Reviewed: October 12, 2011
Released: July 26, 2011
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is perhaps one of the single most unique games Iíve "experienced" on this generation of console, and can best be described as interactive art with a heavy dose of combat all infused with serious spiritual overtones. The story behind Ascension of the Metatron springs from the Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish script that deals with God, angels, and other heavenly and not-so-heavenly creatures. The story is able to tread the thin line of spiritual ambiguity without infringing on the beliefs of Christian, Jew, or the disbelief of Atheists, but in the end, the narrative is merely there to move our main character from one combat situation to the next and frequently interrupt the proceedings with rambling commentary that nobody really cares about.|
El Shaddai is first and foremost an action-combat game that relies on the use of one of three weapons that you must steal from your enemies. As expected, certain enemies are more susceptible to damage from certain types of weapons, so you are frequently trying to switch out weapons by finding the enemy with the one you need and stealing it from him through a clever block and parry reversal tactic. With weapon of choice in hand you can then merely beat out a steady rhythm with the X button and occasionally throw in a block move to mix things up. Depending on your weapon, you may or may not have ranged attack abilities, and if you really want, you can master a few advanced combos, but they are never really necessary; even in the boss battles.
Itís quite apparent that the primary focus of this title was in its unique and visionary art style, and in those regards, the game is unequalled in its original and pure visual splendor. The graphics were my main driving force in continuing to play the game, one mindless battle after another, just to see what cool colors, lack of color, 2D, or 3D screen they had in store for me next. No two screens or game levels are the same in any way. El Shaddai, truly is a marvel to behold, and anyone with a penchant for art and design would love to be watching over someoneís shoulder while they beat their way through this interactive art gallery.
The designers are so fond of their artwork that they wonít even distract you with a HUD. Your own damage is reflected in your attire as your clothes are slowly tattered and ripped away until you are nearly naked and dead. Ironically, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, something you can only appreciate after you have completed the game at least once and can unlock the HUD for future replays. The game isnít necessarily any easier to win with the combat information actually displayed on the screen, but I found it odd that the designers treat the HUD like a bonus.
The soundtrack somehow manages to live up to the visuals with some truly inspired music that blurs the lines of action and adventure with a bit of gothic religious flair. Sound effects are minimal and as repetitive as the actions that drive them, but the voice work is solid, despite the laughable script that has one guy frequently talking to God on his cell phone reporting your progress.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a linear action-brawler, and at some basic levels of design no more ambitious than your standard God of War game. What the game offers in truly awe-inspiring graphics and memorable music, it equally lacks in repetitive button mashing combat, muddled story, cryptic boss battles, and pointless gameplay. Youíll marvel at each new screen while simultaneous cursing the process to see the next work of art, and likely give up before ever making your way to the end of this 10-12 adventure. You can replay for higher scores or to experience the game with the HUD it should have had in the first place, but one trip through this interactive art gallery is likely more than enough for most gamers.