Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is the follow-up to the original 2018 8-bit retro platformer. Ironically, the original game was a Kickstarter stretch goal for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which meant expectations were not really that high. However, Curse of the Moon surprised everyone by being so much more than just a novelty platformer. Although it was short Curse of the Moon turned out to be a great homage to Castlevania III, and offered one of the most authentic Castlevania experiences in a long time. Since it was so well received, it’s no surprise that the game spawned a sequel, but this time the pressure was on to deliver an even better experience for retro fans.
Curse of the Moon 2 sees the return of the master swordsman Zangetsu, who this time around is joined by three new companions. Apparently, some new demonic stronghold has popped up and Zangetsu sets out to purge it. Along the way, he encounters the spear-wielding healer, Dominique, the sharpshooter, Robert, and Hachi, a corgi operating a steampunk mech. It is clear from the inclusion of Hachi that the game doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as the original and leans more towards the goofy style of Ritual of the Night. As with the original game each character has their own abilities and sub-weapons, but this time Zangetsu doesn’t get to fight them or the option to sacrifice them in return for new abilities. Instead, the game offers three distinct difficulty options that range from “Casual” where characters have unlimited lives and no knockback, to “Legend” which will make even Castlevania veterans break out a sweat.
As much as we enjoyed the 8-bit aesthetic of Curse of the Moon, we were hoping that the series would venture into 16-bit territory for the sequel. Unfortunately, this is not the case and CotM2 still looks like an NES title. The 2D, 8-bit visuals still look great, especially in the case of bosses, but lacks the novelty factor of the original. It also doesn’t help that with only 8 levels in the game a lot of them feel overly familiar. From rivers of lava with floating platforms to slippery ice-covered floors, there’s not much here that hasn’t been done to death before. The series also continues to skirt the original Castlevania titles in terms of certain design elements.
It might just be a personal preference, but to us, it felt like the level design in CotM2 is markedly worse than the original. Not only are there plenty of small, moving platforms to traverse, but the amount of enemies getting in your face or hurling projectiles while you are trying to do so has also been bumped up. To make matters even more frustrating, the controls are still sticking very closely to the 8-bit era. This means that jumping feels extremely stiff and following down bottomless pits is a frequent occurrence unless playing on “Casual” difficulty. CotM2 also suffers from excessive padding that will be sure to frustrate some players.
The first playthrough isn’t too bad, but we were disappointed to find that the “Episode 2” that we unlocked was simply the same eight levels again, but harder. The only difference is that players have access to one less character and that the bosses have additional attacks that make them even more brutal. The different paths through the levels are a nice touch, though, and players who stick with it will also get the opportunity to play with some familiar faces. Sadly, according to Steam, less than half of players even managed to complete the first episode, so the difficulty might just be a little too unbalanced for some. Praise should go to INTI CREATES for including a two-player mode in the game, where both players can take control of a Zangetsu and share the remaining characters.
As with the visuals, the audio in CotM2 stays very true to the 8-bit sounds of the NES era. Unfortunately, none of the new tracks are quite as catchy or memorable as the previous game. The sound effects are also decent, but unspectacular. We’ve already mentioned the stiff controls, but this is something that all retro fans will be familiar with. Newcomers might have a tougher time though, especially with the increased enemy count. It is also annoying how easy it is to accidentally activate certain character abilities, such as Hachi’s hovering by accident. CotM2 almost feels like a puzzle game at times as certain sections are tailor-made for specific characters. Unfortunately, this means that losing that character to a cheap shot can make the whole experience a lot more frustrating. Also, the checkpoints before boss fights often require players to fight through a horde of enemies just to reach the boss again, which makes the frustration of losing a character during the fight even worse.
CotM2 is a game that retro fans who enjoy challenging and unforgiving titles will enjoy. Unfortunately, fans of the original Curse of the Moon and more modern titles might not like it as much due to the unbalanced difficulty. Taking the time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each character to use them where they are the most efficient will help a lot. However, spamming the hover button and invincibility ability of Hachi can also get players far, which feels a bit cheap. Overall, we didn’t enjoy Curse of the Moon 2 as much as the original game and while there are plenty of improvements it also feels like the game took a few steps backward in many regards. As such we recommend CotM2 to players who relish a tough challenge and have the patience to repeat levels over and over again to reach all the endings. Everyone else should probably give the game a shot once it is heavily discounted.
- OS: Windows 7, 8.1, 10
- Processor: 2Ghz or faster processor
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: 512MB VRAM (NVIDIA GeForce)
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Storage: 500 MB available space