Blasphemous review – a grotesque but surprisingly clean take on Souls and Castlevania

September 13, 2019
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Guilt! Ecstasy! Agony! The corruption and correction of the flesh! Blasphemous is all of these things and m- no, wait. Blasphemous is only these things: all else is heresy, fit to be thrown on the pyre. A gruesome pixelart hybrid of Castlevania and Dark Souls, it casts you as the Penitent One, a musclebound chap in a pointy helmet, who must cleanse a fallen civilisation on behalf of a quasi-Catholic deity known as the Miracle.

You wake up on a charnelpile deep in a crumbling vault, immediately get into an argument with an ogre wielding a candelabra and, well, everything goes downhill from there. Right the way down, that is, to the bottom of a church bell large enough to encompass an entire level, in what feels like a nod to Soul Reaver’s Silent Cathedral. Here you’ll encounter toxic mist, goblin folk who are annoyingly good at jumping over your swings, and spectral fencers who vanish after every thrust. And then all the way back up, through slippery chasms where both the wind and the statuary are your enemies, to a convent where an undead abbess has been taking lessons from bullet-hell shooters.

It certainly covers some ground, does Blasphemous, and given a certain tolerance for back-tracking, spike pits and irredeemable squalor, there’s fun to be had massacring the denizens of this unholy world. Inspired by Francisco Goya’s torrid religious paintings and the Gothic monstrosities of the developer’s native Seville, Orthodoxia is a place of twisted steeples, bloodied gold and the unrelenting spectacle of bodies in pain. The enemies live up to the spaces that contain them, their lavishly animated sprites a mash of bone, chains and sacral cloth. Some can be taken down with combos and evasive slides; others must be parried or jumped over before you can land a blow; still others hang back off-screen, activating terrain traps till vengefully quashed. Full to bursting with wickedness, Orthodoxia’s inhabitants don’t so much die as crescendo, shredding themselves with a screech or erupting into oily flames.

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