A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
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What's it about?
BLOODSTAINED: RITUAL OF THE NIGHT takes place in an alternate version of the 18th century in which Europeans have conducted human experiments, implanting young men and women with magical artifacts in the hopes of bestowing them with augmented strength and abilities. The experiments go awry, opening a rift between Earth and the demon world, and the last two surviving subjects -- a woman named Miriam and a man named Gebel -- are at war, the former fighting on the side of humanity, the latter attempting to bring about the apocalypse with the help of demons. Players take on the role of Miriam as she does battle with the demons, hacking and slashing at them with a variety of bladed weapons while slowly and surely earning and upgrading magical abilities that let her carry out devastating attacks with tentacles, chain swords, bones, and more. The action is set in two-dimensional side-scrolling environments such as a sea ship, town, and castle, all filled with chests, skill-bearing books, and other treasures that help Miriam recover and grow. As the game progresses, a grand, labyrinthine map is gradually revealed, with some areas inaccessible at first until Miriam gains the required ability to bypass obstacles.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Is the impact of the violence in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night affected by the fact that you're fighting monsters instead of people? Would the impact be intensified if you were fighting people? Was there a point that you found its bloody combat uncomfortable?
What did you think of Miriam's character? Is the way she is physically represented in tune with how she acts and what she says?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: 505 Games
- Release date: June 18, 2019
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Partial Nudity, Violence
- Last updated: June 21, 2019
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