In the Pale Moonlight
Koji Igarashi and Inti Creates are back with Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 for Nintendo Switch and all other major current-gen platforms, not you Stadia. This sequel builds on the foundation set out previously and delivers a slick, retro-looking dark and stylish 2D Castlevania clone with plenty of quality of life features that modern-day gamers have become accustomed to.
But let’s backtrack a little to the use of ‘Castlevania clone’ absolutely this is what the game feels like but there is more to it than that. Koji Igarashi previously worked for Konami, joining the 90s, and aided in the development of a number of successful franchises with the most notable being Castlevania. In 2014 he co-founded ArtPlay and began work on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, which was considered a spiritual successor to the series. Part of the stretch goals included the development of a short prelude Curse of the Moon. Both titles released to a positive reception bring us full circle.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 sees returning warrior Zangetsu joined by the cast of the original in the fight to stop a demonic invasion. To help with this endeavour three brand new playable characters join the roster, each with unique abilities offering variety in gameplay. Starting with just Zangetsu you are tasked with battling through several stages of bit style platforming that accumulate with an end of level BOSS BATTLE. These larger than life demons fill the screen and obliterate you with ease, thankfully the game contains numerous checkpoints reducing the need to replay a whole stage.
Introducing casual mode
Presumably after receiving feedback on the original titles, new difficulty settings have been included that cater to both newcomers and returning veterans. Casual mode looks to open up this tough adventure to those who enjoy their gaming at a more subdued pace and removes the dreaded knockback effect. This is a welcomed addition as there is a massive difficulty spike in the later stages when tasked with jumping across moving platforms. On numerous occasions, my hero plummeted to their death as my timing was off or the hoard of nasties overwhelmed, playing co-op didn’t make this any easier.
The level design, for the most part, is superbly crafted presenting multiple routes and hidden treasures to locate in this rich gothic world. Although there are clear Metroidvania elements adopted in Curse of the Moon 2 this isn’t in the traditional sense and is very much pitched towards a more conventional platformer experience, in the first instance at least.
Upon completion of a stage, a new character will generally be unlocked until you have the full squad. Each character has a unique attack and sub-weapon which will need to be exploited at the right time. You even get to play as a dog controlling a massive mech suit that transforms into a train which is bizarrely amazing. Although the game is substantially bigger than the original it won’t take you too long until the credits roll but that’s not the end. Several playthroughs are required, each run is dubbed as an ‘episode’ and once conquered the true ending is revealed.
Further chance to explore new areas.
Opting for this design route will no doubt have saved on development time and cost but feels a bit of a cop-out, you do at least get some slight variants in the repeated plays and open up new modes. The repeated journeys, at least, give you a chance to further explore previously unobtainable areas using the newly acquired wall hang, double jump and hover abilities of the team. Minus the small hurdles mentioned, importantly, the game plays well and controls as you would hope. Jumping can be a little touch and go but isn’t a deal-breaker. Visually the game is steeped in 8-bit glory, the limited palette is used effectively to create a detailed world that has a horrifying beauty to it. Enemies are wonderfully varied, coming in all shapes and sizes from the grotesque monsters that gave you nightmares as a child to the less imaginative beings. The soundtrack is a highlight and gives a massive dose of nostalgia taking you right back to the early 90s.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 was born out of Koji’s love for Castlevania but has become very much its own beast. Polished presentation, an interesting mix of characters with unique abilities and replayable areas all deliver a solid adventure. The difficulty curve is taxing with easy to miss platforms. For the retro enthusiast and Castlevania lovers Curse of the Moon 2, despite a few minor niggles, is a great addition to the collection and easily recommended.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 10/07/2020
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: Action, Platformer
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: Inti Creates
Download link: eShop