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The “metroidvania” genre is a classification I’ve grown less fond of over the years, usually used to classify 2D action games that have a focus on exploration and backtracking. In more recent years many indie games have gone back to this template to deliver old school experiences with modern gaming sensibilities. One of these games was Blasphemous, a gorgeous pixel art game that borrowed as much from Dark Souls as it did Symphony of the Night. It was a great game that lost steam after a while due to it not having many ideas.

Enter Blasphemous 2. A surprise sequel that I quite honestly never saw coming. Taking every lesson they learned from developing the first game, developers The Game Kitchen have crafted a far more varied and refined experience that’s drenched in gallons of blood and held up by a fantastic art design that uses religious and horrific imagery in equal measure. 

Players once again take on the role of The Penitent One, a silent warrior who has taken a vow of silence and traveled to a new world in hopes of destroying huge new bosses to disrupt the order therein. Players who played the first game know what to expect: a huge sprawling map, horrifying enemies, and loads and loads of blood and gore.

Where Blasphemous 2 stands apart from its predecessor is with the introduction of new weapons. The first game offered little in the way of gameplay variety, but this time around The Penitent One has access to a variety of weapons that play vastly different from each other. Your standard sword plays similar to the first game but now there are speed-based and heavy weapons that improve the flow of combat. I found myself gravitating towards the rapier and dagger playstyle that allowed me to quickly strike my foes with ample time to dodge and gain my bearings. The break up in monotony means that players will more likely find a playstyle that works for them. 

Players will still be able to equip rosary beads for stat adjustments and “prayers” that often take the form of powerful spells. With the combination of these factors and choices, I felt a great connection to The Penitent One and the toolkit I had chosen for him. Whereas I would bash my head against a wall in the first one where there was a situation I couldn’t overcome, this time I felt motivated to experiment with my loadouts and builds. There’s far more player agency this time around and I have to applaud Team 17 for making these improvements. In a way the first game almost feels like a proof of concept to the more fully fleshed out sequel.

The elements from “souls” games also make a return. Punishing but fair difficulty, limited health potions, and an element of redemption from death to rebuild your prayer meter. If you weren’t a fan of these gameplay elements, I’m sorry to say that Blasphemous 2 doesn’t overhaul these mechanics in any way. For fans of the first game, I will say that I found the experience to be a bit more forgiving overall without taking away the sense of accomplishment from discovering a new area or overcoming a difficult enemy. Blasphemous 2 also has a sprawling open map with interconnected levels. Though some ends are blocked off until ability unlocks, I never found myself too lost and often had numerous paths to explore. What’s fantastic about the design is that Blasphemous 2 never holds your hands in exploration, often evoking that same feeling I get from playing Symphony of the Night.

This wouldn’t be a review of a Blasphemous 2 without taking a moment to talk about the gorgeous visuals that are on display here. The trademark pixel art looks more gorgeous than ever. Twisted catholic-inspired imagery complimented by horrific monster design and a healthy dose of blood that would make the most cold gore hounds blush. Team 17 employs  a unique Spanish-inspired take on saints and saviors that lives up to the name Blasphemous and quite possibly has the most talented pixel artists in the business. It’s worth playing through Blasphemous 2 to see what gorgeous vista or grotesque abomination is waiting around the corner on your journey to cleanse the land. Oftentimes it feels like a death metal album come to life.

Simply put, I had a grand time with Blasphemous 2. While the first game laid the foundation for a potentially great game, it often failed to live up to expectations with its monotony and lack of player freedom. Blasphemous 2 doubles down on refining the experience and in turn becomes one of the most fun modern takes on the classic “metroidvania” formula. If you’re a horror fan you’ll love the gore and suffering on display. And if you’re a fan of exploration/combat heavy games, Blasphemous 2 has you covered in bloody fashion. 

Blasphemous 2 is now available for the Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series.

4 out of 5 skulls

Editor’s Note: Review code provided by the publisher.

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