'Blasphemous' Team Took "Purist" Approach to Game's Pixel Art Style

Blasphemous - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy The Game Kitchen
Enrique Colinet, level designer at Spanish studio The Game Kitchen, discusses the new action platformer's unique aesthetic, as well as its local folklore and 'Dark Souls' influence.

Things are about to get bloody.

Spanish indie game studio The Game Kitchen has returned with its latest pixel art creation, Blasphemous, an action adventure game heavily inspired by local folklore and religious iconography. The new title, which began as a Kickstarter project in 2017, features a retro art style, action platforming gameplay and perhaps the most "metal" aesthetic of any game in recent memory with a blood-drenched, masked hero known as the Penitent One slicing his way through shambling hordes and behemoth monsters amidst crumbling tombstones, Gothic cathedrals and macabre manses. 

"We had this question three years ago of how a game based on Spanish folklore would look to the eyes of people outside of Spain. We have seen this a lot in Japanese games, Chinese games, games made in Sweden or Norway with Viking styles, so we were thinking how a game based on our folklore would work," level designer Enrique Colinet tells the Donkey Con Artists podcast, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter's Patrick Shanley. "We experimented and apparently it worked!"

Blasphemous draws its aesthetics from local Spanish architecture, iconography and music, explains Colinet. "We’re a little studio based in the south of Spain and we are deeply influenced by Flamenco, the parades and religious traditions that are really important in this area. All of that influenced us since we were children. It’s something that we couldn’t pretend it didn’t exist when we were making this game," he says.

Capturing that in a retro pixel art style, however, proved a challenge. "From the very beginning we wanted to be very ‘purist’ about the pixel art style," says Colinet. "That became a real problem because we were limited by the pixel art style, by the size of the screen, by the graphics, because we were trying not to use any fancy shaders or helping ourself with some 3D elements to make something easier."

"We found out that we were stepping into limitations that games had 25 years ago," he continues, "There is nothing that is not pixel art [in Blasphemous]. I think people love that fact, that the game looks exactly like something that could have been released over 20 years ago."

Outside of the local influences, Colinet says that the team also drew inspiration from the Dark Souls franchise, as well as classics like Castlevania. "We are not following the Metroidvania formula exactly," he says. "It’s a good mixture between Metroidvania game and Dark Souls, that was our intention."

One area in which Blasphemous draws from Dark Souls is in how it presents its narrative. "If you want to learn what’s happening in Cvstodia (the game's setting) before this adventure, you can just look at every item in the game to get some backstory," says Colinet. "We were interested in having this community build together this story that happened before the game started. We wanted to see the theories and how people react to this weird world that we built."

Community is important to The Game Kitchen, says Colinet. Certain content that the studio promised in the Kickstarter campaign had to be shelved during the development process, but Colinet promises that said content is on its way as free downloadable material in the future. "We have big plans for Blasphemous and based on the reaction, it’s going to be an awesome experience," he says.

Now that the game has finally arrived, Colinet is excited to see how fans experience all that Blasphemous has to offer — and also how quickly they can breeze through it. "I want to see how many ways people can break my game," he laughs, adding, "I want to see Blasphemous in [annual speedrunning charity event] Awesome Games Done Quick!"

Listen to the full interview beginning at the 21:32 mark below.