By | June 18, 2023
Two-thirds of Metroidvania Blasphemous 2 is excellent

The search for meaning is endless and takes more than one form. IN Blasphemous 2, from developer The Game Kitchen, humans still try to deal with reality through the lens of the divine, using regrets and blessings as a language to interpret their world. Blasphemed 2 effectively conveys this world by combining exploration and storytelling. But its boss battles – the star attraction for anyone who’s played the first game – are more uneven.

Blasphemed 2 is a 2D platformer/adventure game similar to Dead cells and Hollow Knight. By spreading religious imagery throughout, The Game Kitchen has created a potent world where an all-powerful divine will, the Miracle, has power over everyone’s lives. You control the Penitent One, the returning protagonist from the first game, who fought the Miracle once before and has now been resurrected to face the almighty being once again. A soul-like difficulty pervades Blasphemed 2 also: You face not only a variety of challenging enemies, but also some bosses that require a large number of attempts to beat.

However, these similarities to domestic genres belie a unique sense of place – a mixture of the uncanny and the bizarre. As the Penitent, you are less the focus of the story than a vessel through which to explore this unique world – one where the inhabitants turn to faith, over and over again, despite all the evidence pointing to this practice being the origin of the terrible condition their world has been in since the first game.

Image: The Game Kitchen/Team17

Blasphemed 2 does a decent job of matching its open narrative themes with strong mechanics and systems. A Liquid Hand, for example, increases your maximum glow (the resource used to cast magic spells) in exchange for kisses of adoration; in other words, the penitent’s spiritual development depends on worshiping a new deity. Then we have Montañés, a sculptor who believes he was commissioned by the miracle, and therefore carves hand-held statues for the penitent. These figurines provide various beneficial effects, allowing you to create different buildings throughout your playthrough; one reduces the glow cost of abilities, while another increases the duration of a weapon’s special ability. With characters like these two, Blasphemed 2 weaves its themes of faith and divine purpose into its systemic loop.

Blasphemed 2 glues everything together with a vast exploratory world. Crucially, while there are some dangerous enemies – and pesky birds – waiting for you in many rooms, the process of exploration never becomes frustrating. The game deploys a useful teleportation system that lets you swing back and forth across specific rooms on a whim, turning the inevitable backtracking sessions into less awkward affairs.

Additionally, each region of the 2D world is full of its own character and aesthetic. Sacred Entombments is an arid region where giant buried statues fill the background and many dangers are hidden in the vast desert. However, you also visit the Embroidery Palace, where rooms with forgotten furniture and eerie monsters accompany old spirits. Each of these areas has its own environmental hazards: waves of sand or falling chandeliers, to name a couple.

Image: The Game Kitchen/Team17

Spreading three unique weapons across the world (an increase over the first game’s single Mea Culpa Blade), The Game Kitchen smooths your exploration progress. These weapons – a rapier, a curved sword and a club – also play an important role in the story. Each of these instruments is linked to three of the main antagonists the penitent must face, telling bits of their stories while offering hints on the best way to defeat these practitioners. With Blasphemed 2The Game Kitchen has woven together story and combat into a rewarding experience.

Despite all its strengths, Blasphemed 2 falls flat when it comes to contextualizing these major enemies. The Archconfraternity is a group of five penitents sent by the Miracle to stop you. Individually, some of these characters have good backstories that match the grim tone of the wider game, such as the monk who can’t empathize with the people whose confessions he’s been hearing for all eternity. But the concept of grouping villains as a “workforce of evil” ends up being silly and clashing tonally with the broader script. Also, the boss fights themselves are uninspired — one of them is a simple matter of wall jumping to avoid enemy attacks. The gravitas lent to some of these creatures, however silly and reprehensible to the overall story, feels hollow as a result.

In the end, Blasphemed 2 is a strong union of story and function. Its bleak world is full of nooks and crannies to explore, and its inhabitants have compelling stories to tell. Its boss battles – arguably the biggest plot twist – may be threadbare, but the clever mechanics and biting themes more than make up for any weaknesses in the plot.

Blasphemed 2 will be released on August 24th on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows PC and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-download code from Team17. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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