Review: El Shaddai

For whatever reason, there aren’t many religiously-toned games on the market, but El Shaddai took the bold step and delves into the world of good versus evil on a biblical scale. While it doesn’t take place in B.C, it’s going to cause some form of controversy.

A screenshot of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (image: Konami)

The game is one of the strangest games the market has seen in a long time. Granted, it’s not a baffling as Katamari Forever, but it’s sure to raise a couple of confused eyebrows. To sum it up in a concise matter, imagine a biblically-toned Samurai Jack where the enemies are the evil cousins of Da Blob – that will be an accurate picture of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

The graphical style is very similar to the aforementioned cartoon, but instead of bright greens, reds and browns, the title opted for shades of pastel blue, pink and bright white in the early stages, and moves to more solid colours as the game goes along.

The combat is a bit of a button-masher, as there are only two keys for attacking enemies. It’s effective in its goal, and not much else is needed to dispose of the blobs of black matter. There are naturally different kinds of enemies, all varying in difficulty, but the combat is all the same.

The player makes use of a special scythe to eliminate the attackers, and since the bad guys are evil, the scythe becomes tainted with their evilness – making it turn red. In order to keep the weapon at its most destructive, the player will have to cleanse the scythe every now and again – and this sometimes need to happen in mid-combat.

As with the cleansing of the scythe, the game is biblical in nature and focuses rather heavily on religion. It’s not something that all players will be comfortable with, but at least the message isn’t forced down the player’s throat. It takes more of a “this is the story” kind of approach, than a “this is the gospel” telling of the tale.

But it’s very clear from the beginning that the player is taking orders from God, and the game even names it as such, with the player’s helper being Lucifel, who reports directly to him. The premise of the tale also surrounds bad angels.

During the opening scenes and the short tutorial, it is explained that seven angels have fallen to earth and started to cause havoc. Whether they intend to be evil or not isn’t explain in the beginning, as Lucifel only hints that they want to live among the humans.

It will be up to the player to go down to earth, hunt down the seven deserters and bring them back to heaven for punishment. The names of the fallen might be familiar to those who know their mythology, but they include Azazel.

With all the game’s eccentricities and bright colours, the game is by no means boring. The combat can become a bit monotonous at times, but there is always something different around the next corner. At least, the game will keep the player confused for a good portion of the first hour, and by that time, gamers would have been sucked into the storyline and plot twists.

It’s really not a bad game, but a couple of better third-person titles have been released in the last months. Fans of Bayonetta might find some resonance here, but thankfully the combat isn’t as over the top and the music is much better than the Japanese pop from the flying assassin.

If players don’t mind the religious overtones and the constant focus on God versus the evil of the world, then it will keep them entertained. The combat and controls are sufficient in their duties, the graphics are enough to warrant further inspection and the game mechanics all work well – a solid game if player are looking for some non-serious fun.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor