I’ve got a thing about this genre where I really enjoy finding every nook and cranny. Didn’t know I had this until I played Metroid 2 on the GameBoy. I played the heck out of that thing! And since then, there’s just some weird itch about it.
I wrote prior about Blasphemous (I’m on Switch) being an attempt to merge Dark Souls and the larger genre. I still hold to the idea that this doesn’t make any real sense, since it’s actually the other way around. What makes a Souls game is not the respawning enemies, or the healing mechanic, or the difficulty curve. It’s the hit box mechanics in 3D. If you were to somehow move Souls into a 2D space, you’d be looking at a grimy Celeste.
Still, Blasphemous has a dark theme to it, a rip on some religions’ need to focus on guilt. It takes a very long time to make sense of the lore, the text within isn’t super clear on the overall intent. I guess Souls has that in common. It does allow for some very enemy and boss art styles. Fighting a bishop’s corpse held aloft on bony hands, or a weird baby monster with a snake attack, or even a triad of warring sisters. It’s consistent, I’ll give it that.
In terms of difficulty, this is where things get a bit weird. The game starts with making enemies the challenge, but as you increase in power, it then starts adding the environment as a larger hazard. I certainly died more to giant laser beams, exploding bombs, flying scythes and spike pits than I care to admit. Since you only ever get 1 weapon and it just swings harder, there’s not much in terms of mechanics that changes the pace. Even the magic powers you get aren’t terribly useful since they a) cost a lot to use and b) leave you vulnerable while casting. You learn the cadence early and the rest sorts itself out. I mean, I beat the final boss on the 1st attempt. (The penultimate boss though, that was a war of attrition)
Fine enough, but the chase for 100% is what drives me here to look beyond the wrinkles. There are quite a few collectibles in the game – bones, stones, beads, cherubs, spells and so on. You can mark the map for these items if you pass them and don’t have the required skill to collect them. Collecting all of a given set gives a reward, nothing big mind you. I am 99% sure you don’t actually need to collect any special skills to work your way to the boss. The real challenge in this game is that you have no idea how to actually collect any of these skills in the first place!
Take the Three Gnarled Tongues – which allows for branches to spawn where you can climb up them. Look at the steps to unlock this thing. You need to find a given room, then give the “thing” in that room 3 items – one of those items needs another skill to get. Then you get an egg that you need to lay at a tree (?!) and take that resulting hatched egg to a frozen pool. There’s no way any of this is intuitive. You’re just going to reach things, press the interact button, and then hope you happen to have some object that interacts. I won’t even go into the whole Redento quest line.
Which means the game effectively has a “quick path” and then what amounts to a “100%” mode. The latter is really only enabled through donating 20,000 gold (tears) to the church to enable a much better teleport option, as you’ll be backtracking like crazy. Once that is unlocked, the whole path to 100% becomes very enjoyable.
Plus, I got this for $12. The game may not be perfect, but for that price, it’s a crazy good deal.