The Average Gamer

El Shaddai Review (360)

I don’t know much about the Dead Sea Scrolls. As far as I’m aware they’re like the Star Wars expanded universe books but with Christianity instead of Jawas; padding out the world around the main story but not really important enough to make it into the “canon”. El Shaddai practically insists that before starting the game not only should I have read everything remotely related to religious texts, but I should be ready to take an exam at a moment’s notice.


Even then, the religious backing to El Shaddai almost seems like an afterthought to give a little more flavour and gravitas to a hyper serious but ultimately goofy 3rd person character action game about a silly blonde bloke wordlessly trying to kill a couple bosses while wearing a nice pair of jeans. Your character Enoch is tasked with stopping “fallen angels” from hanging out on Earth because they’re creating cannibalistic anthropomorphic chibi-sausages.

Probably sounds like I’m making this up, right? I’m not.

The narrative doesn’t really get any clearer and its incongruity isn’t a selling point. It’s not the right kind of nonsensical where you can enjoy the ride regardless – and almost because – of the poor storytelling and weirdness. It doesn’t make a lick of sense and makes no effort to engage the player on an emotional or even mental note. Things often happen that aren’t explained: some boss fights immediately end after you’re hit once and the story will continue on regardless; you’ll have a cutscene dedicated to one character’s appreciation of an umbrella; the previously-mentioned sausages will hang out in a 2D level and play with some balloons.

I’m still not joking, by the way.

Suffice to say, the story isn’t enough of a draw. When you play character action the combat should be the most important part, except El Shaddai doesn’t excel there either. It has some novel ideas but they don’t end up working out. The control system is incredibly minimal, so much so that I’m left wondering if the game was initially developed for the PSP. The developers have neglected both trigger buttons and the right control stick. Not only this, jump and attack are both mapped to an extra button rather than being used for an alternative move. This means that attacking is limited to hammering at one button and occasionally holding it down to charge.

El Shaddai tries an interesting approach to carrying weapons where you’ll steal them from enemies depending on which would be better suited to the current situation, except that’s hampered by two things: First, finding out what to use is incredibly reliant on trial and error with no clear on-screen indication that your attacks are more effective; second, the weapon you’re holding is directly related to how easily you can traverse through later platforming stages.

I actually had to reload a save because I needed to jump onto moving ground and I wasn’t holding the weapon that makes your character able to fall at a smoother rate. This made me reluctant to change gear from then on as it could mean I might have to waste time again.

It’s unfortunate that the development was so clearly focused on the art style. El Shaddai is genuinely gorgeous and every level is an incredible vista, but because of everything else I was uninterested in paying that much attention. There’s a lot of wasted potential here and it’s sad that this is the result.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is available now on PS3 and Xbox 360


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