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Blasphemous 2 Is A Worthy Follow-Up To A Grotesque-Yet-Intriguing Search Action Title
Platform(s): PC (version played), PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Search action game filled with Southern Spain Catholic gothic imagery
2019’s search action game Blasphemous garnered a lot of attention for its stark and gross imagery and gothic themes, filled with grotesque moments. Underneath it all is a solid game that almost misses the perfection mark when it comes to delivering a meaty 2D action experience.
Developer The Game Kitchen fixed all that with its eventual sequel Blasphemous 2, and Lord almighty, it’s a helluva upgrade.
Blasphemous 2 puts you in the shoes of the Penitent One as they explore the messed-up world they’re in -Cvstodia- to find out why there’s a godly baby being born out of the sky. You also have to stop a bunch of people who defected from your order as well; hunt them down, and eventually find a way to get to the top. Blasphemous lore hounds will find a lot to love here, particularly how cryptic it gets with its story. But the gist is you have to kill a bunch of bosses, then open up more sections and defeat a few more to access the top.
In standard search action format, you have to find new powerups to access previously-barred areas. You start off with a dash/dodge and any of the three weapons you get to pick. Yes, the weapons system is brand-new to this series, and it’s definitely a cherished addition. You’ll unlock more tools of destruction, with each of them having their own fighting style and obstacle-solving applications. You have the standard sword (Ruego Al Alba) that has a downward stab that destroys certain barricades, the dual rapiers (Sarmiento & Centella) that can be used onto teleportation mirror-things, and giant chained mace (Veredicto) that can ring bells that creates makeshift “water” platforms.
Blasphemous 2 requires you to switch between weapons for some of its platforming sections, some of them being more tricky than others. You have to switch from the mace to ring the bell, make platforms appear, then switch back to the rapiers to elevate and launch yourself to the finish line, for example. It’s devious and reflex-heavy, but fun all the while. If the weapon-switching gets tough, note that you can switch the order of the weapons so it can be slightly convenient for you while in the heat of the jumping bits.
And if you die? Well, you basically get a penalty in the form of Guilt. See the blue bar below your red health bar? That’s Fervour, which you need to cast Prayers (spells and powerups like your projectiles and buffs). That gets shortened the more times you die. You can go collect your afterimage from the spot you died at when you respawn, though it won’t clear all your Guilt. You need to head to the hub area’s local confessional booth to clear it out. Speaking of town hub, there’s a central area where you can buy passive equipment in the form of rosary accessories (5 slots, unlockable if you find beads all over the map).
You can also equip Blasphemous 2’s new equipment feature called Altarpieces; you can unlock up to eight spots for Altarpiece figures you can equip for passive boosts, be it extra damage for your sword attacks, bigger window for your block/parry, or buffs for your prayers and elemental attacks. It’s meant to cater to your playstyle while you’re fighting in Cvstodia. Equipping a pair of Altarpiece figures of the same family will boost certain attributes for your weapons or spells further, so it’s pretty important to find as many of these via the game’s many sidequests and secrets. Other collectibles can also unlock fast travel between save points, and more to make your search action exploration and 100%-ing all the more convenient, provided you put the work in.
Plus, there’s even a skill tree that needs upgrading via Marks of Martyrdom that open up new skills for your weapon(s) of choice, like a “Devil Trigger” mode for your Ruego, lunge attacks for your Sarmiento/Centella, and instant-charge flame properties for your Veredicto. I did unlock half of these, and they’re useful, though you are free to use the bare minimum to get through all of the game’s major challenges.
Speaking of which, the boss fights are just as epic as the last game. Rather than the majority of them being monstrosities, most of your fights are with warriors who look similar to The Penitent One. These battles are more like duels, where you have to figure out their patterns and methods before conquering them. The big bads you fight here seem “cleaner” and more orderly compared to the last game. You still fight some nasty Catholicism-themed giant freaks (one of them’s a multi-headed coffin priest hybrid) but given Blasphemous 2’s holy order context, the majority of your duels are with people similar to the Penitent One. You will need to time your evades and parries -a staple in Dark Souls-like titles- to stand a chance against the “holy” order of fiends and giants.
My favourite fights are a duo who are so contrasting with each other, yet when they attack me together in the third bout of the fight, I was definitely paying attention. It’s a similar dynamic as that one famous Dark Souls boss fight with the fat and skinny knights, but in 2D form. Long story short, you’re not going to be forgetting these memorable duels anytime soon, especially with how visually arresting some of these encounters can get. Case in point: the giant reverend with glass shards on his back, the swordsman with the portable millstone, and the aforementioned coffin priest-thing.
If I had to nitpick certain aspects of Blasphemous 2, is that some tutorials for certain moves do not pop up earlier as intended. I’ve been stuck in a particular section with specific barricades for 30 minutes, but only solved it out of sheer luck. Within a couple of screens later, the tutorial to clear those barricades popped up. I’ve had the tools all along; the game just cued me on its barrier-destroying use a little too late. Arguably, I may have broken the game’s intended progression sequence, but this is a minor game design issue I just had to mention.
Blasphemous 2 is a lovely search action game made for anyone who wants a challenge, an R-rated experience, and a good mix of combat and exploration. For veterans, this sequel fixes a few of the problems from the first game so that it seems less cheap and buggy.
Those well-versed with late 90s and 2000s 2D platformers and search action games might bring up the fact that Blasphemous 2 feels like the gothic stepchild of the Megaman Zero and ZX series. This is because of how it plays, how it feels control-wise, and how much the sword feels like Zero’s Z-Saber and air dash to an extent. Hell, there’s even a boss that emulates the “recall dead enemies” ability from Dr Weil’s penultimate form in Mega Man Zero 4’s climactic final fight; The Game Kitchen’s influences are clear as the blood and gore on-screen.
You won’t forget the Catholic gothic imagery from the twisted minds of The Game Kitchen once you’re done with 14 hours of this lovingly-crafted title. Believe me, I still have that image of a woman’s arm slowly being mutilated by tiny cherubs bit by bit as the story progresses with a grotesque final form seared in my mind. And also that one giant bearded guy breastfeeding his baby. That’s a sight that will haunt me in my sleep.
Review code provided by Team17.
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