Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a welcome sequel that came as a surprise to me. While I loved the first game, I never thought it picked up enough steam to warrant a brand-new entry. And yet it released and we are all better off for it. CotM 2 does everything its predecessor did and does it better at that. Graphics, sound, gameplay; everything has been refined to culminate in a more favorable experience than the first. This game is amazing!

While taking heavy inspiration from old Castlevania titles, this new inclusion into the series is far and away a greater departure from the source material. It builds on what made the first game great and improves upon almost every aspect. The controls are tight and responsive, and no death feels cheap, rather they made me feel accountable for my mistakes and gave me room for improvement. It is largely based on trial and error, like many games of the early 90s, and in similar fashion it offers a high level of difficulty. You will die, over and over, and over again. In fact, it became so difficult that I had to switch over to casual mode after a while to see the game to its end. The caveat being that in veteran mode, the default difficulty setting, you experience “knock back” when you are hit, meaning that a hit from an enemy can knock you off platforms if you are not careful. With the ante being upped in this game, there are tighter platforming sections than in the first, that require precise movement and timing, and it can all be ripped out from under your feet with a quick misstep or enemy encounter. If you enjoy a challenge, you will love the game for constantly beating you down, but not punishing you to the point where you give up. While checkpoints are spread further apart than I remember them being in Curse of the Moon, CotM 2 rewards perseverance through its difficulty that is sure to satisfy those who are able to make progress.

Curse of the Moon 2 boasts an astounding level of content for a retro-style title. There are multiple different endings to experience depending on the conditions in which you beat the game. I will try to avoid spoiling anything, but if you want to see everything on offer here, you will have to beat the game a total of 13 times. While this is clearly excessive, and I would be lying if I told you I powered through it, it does allow for a great deal of replay value. I believe my first playthrough I clocked in at a little over an hour. Factor in the increasing difficulty of subsequent playthroughs due to the required conditions, I believe this game can keep you occupied for over 15 hours at the very least. Mind you that is only if you wish to see every ending. I believe to a certain extent; the game overstays its welcome. Like I said, I did not sit down to see everything it has to offer, but I did enjoy the time I had with it. I don’t really see myself continuing any time soon; however, it is nice to know that it is still sitting there on my MicroSD should I ever wish to revisit it.

Like I mentioned above, the graphics and sound are more of what we loved from Curse of the Moon, but seemingly handled with more care this time around. It is clear that Inti Creates has taken their experience from development of the first game to really perfect the art. Backgrounds and foregrounds are more vibrant and full of life, and boss battles are exactly what you would expect from the Bloodstained veterans. The music has been crafted with far more intensity during boss fights, and each new song is better than the last. It is really just a great throwback to a forgotten era while kicking it up a notch.

Gameplay is similar to the first installment, however there is new variety in the characters that are introduced this time around. You have the classic Zangetsu, with his demon slaying sword that functions just as it did in the first game. You are given the ability to power up this sword, giving you more combat techniques with every swipe. Then you have the spear wielding Dominique who is able to attack vertically as well as horizontally. She is also able to bounce off enemies and lanterns, allowing her to reach places the other characters cannot. Next you have Robert, a rifleman who is capable of attacking long range, laying prone, and wall jumping. He is rather squishy though and his basic attack doesn’t do nearly as much damage as the rest of the troop. Finally you have Hachi, the mech-riding corgi (as in the dog) that can hover through the air and ground pound enemies and questionably built floors. I found myself using Hachi a lot during boss fights because he really packs a punch, is very functional with his flying ability, and can also become invincible by spending weapon points. Each character is fun in their own right, and I really enjoyed my time with each of them. In addition (and I hope I’m not spoiling too much), you will eventually have access to the characters from the first Bloodstained game, and they play identical to their earlier counterparts.

