Getting Biblical on your ass.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, from Ignition, loosely follows the biblical Book of Enoch and casts the player in the titular role of Enoch as he is charged by God to hunt down the Watchers, fallen Angels, and return them to Heaven for judgement. For those of you now wishing that you had spent more time at Sunday school, don’t panic. An in depth knowledge of this biblical tome is not required tp enjoy the game. In fact, due to the sometimes confusing events that happen in El Shaddai, it is likely better that you don’t go into the game with any Biblical preconceptions.
El Shaddai is, at its heart, an action game. Players are tasked with tracking down and beating these fallen Angels and along the way will find themselves fighting all manner of strange foes. The action quickly changes from the 3D fighting to a more two-dimensional platforming form with alarming regularity, keeping the player both on their feet and invested in what is happening on screen.
The combat in El Shaddai is incredibly simple, with a surprising amount of depth. There is only one button used to attack, seemingly making the game a button mashers dream. But simply slapping that button as quickly as possible will only work for so long. Players will need to use timing to get the most of that button, along with combining the attacks with other moves, such as blocking or jumping. This method actually works quite well perhaps even more so due to the limitation of the weapons available.
There are only three weapons in El Shaddai. The player begins with the Arch, which is a light, quick weapon that does moderate damage. They will then come across the games projectile weapon, the Gale, floating darts which can be launched at distant enemies. The final weapon is the Veil, a set of gauntlets that can be combined to form a shield. This weapon is both heavy and slow, but provides quite a punch. As the player progresses, they will come across enemies that are more susceptible to one weapon over the others and success in combat will largely depend on using the correct weapons at the correct time.
Throughout his journey, Enoch will bump into Lucifel. Easy to recognise in his smart suit and chatting with God on his mobile phone, Lucifel will provide the opportunity to save the game, handy as the game does become quite difficult. Enoch’s foes are an eclectic bunch that suffer from a lack of variety, both in the way they look as old foes are often recycled with new colour schemes, and in the way they attack, with the same moves repeated throughout. Reaching one of the Watchers will give way to a boss battle, which can only be described as strange. At times, I was unsure as to whether I was supposed to win or lose in these battles, as it seemed to have little or no relevance to the game, with the game continuing no matter what.
But I think that the reality is that El Shaddai is about the visual experience above everything else, and it is perhaps this that the player will take away, along with a few feelings of confusion. Visually the game is both stunning and bizarre. Featuring a whole host of different artistic styles, the player will be assaulted by eye-candy from the very beginning. Anime stylings, bold geometric shapes and acid-trip swirling colours can all be found in the game. In this aspect, variety is key and each level will provide the player with something different to look at and enjoy.
Despite all of the pretty environments to travel through, the actual gameplay does become repetitive.This is in part due to the lack of variety amongst the enemies, but also in part because there is not much to do other than move forward, fight, move forward etc. There is not really anything resembling a puzzle in the game, and the story with its vagueness is largely unsatisfying. The platforming stages are flawed due to the fixed camera damaging the perspective and providing plenty of accidental plunges into doom.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a strange game overall, possibly one of the strangest I have played. It is certainly stunning to look at and, for the most part, enjoyable to play. But the repetition, the flawed platforming and the vagueness of the story all take their toll on the experience. Nonetheless, an experience is what this game is, and one that I would recommend everyone at least try. Using the Marmite analogy, you will either love it, or hate it.