Bloodstained Review

Castlevania kitsch

Milan Kundera died this week.  94 years old. Which means he wrote The Unbearable Lightness of Being in his 50s.  It surprised me to learn that as I always felt it had the energy of someone much younger.

Kundera railed against kitsch. He defined it as an “aesthetic ideal” based in narcissistic sentimentality. In his case, he meant social systems with fake realities. But I also like the very simple definition of a naïve imitation. That said, kitsch can also be appreciated in an ironic way (like a 60s lava lamp).

As heavy-handed as it is, I think there’s value in stripping the artifice away from media and seeing what’s underneath. In the case of Bloodstained (terrible name), if you take away the kitsch (awkwardly sexualized character design and unintelligible storyline), what you’re left with is a very solid imitation of Symphony of the Night. And the question I keep asking myself: is it trying to be ironic?

You know, regular battle armor

The story is straight D-level camp that I’m giving the benefit of the doubt was made intentionally bad (it probably wasn’t). The dialogue is beyond terrible and NPCs appear out of thin air at random points on the map.  The graphics are nice enough in motion (a little bit of a weird shine to them), but the character models are painful to look at it. That said, it picks the schlock lane and sticks to it. Which is more bearable than something like Neon White, which oscillates between hard-boiled grit and middle-school toilet humor. 

The game itself has a lot of nice evolutions and touches: cooking mechanics, shard collecting, 8-bit detours. And even if it is a blatant and awkward imitation, it’s admirably imitating one of the greatest games of all time, which means combat feels good and it’s fun to play, kitsch and all. I had no problem coming back to it as the tried-and-true dopamine loop of learning new moves and unlocking more and more of the map pulls you forward (100% map completion is such an addicting goal).

It’s amazing that after 25 years Symphony of the Night remains at the top of its class, continuing to provide the foundation on which fun distractions like Bloodstained continue to be built upon.

Review: ★★★

Memory: 8-Bit segments that play surprisingly well

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Owen is a writer based out of Denver and currently preparing his first novel PUSH PULL for publication. In the meantime, feel free to explore his meandering thoughts, movie and videogame op-eds and situational playlists. If you know him from another life, this is a chance for exposure to his creative endeavors.