Overall, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is an incredible sequel to an already fantastic game. It improves upon every aspect of the first, and it is evident that the developers put a lot of care into the production of this game. If you’re itching for 8-bit action that looks and plays better than the games it emulates, look no further than CotM 2. I would recommend this game to any retro video game enthusiast. This may be the quintessential retro experience and I say this unabashedly, it is a masterpiece.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 23/25 or 92/100

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Review

The result of a crowdfunding promise, Curse of the Moon is a love affair between retro-style gameplay and modern capabilities that is sure to whet the appetite. An accompaniment to the modern Ritual of the Night, CotM fulfills its purpose as a throwback to the fond memories of the late 80s and early 90s. I must confess, my only experience with Castlevania (the source material in which Bloodstained draws inspiration) is as a toddler who lacked the knowledge, experience, and fine motor skills required to navigate Dracula’s castle. I remember looking at the cover art and being blown away by the giant castle and a vampire’s apparition looming overhead. It was one of my first experiences with a NES cartridge and I had wholeheartedly hoped I could progress past the first screen. To no avail as I aimlessly wandered back and forth, not knowing how to climb stairs. Much like my poor, stair-climbing abilities, Curse of the Moon is a game that never really comes off the ground floor. Set atop the foundations laid by Castlevania; from a gameplay standpoint, CotM doesn’t do anything new to help it stand above the NES games and countless clones that have come before.

The game revolves around Zangetsu, a warrior with the moon’s curse cast upon him by demons. This is what fuels his vengeful crusade against any and all demons he may come across in the hour and a half it takes to play through. Zangetsu will encounter a few friends or foes along the way, the likes of which is determined by the player’s choice to interact, attack, or ignore these encounters. There is a total of 6 different possible endings that are contingent on the combinations of choices that can be made. Miriam, Alfred, and Gebel are all playable characters should the player choose to let them tag along and they can be switched in and out on a whim. However, should the player choose to slay these three protagonists, Zangetsu will be the only playable character as the troop’s powers are added to his arsenal. Should you choose to ignore the three of them completely you will be forced to navigate the game alone, while also only having the basic skills Zangetsu starts with. The multiple endings depend on the varied choices that the player can make regarding the main characters.

Each character has their own unique set of skills and methods of attack that keep the game fresh over time. The variation in move-sets allow for a wide array of ways to approach the obstacles that stand between you and the demon Gremory. Different characters’ skills can help the player traverse various sections of the map, which is riddled with alternative passages and shortcuts to discover. The dead guide the way as the skeletal remains of previous adventurers always help point you toward the fastest, and often easiest way around. In order to access these areas, you will likely need the aid of one of the three other protagonists, so it is not recommended to slay them or ignore them on your journey. Like many things in life, it is much harder to go it alone. In this respect, the player is accountable for some level of difficulty through his actions, even after the difficulty has been set at the beginning of the run. This creates a much more interesting, tactical approach to how the player wants to complete the game. As mentioned before, choice does matter, and it goes beyond the parameters of story endings. It is for this reason that I found myself replaying the game a lot. And I mean A LOT. It takes about an hour and a half to complete the game under the easiest of circumstances; now times that by five and adjust according to difficulty and that is how much time I have sunk into the game. And I still feel there is more to be done. Add the varying unlockable difficulties and a completely separate boss mode and this game becomes highly replayable, which is something I find rare in the games I usually invest in.

Graphically, the game does what it intends. It’s a fantastic tribute to an 8-bit era, while pulling several punches to keep the game playable in this century. Scrolling backgrounds are lovely and some boss fights, while oddly out of place, seem to really serve to modernize these visuals. It does not look like the 8-bit games of old, rather updating that nostalgic art to how we remember them. It masterfully finds a balance between a traditional style while using modern capabilities to raise it to the next level. It is both nostalgic and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. As far as sound goes, it follows much in line with the visuals. Reminiscent 8-bit melodies really transport the player to a dimension where video games never evolved further than the NES and Master System. It didn’t seem out of place at all, in fact it all came together rather nicely. Auditory and visual senses complimenting each other to recreate gaming in the early 90s.

