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It's the on-ramp into a season of truly titanic gaming releases, from a new Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed to Spider-Man 2 and Alan Wake 2, but that doesn't mean an indie gem can't gazump its way into the spotlight.

Blasphemous 2 is just such a star, a sequel that retains true to its offputting and challenging roots while expanding its formula to make for a simply excellent metroidvania platformer that begs to be explored.

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Blasphemous 2

This is a must-play for fans of games like Hollow Knight and the Castlevanias of yore, with challenging bosses and a superb sense of personality. It one-ups the first game in most meaningful ways. Platform tested: PlayStation 5

  • Marvellous pixel art
  • Wonderfully weird enemies and bosses
  • Such excellent non-linear ideas
  • Final boss has a huge difficulty spike

Stigmata for days

Blasphemous 2 is a sequel, needless to say, but it's one that picks up with a time jump and a clear sense of ambiguity - this is a weird world of Catholic imagery and demonic invasions, and while there's plenty of tie-ins for mega-fans the reality is you need to know very little here.

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You open by awakening as a penitent pilgrim, bearing a creepy pointed helmet and picking from one of three divinely-offered weapons, before slinking into a grim world in crisis.

There's a semi-divine mega-baby being birthed up in the clouds, and not in a good way - someone needs to stop it, and absolutely no one else is stepping forward, so it's over to you, encouraged by an occasional angelic visitor.

You'll need to rid the world of a few lingering baddies for reasons that lean toward the ecclesiastical, and pick up some powers along the way, all with the aim of averting this hellish abomination from basically ending everything.

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There's much more depth there for those who want it, in item descriptions and incidental dialogue with a cast of creepy shopkeepers and mourners dotted around the map, but you can also very much sideline the detail to luxuriate in the vibe while crunching through the map piece by piece.

All this is delivered by simply astounding pixel art, occasionally interspersed with brief animated cut-scenes, showing us ghastly and majestic sights as we slowly lower our goal's cradle to a reachable height.

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Characters are voice-acted with aplomb, too, in the FromSoftware vein, with ominous pauses and odd intonations making absolutely sure that you don't feel at ease at any point.

Dead pixels

The comparisons to older Castlevania games are ones that Blasphemous and Blasphemous 2 invite heartily thanks to a similar style of retro presentation, but this sequel really kicks things up a notch.

It's not that the designs are creepier or more visceral (although some bosses and enemies are astoundingly so), it's more that there are just so many to find.

You'll enter a hub area after struggling through a long gap without a checkpoint and be greeted by a collection of mourners around a dying child in bed. Kneeling at the bedside transports you to another plane where a giant corpse-like ancient can be addressed.

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Or you'll finally vanquish a horrifying boss, praying for forgiveness after your mortal blow, and enter a vision in which that boss' uncorrupted self absolves you from a painting of their martyrdom.

It's all so nicely judged - completely odd and disturbing, but just clear enough with what each character is offering or seeking that you'll be able to remember their offers when you do finally happen upon a hidden item, hours later.

I bought one such item at great expense from a vendor early on, not knowing what it did, and it was literally five hours before I found the giant father who needed it (and four others like it, all hidden thoroughly) to calm his oversized colicky child.

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That's before you even get to the brilliant animations of both the player character in combat (using any of the three weapons you collect over time) and the non-boss enemies that lurch and glide around each location, all of which ooze character.

Remix the classics

Those weapons are the new beating heart of Blasphemous 2; where the first game had a sole sword-like option, you now choose at the outset between three: a heavy flail with a long reach, a versatile sword, and rapid twin daggers.

Each can be upgraded substantially using hard-fought experience points, offering new powers and enhancements but, for the first few hours, you'll only have whatever you pick first.

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This is Blasphemous 2's greatest and most impressive trick - it offers an expansive map in the traditional Metroidvania style, that you can explore in stages as you gain new powers. However, where most games of this genre have a set (if broad) route that takes you through these powers to unlock new areas, Blasphemous 2 lets you take your own direction for at least the first half of its roughly dozen-hour run.

Each starting weapon, you see, has its own power to let you explore the map, meaning you get access to some of its secret routes and options from the off, but not others. It took me ages to even realise that my flail was letting me ring spectral bells that the other weapons couldn't because I could do it right from the start.

Had I picked those daggers, I'd have been teleporting from certain floating mirrors, while the sword would have let me plunge through otherwise impenetrable platforms. This sleight of hand means you can skip ahead (to still carefully-ordained degrees) in small ways and find bits of the map that you might not then revisit for hours, and it's a wonderful spin on the genre's traditions.

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Beyond that structural choice, you get an excellent slice of side-scrolling combat that expands more and more as you get more powers and find new spells to augment your options with. You also get a new loadout system of carved idols that modify your abilities even further and can give new twists if you combine them right, making for another welcome layer of complexity.

This all makes for a smoother and less punishing game than the first Blasphemous, although enemies still pack huge punches and can blindside you if you're careless. With occasional roadblocks requiring you to learn boss patterns and figure them out, it was only the final boss that truly stumped me - he has a second phase that can best be described as diabolically hard, so be warned about that final spike.


Blasphemous 2 takes a rough gem in the form of the first game, and smooths away some of its edges, while sharpening others to a point. That leaves it as a multifaceted and challenging slice of excellence, a game that I devoured and savoured, and one that hopefully won't be lost in the noise of a busy release calendar.