The lights are on
What do you get when you put the perverted mind of No More Heroes' Suda51, the masterful gameplay design of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, and the musical stylings of Silent Hill's Akira Yamaoka? A witty, sophomoric, intense adventure that not enough people played.
Shadows of the Damned was one of my favorite games of 2011, and if it hadn't been for the urging for friends (and assurances that it was nothing like Killer7), I may have passed on it. The title stars demon hunter Garcia (F******) Hotspur, voiced by Steve Blum. After his apartment is invaded and his girlfriend taken, he dives through a portal to hell with nothing but his trusty Johnson.
Sorry. That's his trusty talking skull friend named Johnson, not his…
Moving on. Johnson serves a number of functions throughout the game. He morphs into a variety of different guns with names like "The Boner" and "The Big Boner," and also provides exposition and half of the witty dialog. Yes, it's childish, but it never feels excessive.
This is largely because the gameplay underneath the one-liners and locker room humor is tight and engaging, with exciting set piece moments that pepper Mikami's well-known third-person perspective.
A number of puzzles arise throughout the experience, many of which deal with shadow and light. In the areas veiled by dense murk, Garcia takes continuous damage. Finding the right order to move through the dangerous zones, lighting lamps, and staying out of harms way keeps things fresh.
In some combat moments, light sources come under attack. Keeping the area illuminated is crucial, as enemies can't be wounded when moving through the shadow.
Books are littered across the varied areas of hell. Most tell part of the story of the region's boss demon, and the game is rarely more amusing than when Garcia attempts to sound out words (unsuccessfully). In one area, Garcia is sucked into the books and must fight side-scrolling bullet hell battles against a fairy tale backdrop.
Shadows of the Damned isn't a perfect game, but it was one of the best surprises of the generation. Grasshopper Manufacture has moved on, with Suda 51's next title, Killer is Dead, arriving on August 27. Shinji Mikami's new Tango Gameworks recently announced its first title, The Evil Within, to be published by Bethesda.
The chance of the Shadows of the Damned team coming back together any time soon isn't very good. That shouldn't stop you from playing, though. Even if we never get a sequel, we'll always have sushi lamps.