploring machinated caverns to climbing a mountain, you are able to run your way through them. Or, if you find fast travel mirrors, you can create a system to easily move through the large map for simplicity’s sake.

You will immediately fall for the story and atmosphere for the game; the pixel graphics invokes the cursed land you walk into, especially with the bosses. They are made to be tough to beat and that’s final, even when you try for the thirtieth time. The imagination in Games Kitchen when creating bosses and enemies to fight are different and require minimal to a lot of strategy to defeat. 

As this is a new release, there are a few bugs to make note of and items that aren’t necessarily as strong as they should be, but there is a lot of balancing issues that should be fixed. One major issue with the game is that, with how nonlinear it is, it can be a lot to back track to places without the use of the fast travel system. Running back from place to place is made easier with short cuts in the levels themselves and simple platforming, but it can be a drag to play through again. Also, misplaced jumps and pit falls can break gameplay flow, leaving you to play it again and again.