Team17 and The Game Kitchen were kind enough to grant me a review code for Blasphemous 2. Thanks Team17 and The Game Kitchen!
Game- Blasphemous 2
Developer- The Game Kitchen
Release Date- August 24th, 2023
Available Platforms- Switch, PS4/5, Xbox Series X/S, Steam, GOG, Epic
I played on- Switch
Play time- 17 hours
Accessibility Options: Rumble On/Off, Screen Shake On/Off
The Penitent One is back. Screenshot from Nintendo Switch.
The original Blasphemous is one of my favorite 2D action/metroidvania games out there- I've played it twice, and it was featured in an early episode of Tales from the Backlog. So any time one of my favorites gets an announced sequel, there is a mix of excitement and nervousness from those times I've been burned before. Fret not though, because I'm happy to say that Blasphemous 2 is a fantastic iteration on what I loved about the first game.
Blasphemous 2 once again puts you in the shiny metal boots and conical hat of The Penitent One (also known as Penitente if you play with Spanish voice acting, which you SHOULD), sworn to silence and fated to destroy the hideous creations of an almighty force known as The Miracle, the primary antagonistic force in the first game and this game world in general. I can't discuss what's going on with the Miracle in this game yet, but suffice to say- if you played the first game, you know this is bad news. And with that, your Penitente is off and running through the game's deeply religious world of Cvstodia, with its gorgeous and sometimes disturbing pixel art inspired by Roman Catholicism and wonderful, moody acoustic guitar-based soundtrack.
If you like imaginative boss and creature designs, Blasphemous 2 is your kind of game. Screenshot from Nintendo Switch.
Gameplay in Blasphemous 2 follows the metroidvania design from the first game, but there have been a few changes to really enhance this experience and activate my own personal Metroidvania Backtracking Sicko Mode. The first game had key items that unlocked traversal abilities, but many of them were dressed-up keys rather than multi-purpose upgrades. Blasphemous 2 is a big improvement in this way- your "keys" all double as movement abilities, platforming moves, and/or entirely new weapons. At the beginning of the game, you get to pick one of three weapons: Veredicto (a big bonk mace/flail with a fire ability), Sarmiento & Centella (a dual-wielded 1-2 sword-and-dagger combo with lightning powers), and Ruego al Alba (a serrated weapon with blood magic).
I picked Veredicto because it does great stagger damage and can hit enemies twice in one swing if you line things up correctly. You'll eventually pick up all three weapons, giving you much greater possibility for expression and changing tactics to meet the needs of different combat situations, rather than the ever-present block-counter-execution order of operations in the first game. To give you an example- Veredicto has a wide swing and can hit an enemy multiple times, but cannot block at all. The other two weapons can block, but have much shorter range. However, the utility of the new weapons doesn't stop there- they are all used for movement and puzzle solving as well. Veredicto can ring giant bells that make platforms appear, Sarmiento & Centella allows you to teleport between mirror statues around levels, and Ruego al Alba can break certain types of barriers with a powerful plunging attack. This is the biggest change, and is a marked improvement over the original game.
Blasphemous 2 has also made improvements in other areas. Gone are the instant-death spikes during platforming challenges; in Blasphemous 2, you take damage and return to the last solid ground you stood on. Altars (checkpoints analogous to bonfires from the Souls series) are more plentiful, as are the portals you use to fast travel around the world. The Kickstarter backer bone item rewards from the first game are replaced by meaningful treasures that reward your exploration. And while difficulty was another sticking point for some people in the original Blasphemous, I did not find Blasphemous 2 to be any more difficult than the average combat-focused 2D action game, with all but one boss requiring between 1-5 attempts to learn their attacks and emerge victorious.
The Game Kitchen has some of the best pixel art in the business. Screenshot from Nintendo Switch.
All told, Blasphemous 2 is a fantastic entry in both its own growing series and the metroidvania genre as a whole. It is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre, those who love beautiful and evocative pixel art, and anyone who loves games that let them attack and dethrone God. The Game Kitchen continues to make great games, and have cemented themselves as one of my favorite indie developers out there.
If you're in the mood for more Blasphemous 2 content, make sure you subscribe to the Tales from the Backlog podcast for a full deep dive episode coming in a few months!