The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I’ve never taken hallucinogenic drugs, but after playing El Shaddai:
Ascension of the Metatron, I may be able to relate with people who have.
I traversed colorful landscapes with melting skylines, ascended
seemingly endless staircases, battled an angel who tried to seduce me
with dance, leapt over a happy humanoid hot dog on a beach ball, and
overheard the Devil gabbing on a cell phone with God Almighty. I often
felt like I was immersed in the dreams and nightmares of a contemporary
artist who had just fallen asleep after reading The Bible. It was a
weird and unrestrained journey, but one that stands as a stunning work
of art. El Shaddai is a visually arresting experience I wholeheartedly
This odd pilgrimage is the brainchild of Takeyasu Sawaki,
previously known for his character work on Capcom’s Okami and Devil May
Cry. Sawaki and his team at Ignition Entertainment didn’t just create an
art piece. El Shaddai’s striking visual style blends beautifully with a
fascinating story based on the Book of Enoch, a religious work that
follows the great-grandfather of Noah. In the game, Enoch must round up
angels who, through their fascination with humans, have abandoned Heaven
for Earth. If Enoch fails his mission, the Heavenly Council will
unleash a great flood to purify the land.
Returning the angels is
no easy task. They are holed up in a magical tower where every floor is
its own visually unique reality – places Sawaki and crew successfully
paint to be wondrous, weird, moving, and occasionally beyond human
understanding. The art direction doesn’t stick to an Old Testament
script; like a series of independent art exhibits, it jumps between a
surrealistic version of Tron, a children’s storybook, and other striking
styles. Few games achieve such a feeling of walking into a new plane of
The story and world unite to create a unique backdrop
for gameplay that any self-respecting gamer can pick up and play within
seconds. That’s not to say it is easy, but it is composed of familiar
mechanics. Half of the action involves arena-based combat, where Enoch
takes on three or four enemies at once. All of Enoch’s attacks are
handled with one button, and while this may sound like it limits your
options, I was surprised how many different combos I could chain
together. The combos are tied to timing; if you initiate a strike in the
middle of an attack animation, Enoch might respond with another quick
slash. If you strike at the end of an attack, Enoch may launch his foe
into the air or deliver an overhead strike. This system has a satisfying
rhythm that fits nicely with all three of Enoch’s weapons: the arch (a
bowed blade), the gale (a large ring that shoots darts), and the veil (a
circular Captain America-like shield that splits into two powerful
gauntlets). Each weapon has its own timing and combos to master, and
additional strategy is tied to purifying the weapons and calling on
Uriel, a heavenly figure who augments Enoch’s attacks.
with the game’s strange vibe, enemy damage is displayed through their
armor and clothing. You’ll know they are close to defeat when they are
nearly naked. The same goes for Enoch. A large portion of this game is
spent watching scantily clad men who look like Gap models.
enemy types and bosses are scattered throughout stages, but the true
variety comes from platforming. The colorful vistas Enoch traverses are
loaded with chasms and moving land. Thanks to a nicely designed jump
mechanic and camera tracking that does a great job of framing each jump
opportunity, Enoch can bound across dangerous paths and up shifting
towers with speed and grace. When the arch weapon is equipped, he also
gains the ability to float at the end of his jump, a technique that I
found cheapens the difficulty in a game that is already far too liberal
in its checkpoints (usually the platform you fell from, or in close
proximity to it). The platforming is a nice diversion, but most of the
thrills in these sections are tied to crazy environment designs and not
Each chapter of the game is as linear as can be. A
few collectible items and hidden levels are tucked off to the sides, but
the majority of Enoch’s time is spent heading in one direction that is
free of puzzles, locked doors, or any activities outside of fighting,
leaping, and listening to shirtless men talk. The environments are
beautiful, but I wish there would have been more reasons to explore them
When the credits began to roll, I felt like I traveled
to the Guggenheim with Charlie Kaufman on one arm and Timothy Leary on
the other. Although the story delivers a cohesive narrative arc, the
singular tangential moments of peculiarity, abstract level design, and
well-crafted combat are the main attractions. El Shaddai is a rare treat
of a game and a celebration of video games as an art form.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.
In some ways, El Shaddai feels like the polar opposite of Bayonetta,
another character action game created by a Devil May Cry veteran.
Sawaki’s colorful masterpiece foregoes complex, combo-heavy combat for
simple one-button brawling that proves surprisingly satisfying.
Likewise, it gives up the typical action game machismo, replacing it
with borderline homoeroticism that’s a breath of fresh air (if a little
shocking, given the game’s Biblical setting). Though the fighting and
platforming will keep most gamers happy, the real reason to play El
Shaddai is its visual flair. The wide-eyed joy of witnessing each new
level for the first time is more of a reward than any angel-filled
cutscene. El Shaddai’s engine may not have the pure power of Uncharted
or Gears of War, but this is easily the most beautiful game I’ve played