Bloodborne PSX is a smart PC demake of a FromSoft classic
February has finally arrived and that means it’s FromSoftware month, baby. Elden Ring is almost here, so you best limber up, do your stretches, have a bath. Do what you need to do to prepare yourself for a colossal undertaking. One thing that might help get you in a Soulsborne headspace is Bloodborne PSX, a free PlayStation 1-esque demake of FromSoft’s gothic action-RPG.
Bloodborne PSX is the work of Lilith Walther, who’s de-made the first portion of the game up to Father Gascoigne. You’ve got the fast-paced combat, the werewolves, the screech of the Cleric Beast. Yes, it’s all there, just in a chunky-PS1-on-your-CRT aesthetic. It’s free to download off Itch.io and I’d recommend you get on it before Sony’s lawyers unsheathe their lawsuits.
Having given it a whirl, I’m super impressed. Bloodborne PSX captures FromSoft’s original game remarkably well. The atmosphere is still haunting, and as a returning Bloodborner, it’s cool retracing your steps through a different lens. Yes, it doesn’t share absolutely everything with the original game, but I reckon this is what makes Bloodborne PSX stand out. Instead of being a pretender, it does its own thing sometimes.
At one point, I was like, “Ah yes, this bit. This bit I recognise.” A cluster of baddies with pitchforks and torches stare at a roasting beast. Just beyond, a huge wooden door. In the original game, the door shakes and clatters, with the snuffling and snorting of a beast just beyond (at least, that’s how I remember it). But here, a gigantic troll burst through it without warning. I saw it as an in-game punch to the gut from Walther with a similar energy to Miyazaki’s mimics; a cheeky reminder that you’re playing her version of Bloodborne, so prepare yourself for some surprises.
And it’s one that works smartly within its PS1-era boundaries. Insight is a stat from the original game that you earn by exploring and defeating monsters. The more you earn, the more you’re able to see of the world around you. New enemies might appear, new dialogue options open up, or even new songs and spooky sounds might ring out. It’s a key aspect of FromSoft’s Bloodborne, but one that’s not immediately obvious to a new player. It’s a bit like carrying around a growing wad of cash and it opening doors for you, only the game won’t explicitly tell you which and who and what doors.
Walther could’ve easily leaned into the mystery element of Insight, but I like that she’s made it function like a bog standard key. So, some doors can only be opened with a certain amount of Insight in your back pocket, like those back in the Hunter’s Dream (a hub world of sorts). Here, you can use it to unlock the main house and its other spaces, where in the original, they’d all be wide open. It may seem like a small thing, but I thought it was neat how she’d transformed this feature into something that worked more appropriately for the constraints of her demake.
At this point, it should come as no surprise that I’m also impressed by the sheer look of demade Yharnam and its bloodthirsty residents. All the voice lines have this slight retro haze to them and the chunky characters are weirdly charming. They sit in many of the same spots as the original, and while the world isn’t as sweeping as the original, it takes the cathedrals and cobblestones and translates them well into dank corridors and tight arenas.
And if my fight with the Cleric Beast was any indication, combat is smooth. I only had the occasional lock-on issue, but otherwise it was great fun. Meaty and gratifying as ever, albeit far more forgiving than the original. Blood Vials are handed out willy nilly, as are Quiksilver Bullets. Plus, you deal far more damage than you take. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it means you’re able to lap up the bite-sized goodness without too much of the stress that comes with a pure FromSoft special.
So, do give Bloodborne PSX a go if you haven’t already. Not only is it the perfect warm-up for Elden Ring, it’s also a free way to get a feel for FromSoft’s classic. Now if Sony could hurry up and bring Bloodborne proper to PC, that would be great.