Title: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2
Developer: Inti Creates
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Inti Creates
Genre: 2D Action
It’s incredibly difficult to talk about Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon without mentioning its ties to the Castlevania series. The game borrows many retroelements from Castlevania, including its visual style.
However, developer Inti Creates doesn’t seem to be finished innovating on this genre, as seen in Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2. Yes, visually, it may look similar to other retro games, but there are some genuinely unique mechanics here that push this genre further than it’s ever gone.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 introduces us to Zangetsu, a sword-wielding warrior who has a bone to pick with the alchemists who have been summoning demons. In the first few stages, we learn more about his quest as others join his party. The story itself is light on the text and lore, which makes the entire journey easy to digest.
The relationship between each of the characters is rocky, but their common goal gives them a reason to work together. This is important given that some characters are absolutely crucial to have during some stages. I honestly wouldn’t have minded collectible lore or more fleshed-out characters, but the straightforward narrative keeps you in action without very much downtime.
In the first levels, the main goal is to unlock new characters, who appear after the stage is complete. If one character dies, it’s possible to restart the room as one of your available characters. The problem with this is that the following stage will feature an environment that works better with the newest character’s skills. In the event that the character dies, you’ll be at a considerable disadvantage and might be better off restarting from the checkpoint to save time.
With that said, after the new characters are acquired, the development team seems to take the gloves off for some of the most demanding 2D action levels that I have ever played. Each stage is like an endurance round to the boss, full of different enemy types and platforming sections. To balance this, the stages aren’t incredibly long, but they aren’t too generous with the checkpoints, so expect to run out of lives every now and then.
The difficulty of the game can be overcome using each of the character’s unique attacks and abilities. Where Zangetsu has a traditional attack, Dominique is able to jump higher and utilize powerful magic, Robert can shoot projectiles, and Hachi can crush objects and become invincible.
Each of the characters is needed to get through the game, but understanding their abilities is crucial to getting through unscathed. Magic and special attacks are acquired from candles, but only one special attack can be held at a time. For example, Dominique has a few magical abilities, some that even heal the party members. However, she also has an attack that hurts enemies attached to the roof or wall. Similarly, Robert is able to rid a room of enemies using a lance quickly, but he can also fire off a giant cannon.
The more interesting gameplay moments happen when you might not be equipped with the right abilities and have to make your way through a level skillfully. However, if you happen to return to the level, which there are more than enough reasons too, it might be less challenging.
Levels have different branching paths full of secret areas that provide character upgrades. However, these items aren’t easy to get to, so expect some enemy resistance along the way. Most of the other secret areas require a specific character to be used, which sucks if they are dead by the time you get there. Still, this is just more reason to return to the level later to see what you missed.
The 2-player mode is a whole different beast and works surprisingly well, to a fault. In most cases, 2-players makes getting through the level a lot easier if you are coordinating with your partner. Furthermore, the levels include two-player-only shortcuts that, in my eyes, make it the better way to play. After playing cooperatively, it was tough to go back to the single-player mode.
The two-player mode also affects the boss battles and makes them way easier to get through. Now, the late-game bosses will still be challenging, but it just feels cheap when you get through a boss’s health bar before its first attack cycle. Regardless, the last boss is a rush and will put everything you’ve learned in the game to the test.
During the cooperative mode, players can quickly disappear to switch to one-player mode if there’s a difficult platforming section that you don’t want both players to tackle. Either way, communication is a big part of this mode, which enhances the feeling that this is a real group of demon hunters.
Graphically, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is gorgeous with some awesome level designs, characters, enemies, and backgrounds. It’s an accumulation of these elements that make this game exceptionally fun to play through. This is complemented by the soundtrack that rivals any retro game out there.
There are accessibility options available that make the game easier to play, but I feel like some might want it to be even harder. The cooperative mode definitely needs to see an adjustment to the boss fights, but in retrospect, I was happy to get through them quicker after dying so many times before.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 builds upon the foundation that the first entry laid out and made the entire experience more accessible without taking away the challenge for genre lovers. There’s room for balance when switching between single and cooperative modes, but there is nothing more fun than taking down demons with a friend in this adventure. Do yourself a favor and pick this game up.
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