All around, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon succeeds in what it sets out to be. A warmly welcomed compliment to a much larger, sophisticated game, and a nod to our dust-covered older hardware. Anybody looking to pluck some nostalgic heartstrings will love this addition to their gaming library, as it does everything its inspiration did, but looks way better.

Sound: 4/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 4/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 20/25 or 80/100

Miles and Kilo Review

Nothing is stronger than the bond of a boy and his dog. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what I did when I picked up Miles & Kilo. An 8-bit 2D platformer featuring a boy and an adorable puppy, what’s not to love? I had so much fun with every well-timed jump, slide, and thrown fruit during my time with this game. Miles and Kilo prove that this genre is far from dead.

Miles & Kilo follows the story of a young man and a lovable dog as they become stranded on a mysterious archipelago. Due to the nefarious meddling of a ghastly specter, Miles’ plane crashes and a group of misfit monsters steal the parts to keep the duo landlocked. The protagonists are forced to give chase to these monsters so they can rebuild their plane and escape the dreaded island. With a plot that is easy to follow and a few quick-witted jokes, Miles & Kilo makes for an enjoyable experience that is fun for any age. It appeals to older gamers who like to reminisce about platformers of the late 80’s and 90’s, and younger gamers who will fall in love with the protagonists and fast paced action that is on display here.

The gameplay is a throwback to a simpler time. There are two buttons, jump and action. Jumping can be done at a variety of heights depending on how long the button is held for and is the key to getting through some of the trickier platforming sequences. The action button does anything from sliding under blocks, to throwing fruit or somersaulting into enemies. Although the control scheme is simple, mastering these techniques is essential for the later levels and can prove to be difficult. The protagonists will travel across beaches, over mountains, and even through a volcano, jumping on enemies and landing just right onto certain platforms.

There are a variety of enemies as every bird, frog, and spider on this island is after you. There are enough enemies to keep the game fresh throughout the entirety of the playthrough. The game strikes a great balance between levels chalked full of obstacles while not being too long or overcrowded. The levels are all about 30 seconds long and can be completed in a constant forward motion. Be warned though, there are no checkpoints, so if you die, you’re back to square one at the beginning of each level. I personally did not miss a checkpoint system, and with the levels being so brief, I think the game benefits from their exclusion. You are forced to memorize how to navigate the world and learn from your mistakes. While this does not exempt you from frustration, there is a great sense of relief when you finally complete a section you have been stuck on for a long time. It is that relief that makes each minute of this 2-hour long adventure worth it.

The music and graphics are what is expected from a late 80’s inspired platformer. The game features 8-bit sprites that look surprisingly good from afar. It is hard to objectively critique these aesthetic choices in 2019, because graphically this game can’t hold a candle to contemporary releases, but the developers were never aiming to compete in that respect, and that’s okay. Instead, this game has a very retro look and feel that plays at the nostalgic heart strings of any 80’s or 90’s kid. Even the music is reminiscent of old 8-bit adventures. While no melody is particularly memorable, they do evoke deeply buried memories of the somewhat catchy, somewhat annoying video game tunes of old. From both visual and audio standpoints, Miles & Kilo accomplishes what it sets out to do by throwing the gamer back in time. Why do I get the sudden urge to blow in a cartridge and hang video game cover art pin-ups along my bedroom walls?

Miles & Kilo, while only filling a couple of hours, has a shocking amount of replay value. There is a feature that ramps up the difficulty by constantly motioning the player forward which is perfect to enable on a second run. In addition to this, there are ranks dished out at the end of every level, encouraging gamers to go back and perfect the run. These perfectionist motivators are never over-imposing, and the consistent replays are actually a blast to engage in. Upon completion of the game for the first time, a time-attack mode is unlocked, exploring further ways to engage gamers to put in some overtime hours.

Ultimately, what this game boils down to is a lof of fun in an old-school package. I highly recommend it for every fan of 2D platformers or any gamer reminiscent of an age gone by. With a cute protagonist like Kilo, your local SPCA is praying you adopt this one, if for nothing else than to give this game a good home.

Sound: 3/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 3/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 18/25, or 72/100