Blasphemous is a 2D hack and slash platform adventure developed by The Game Kitchen and published through Team17, it boasts modern gameplay mechanics which are wrapped in a beautifully grotesque world and is sure to catch the attention of gamers who enjoy a challenge.

Upon first loading Blasphemous I couldn't help but notice the sombre almost gothic tone to the game along with its pixelated graphical design, it does a great job of putting across to the player it's depressive tone with the title screens dreary sounds giving off the sense of hopelessness. The title screen has the typical start game option but renamed to 'Pilgrimage' to keep with the games theme, there is an options screen with a game section allowing you to enable or disable how to play guides, there is also an accessibility section where you can change the vibration on or off and an option to turn on or off screen shaking, lastly there is your standard sound section where you can play around with basic audio settings.

When starting a new game you will be introduced to a well voice acted narrative and a uniquely designed cut scene to lead you into the beginning of the story, this was a welcomed surprise and one which I feel does well to introduce you to the game world and leave you wanting to find out more. You play as a character named 'The Penitent One' who wields a sword aptly named 'Mea Culpa' it's your job as this character to traverse the lands of Cvstodia to seek redemption from eternal damnation and save the inhabitants of Cvstodia from the terrible fate of a curse known as 'The Miracle'. Upon first controlling 'The Penitent One' it became apparent that this game is a side scroller type of game and as I moved from left to right to the next screen it introduced me to the various movement mechanics through helpful pop up boxes, push the left analogue stick left to go left and right to go right as standard, press 'A' to jump and 'X' to swing the sword. You eventually reach what looks like something you would find in a medieval graveyard and at this point you get introduced to one of the big mechanics of the game, the 'Prie Dieu Alters'. These alters act very similar to the 'Bonfires' from Dark Souls in the way that they are your method of saving the game, your respawn point when falling in battle, they refresh your health bar and lastly they refill your characters health flasks which you use to replace health during fights. The beginning of the game before you even reach your first enemy does a good job of explaining its base mechanics, keeping them simple and easy to get to grips with... this is something which continues throughout the game but do not worry the game has its secrets that it wants you to come across yourself and when you do it can be quite satisfying.

The combat in Blasphemous is that of your typical hack and slash and early game you have your basic sword slash along with an upward slash too, you also have the ability to dodge in which your character will perform a sort of slide forward which can be the difference between life or death in some fights. Not only do you have attack and dodge abilities but you also have a counter ability which if timed right can cause an enemy to get stunned and open to attack which can also lead to the possibility of your character being able to use a finisher move on the stunned enemy, these finishers provide a small animation which I feel mixes up the combat and keeps it from getting repetitive and boring. There are also your healing flasks which can be consumed to replenish any lost health during battle, early game you start with two of these health flasks but there is the chance to increase how many you have through finding flasks out in the world. Overall, I feel the early game combat is very basic and simplistic, but it does enough to keep most fights feeling varied and fun. Blasphemous doesn't hold back when it comes to introducing you to your first enemy encounter, it's a bold move but one I feel does well to prepare you for the kind of combat you will experience in the game, I'm not going to spoil this experience for anyone but what I will say is it left me with a fraction of my health bar left and I come away from it with a sense of awe and satisfaction, be warned this game and some of its cutscenes are not for the faint of heart. The enemies hit hard, and you can find yourself being punished for the slightest mistake whether it be your bog-standard enemy, one of the many various mini bosses as well as any of the big bosses. Your standard 'cannon fodder' enemies are well varied and their designs are unique in their own grotesque way, through exploration in the non-linear world you can find yourself finding secret areas that are often guarded by what I would consider mini bosses and these are noticeably different to the standard enemies and come with hard hitting moves and again beautifully crafted designs. As with the majority of games these days you have your main bosses at the end of levels and dungeons and these come with screen wide health bars and really cool mechanics which need to be learnt to be able to defeat them, the thought and innovation that has gone into the design of the big bosses is certainly awe inspiring and although Blasphemous is a pretty gory grotesque game you can't help but love it's design.

It's important to note that again similar to games like Dark Souls when you die the standard enemies that populate the world respawn along with your character but what Blasphemous does different is that every time you die your character gains an affliction called 'Guilt' and this affliction slows down how much tears of atonement you get and fervour you build up and this guilt builds up every time you die unless you go back and collect the piece of your soul that was left behind when you died but thankfully the mini bosses and big bosses don't respawn and that provides a tiny sense of relief knowing that once you've overcome the challenge of beating these bosses that they are gone for good. Overall, I found the enemies in Blasphemous to be well designed and challenging with learning curves that in my opinion were very well paced.

Blasphemous may come across at first glance as a side scrolling type of game you would find from the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis but don't be fooled because controls, combat and enemies aside there is so much more at the core of Blasphemous. There is some customization to your character in the way of a talent tree associated with your sword and the way you invest in this is by collecting the games currency and spending it at special landmarks that are scattered around the game world, you harvest this currency which are called 'Tears of Atonement' by killing enemies and by various other means that I will not spoil. The talent tree although it is only basic is a welcome addition to this type of game. The game also provides other means of improving your character through a sort of artefact system where you can find items to place on your characters rosemary beads, with each item offering some form of enhancement. There is also a prayer system in which you can find prayers around the world and have one selected at a time with each providing your character a special ability to use, to summarize there are plenty of ways to enhance and build your character and what makes it good is the flexibility of being able to swap in and out these different enhancements and abilities at the Prie Dieu Alters. There is just so much to do and see in Blasphemous that will most certainly keep achievement hunters and completionists busy, there are collectibles to find, caged 'Cherubs' to hunt down and break free, NPC's to come across each with something to offer or a story to tell and with all that amazingly every single item you find has its own bit of lore attached to it. The story Blasphemous is trying to tell is not one that is easy to follow and it seems the game relies quite heavily on the player to put in some effort to read the lore to flesh out the game world and what is happening in it but personally I don't mind that approach.

During my time with Blasphemous which I'm currently heading towards the 10 hour mark I have experienced a good amount of what the game has to offer and I'm around 50% of the game completed so far, its engaging combat is fun as well as challenging and the learning curve seems to be optimized to perfection. The enemies are varied enough to keep you from getting bored and the different skills and abilities you can have keep fighting them varied and fresh too. The cutscenes are well designed and for the most part the voice acting in Blasphemous is top notch too along with the game's music and sound effects. The only major drawback I have come across so far is a bug I experienced which resulted in me having to restart the game, my character basically got stuck in mid-air in some sort of animation lock which I could not get out of, this only occurred once and I have yet to come across it again. I come into Blasphemous not knowing what to expect, as a gamer who doesn't generally play these types of games, I find myself having a real good time and wanting to progress more and more in the world. I can't recommend Blasphemous enough......a fantastic game.

Blasphemous will be available tomorrow on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows & Linux via Steam.