With seventeen hours to go as I write this, tiny Spanish game studio The Game Kitchen has smashed, eviscerated and put the thumbscrews to its Kickstarter funding goals for the forthcoming follow-up to their award-winning point and click adventure The Last Door.
Billed as a ‘brutal 2D non-linear platformer’ you can see why Blasphemous caught my eye. I mean, just look at it:
Shudder and drool. Genuflect before it. It hums with menace.
Seeking a modest $US50,000 for a game with such scintillating pixel art, the pledge total now towers at over $US303,000 which is good news for console owners as it has secured ports to the PS4, Xbone and Switch for us filthy casuals.
The Kickstarter page describes Blasphemous as an ‘action-platformer that combines the fast-paced, skilled combat of a hack-n-slash game with a deep and evocative narrative core, delivered through exploration of a huge universe comprised of non-linear levels’. Tick, tick, tick, and tick.
Set in the savage land of Orthodoxia (that explains the lashings of religious iconography then) where superstition runs amok and churches outnumber people two to one, aesthetically and narratively the game seems to draw upon the long-shadowed legacy of the Spanish Inquisition, replete with accusation, condemnation, superstition and suspicion, with the protagonist and antagonist being respectively titled ‘The Penitent One’ and ‘The High Pontiff’. It’s certainly a source material rich in visual flourish, real-world horror and it sits waist deep in foreboding as it spawns enemies such as The Acolyte, The Flagellant, and The Sister of Our Lady of The Burnt Face.
Catholicism has always been the most gothic club in town, and this uniquely old-European spin on the mythos is as intense as it is familiar to anyone who spent baffling and terrifying hours on aching knees in the presence of mangled, martyred saints, all the while hushed and dizzy on the scent of incense.
Inspired by the architecture of the Spanish city of Seville, as well as the work of artists such as Francisco Goya, the game thus far looks to effortlessly capture that stultifying dread, guilt and fear that still beats repressed at the core of every lapsed Catholic. It knows which buttons to press and hopefully which demons to exorcise. Even the developer bio’s on the page are scripted in lush biblical language, grimmer than grim, reeking of sin, suffering and expiation, with the programmers being hailed thusly: “so they made a whip out of cords, and drove all lines of code, from the lone of their minds, and into the game.”
This commitment to concept is nothing if not convincing. These chaps have lived this suffocating belief system. It is in their bones, and perhaps as an act of supreme catharsis they are now offering us this blasphemous bon mot. Musically speaking, the preview track ‘Psalm of Ethernal Grief’ by Carlos Viola is pitch perfect in its use of deep Gregorian chants, ghostly choirs and sinister bells. It is cloying yet compelling in its pitch and authenticity. PTSD in MP3.
Such is the completeness of their vision, and the quality of their pitch that 9000+ people and counting have seen fit to throw their coins into this collection plate, despite the scant meat on its bones in terms of actual gameplay footage and deeper details. It’s but a slip of a wafer. But the promise of a gothic, pixel art Metroidvania is simply mana from heaven (or south of heaven) for many, and they have spoken, and they have tithed.
As is customary with these kind of campaigns, backers have been given a chance to partake in the creative process, with everything from forum access through to helping design a boss creature, dredging it out of the deepest recesses of their Sunday school trauma, and with plentiful tiers available and access to early builds there is every chance that the committed will find their fingerprints smeared across the final product.
But even if you’ve missed out on the initial pledge drive there is still plenty here worth keeping an eye on. Whilst no physical copies have been announced yet, there are still plenty of ways to potentially get your hands on this thorned buckle.
Which won’t be done until 2019.
Unless, of course, the Rapture takes us first.