At first glance, Blasphemous 2 looks an awful lot like Dark Souls. In terms of story elements and visual style, it does have some influences from that, but in terms of foundation, it is much more of a Metroidvania. In that, it is just not as well put together as similar games of the genre. Still, despite some problems, Blasphemous 2 is an incredibly entertaining game.
Blasphemous was already trying to build a 2D version of the extremely popular game series Dark Souls with the original, especially in terms of visual style and the bosses you encounter as a player. The second installment continues this merrily. In particular, connecting levels in the world of Blasphemous 2 is an important part that will be familiar to fans of Dark Souls.
FromSoftware’s games from the SoulsBorne series are among my favorite games, with Elden Ring being an absolute highlight. Recently, I have also become addicted to the Metroidvania genre. Personal highlights therein are Hollow Knight and Metroid: Dread. Hollow Knight, in a way, ruined it. Few games are as good. Logically, Blasphemous 2 is a game that takes a lot of inspiration from this. This is mainly reflected in the puzzles in the game. These are very inventive and make use of the new weapons in the game. You start with one weapon before you can find the other two. Eventually you will need all three to get through all the puzzles.
Because Blasphemous 2 is a combination between my favorite genres, in theory this should be the perfect game. At about ten to fifteen, the game is slightly longer than the original. The game managed to grab me and I cycled through it in several sessions. It plays wonderfully. The combat is very elaborate for a game like this, the bosses are challenging and the soundtrack is really great. Yet after finishing the game, I feel like something is missing to make Blasphemous 2 truly special. It’s a good game, but doesn’t go for the extra mile as many other 2023 titles manage to do. The game tries to do all sorts of things at once. With that, it is very ambitious, but does not approach the perfection that Hollow Knight does.
A feast for the eyes
The protagonist in Blasphemous 2 is once again called The Penitent One, the main character who was also playable in the first game. The sequel begins with the main character rising from his coffin. As a player, you must find out how it is possible for The Penitent One to rise from the dead. What follows is an interesting story. Due to a somewhat old-fashioned vocabulary, once again familiar from the worlds of Dark Souls and Elden Ring, it is a bit difficult to keep up at times. You may not immediately get every detail in the first playthrough, but you also don’t need the VaatiVidya’s of this world in Blasphemous 2 to follow everything.
In the journey toward the end of the story, the visual style is smashing. Blasphemous 2 is obviously incredibly reminiscent of classics you may have played in the past on the Gameboy Advance, while in between there are also cutscenes to discover that, on the contrary, do not make use of the pixel art. Every detail seems to have been paid attention to in devising the artstyle. Not only do the sprites of the characters, bosses and weapons look good, but also the backgrounds are mostly to be enjoyed. All this is supported, as mentioned earlier, by an excellent soundtrack. This was composed by Carlos Viola, who was also responsible for the music of the first part. When the player is in the same area a lot, it can become a bit too repetitive, but the bombastic pieces that pass by during battles against bosses more than make up for it.
In the original, the main character only used a sword. This one could get the necessary upgrades, but otherwise the combat was fairly one-dimensional. Now, in addition to a lot of spells (these are called in-game prayers), the game also uses a number of new weapons. Attached to the weapons is a complete skill tree to give the combat a lot more depth than in the original. Developer The Game Kitchen seems to have listened carefully to the feedback.
Now there’s a sword you can parry with, a sort of mace on a chain that does more damage and two smaller swords in dual wield that are unimaginably fast. The sword in particular was well liked because it allows you to really string combos together. The player gets a lot of tools at their disposal to expand their skill set. On the other hand, this also ensures that Blasphemous 2 is not a difficult game. Of course, players can choose not to use prayers, for example, to make the game more challenging. Even without the prayers, for many bosses outside the final boss I had enough with a maximum of two or three attempts to defeat them.
There was rarely any real challenge in puzzles either, although they were inventive. In Hollow Knight, there are certain jump puzzles where you really have to try hard to complete it. I missed that a bit with Blasphemous. The biggest challenge was mainly in figuring out what to do as a player. There is an icon on the map, but it is not always exactly where you need to be. This made me lose my way for quite a while at one point, although that could also be due to my own ignorance.
Although the combat and moving through the painting-like levels generally works well I did run into a few bugs. It was certainly not gamebreaking, but still showed that Blasphemous 2 is not equally polished in every aspect. For example, there were a number of bugs with the camera failing to move with you at the right times, or enemies that could attack you but were off-screen.
I also occasionally ran into bugs during some boss fights. This was actually never to my detriment. It mainly came down to the fact that you could lock bosses sporadically. This often happened when you did many attacks in a row against a boss close to a wall. This really only occurred in one or two bosses, though, so it didn’t end up being very annoying. So again, it’s not like the game is tied together with strings. Overall, Blasphemous 2 plays excellently, but it still needs a small patch for the perfect finish.
Blasphemous 2, although heavily inspired by titles like Dark Souls and Metroidvania games, manages to create its own identity. The game offers a rich visual style reminiscent of classic Gameboy Advance games, supported by an impressive soundtrack by Carlos Viola. The improved combat, with its expanded weapon choices and skill trees, offers more depth than the original. Despite these improvements, the game lacks some challenge in puzzles and combat, and has a number of technical flaws. Although Blasphemous 2 lacks much in the way of finishing and perfection that some other titles in 2023 do achieve. There is absolutely no shame in that, because especially on the Nintendo Switch, this is one of the more enjoyable games of the year.