A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Simple concepts of good and evil run through the story, which uses magical augmentation as a metaphor for modern transhumanism to suggest that humankind shouldn't mess with things they don't understand before they accidentally create physical and moral horrors.
Positive Role Models
Miriam fights on the side of good, showing courage by choosing to risk her life because she knows she can do what no one else can. She's confident and strong, though also a little bit reckless and more than happy to get into a fight.
Ease of Play
Combat is challenging -- even on the easiest difficulty setting -- with notable spikes in difficulty when encountering bosses.
Violence & Scariness
Players use swords, daggers, maces, pistols, and other 18th century weaponry to attack a wide range of fantastical creatures, including demonic knights, cats with human skull heads, and flying pigs. Blood sometimes sprays from wounds, and some enemies appear to be cut to bloody pieces. Bodies turn to embers and quickly disappear from the environment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The first boss players fight is a seemingly topless female demon, but without perceptible nipples.
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The word "hell" occasionally appears in text and spoken dialogue.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a side-scrolling action game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The gameplay is centered around bloody combat. Players control a young woman named Miriam whose strength and abilities are augmented by magical shards as she does battle against fantastical non-human demons, using swords, daggers, maces, guns, and magical attacks to kill them. Blood sometimes gushes from wounds, and some enemies break into carved pieces when defeated. Miriam is confident, capable, and willing to risk her life in order to fight a rising tide of evil on behalf of humanity, though she's perhaps also a bit reckless at times. Characters occasionally use the word "hell" in dialogue, and a female boss demon with shimmering skin appears to be topless, though her anatomy lacks nipples. Be aware, too, that this is a challenging game that could prove off-putting for players who don't enjoy dying often and losing progress when restarting at checkpoints.
Is It Any Good?
Players looking for an old-school side-scrolling action adventure game in the tradition of classics like Castlevania and Metroid will find it here. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is set in beautifully rendered, atmospheric gothic settings and is populated by lots of imaginative demon enemies, each with their own attack patterns that players need to learn in order to defeat them. Miriam's arsenal includes a satisfying array of melee and ranged weapons that ought to appeal to a variety of play styles, whether you prefer the lightning-quick short-range thrusts of a dagger or the slower but more powerful longer range attacks of whips and greatswords. But the real combat highlight is Miriam's slowly growing collection of magical attacks, some of which can wipe out an entire room of enemies with one properly-timed button tap. Indeed, knowing which weapon and attack to use at the right time is the key to working through some of the game's harder levels and boss fights.
Just as appealing is the world's mazelike design and finely crafted mapping system. Exploring the dungeons, finding secret rooms, earning the ability to access new areas, and slowly expanding the map you've revealed is rarely anything less than satisfying. There's even a tool that lets you customize how the mini-map appears during play. Admittedly, some players will grow frustrated at seeing their progress erased when they die -- including any areas of the map revealed since your last save -- which is bound to happen more often than you might like, given how hard this game is. Keep in mind, too, that success demands more than simply mashing the attack button. Learning enemy patterns and the combination attacks associated with specific weapons is vital, which may prove annoying for those who simply want to sprint and swing their way through each room. But fans of so-called "metroidvania" games aren't likely to complain much. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a welcome throwback to the challenging side-scrolling action games of decades past.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.