by Ryan Sandrey
reviewed on PS3
Ah, the Children's Illustrated Bible. Mainstay of my primary school religious education. Throughout my studies of it, however, I don't remember feeling like any of it was really videogame material. You wouldn't really want to play a videogame based on a Biblical story, would you? Ignition Tokyo think you would. Based on the events that transpire in the Book of Enoch, a book not considered part of the canon of the Old Testament by most denominations, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an action-platformer created by some of the brilliant minds behind the likes of Okami and Devil May Cry.
With such a development pedigree, it wouldn't be unreasonable to have high expectations of El Shaddai, even with its (ironically) unorthodox source material. Okami was a bizarre concept that worked, so the team clearly has experience at making unique and engaging games. However, will El Shaddai form the Holy Trinity for developer Takeyasu Sawaki, or will it be condemned to video game hell as a fallen angel?
From Darkness into Light
In El Shaddai, you play as Enoch, a mortal tasked with returning the souls of fallen angels to Heaven. Why? To stop God 'cleansing' humanity for their sins. Watched over by the red eyed, suit wearing angel Lucifel, and a band of Archangels who guide you, you set forth to the Tower, where the fallen angels have taken up residence. To fight your way through to the angels, and through their various supporters, you need weaponry. Enoch has three weapons at his disposal, each providing you with a different way of fighting. The first weapon you'll encounter is the Arch, a curved melee weapon that grants Enoch the ability to glide for a few seconds as well as slice through enemies. After using this for a while, you'll next encounter a ring called the Gale, which allows you to fire projectiles at your enemies, as well as use a shockwave attack known as a Gale Tackle. After several battles in the tower, you'll find the third weapon- the Veil. The Veil is a pair of shields that give you the ability to guard against attacks. Whilst some may be disappointed with the perceived lack of weaponry, the game suits the small arsenal that it bestows upon Enoch. Adding to the problem is 'deterioration', where the corrupt nature of the enemies rubs off on your weapon, making it less effective. If that happens, you can 'purify' the weapon and it'll be back to full strength and effectiveness. You have to keep an eye on it though.
Throughout your hack and slashing adventures as Enoch, Freemen will provide you with snippets of information to help you understand the story and the mechanics, which helps with the daunting task of understanding what exactly is going on. Even if you can't recall parts of the story that you've already experienced, El Shaddai helps you, with the save points (Lucifel) recounting the story to God via a mobile phone, further helping your understanding of the story.
It's a beautiful day for slaughter
As mentioned previously, El Shaddai is primarily a hack and slash experience, with rhythmic button pressing being the order of the day. As well as button mashing, combos are strung together by a series of well-time button presses. Defeating enemies allows you to gain orbs that improve Enoch's latent abilities and along the way you can pick up various power-ups which help you by regenerating your armour and other things. Pretty standard stuff, really. However, like the rest of El Shaddai, the game mixes it up by switching from 3D hack and slash to 2D platformer at certain points. This helps keep the game fresh and engaging, even as Enoch is under attack physically and against his soul at all times. He's having a tough-time of things.
A unique experience, fantastic visuals, deep engaging story.
Game mechanics too simplistic by today\'s standards. Very little replayability. 3D platforming irritating.