A terrible curse has fallen upon the gothic land of Cvstodia and its inhabitants, and only you – the sole survivor, known only as The Penitent One – can free your world from its fate, and in the process, discover the source of your anguish. Welcome to Team17’s Blasphemous, a thoroughly gripping action-adventure platformer that offers a worthy challenge even to the hardiest Souls-like veterans.
Almost immediately, you’re thrown into fighting against gruesome enemies, as you traverse the hostile 2D terrain of Cvstodia in pursuit of your purpose. While some may try to crush you up-close-and-personal with giant tombstones or stone crucifixes, others will swoop down from the skies, break through the ground at your feet, or throw projectiles at you in their attempts to snuff you out for good. The key is to take your time in tackling each enemy, ensuring that their soul is fully expelled and cleansed before moving on. There’s nothing worse than an enemy returning from the presumed dead to take you down instead.
Free to explore the game world as you choose, and with the promise of lots of back-and-forth as you do so, you’ll find that Blasphemous invites its players to not only advance in its adequate-length campaign, but also soak up its rich lore. Inbetween deaths and gruelling boss battles, you can complete various missions for the friendly characters you encounter, and gather a variety of collectables for yourself that enrich your experience and give greater insight into the calamitous “Miracle”. Some of these collectables are in far-flung places, and will require a little ingenuity and creativity to obtain, the byproduct of these efforts being an excellent showcase of Blasphemous‘ stunning level design.
This is, in part, helped by the additional abilities, gear and health upgrades you can unlock as you continue to progress, as these make your journey throughout Cvstodia much smoother and easier. No matter how far you get, though, you will always need to keep a watchful eye over your Fervor bar. With each death, a marker is placed to symbolise your guilt, and the more markers you create without returning to them to restore your inner peace, the more Fervor will be locked away, impeding your ability to perform special attacks or moves. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and should you become so desperate, you can offer up some of your ‘Tears of Atonement’ at a shrine to cleanse your guilt completely. Though not quite as rewarding, it is a much-appreciated feature that offers the same respite as restoring your vitality at a save point.
Perhaps one of the most integral aspects of Blasphemous to discuss, though, is its difficulty. While – as mentioned previously – the game presents a considerable challenge even for the most experienced platforming whizzes, its delivery of punishments is proportionate, and undeniably lenient in places. Players can make multiple mistakes and learn from them before really suffering at the hands of the game’s complexity, and this is part of what inspires you to continue playing each and every time the fateful phrase “Exemplaris Excommunicationis” is splashed across your screen in blood.
Saying this, though, the combat of the game remains largely the same, no matter how far you progress. Though you can unlock new moves, or equip different prayers, relics and rosary beads to improve The Penitent One’s characteristics and statistics, you can largely get away with employing the same slash-and-dodge mechanics – maybe with a side of parries for good measure – throughout. This can make some fights against enemies and bosses feel somewhat repetitive, particularly when you consider your movements almost entirely involve running to-and-fro across the expansive and multi-levelled map.
The portability of the Switch is undoubtedly one of its greatest selling points, and Blasphemous takes full advantage of this, performing exceptionally well in both docked and handheld. The smaller screen allows for a closer appreciation of the game’s stunning pixelated aesthetic, while playing docked gives greater perspective, and allows players to steel themselves against their enemies without the risk of dropping (or throwing, depending on the sort of person you are) the console after a particularly sudden or unfair-feeling demise. Though perhaps not the sort of game you might imagine indulging in on your morning commute, there’s certainly no reason not to.
Having started Blasphemous with no knowledge of what to expect, this was a title that truly blew me away with its attention to detail, rich lore, and stunning graphics. Those picking the game up on the Switch will not be disappointed, and will be delighted to savour this title both at home and on the go. If you’re intimidated by the £19.99 price tag, don’t be; the game packs an exceptional storyline, plenty of replayability, and the freedom to play as you choose.
Blasphemous is a visually stunning action-adventure platformer that will leave you clamouring for more. Challenging even the most skilled players, you’ll be left shaking your head at your own incompetence while unwaveringly resuming your quest as the Penitent One.