Monday, 19 September 2011

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - 360/PS3

A game based on ancient religious texts, it’s safe to say that El Shaddai doesn't exactly follow a traditional videogame script. However, the quest to round-up seven fallen angels and return them to Heaven at the behest of God makes for a thoroughly engaging yarn.

You play Enoch, a heavenly scribe clad in designer jeans and brilliant white armour, who ploughs through beautifully surreal locations to fulfil his quest.

At the heart of El Shaddai is a robust and enjoyable combat system, with Enoch mixing up styles and weapons to take down the game's colourful cast of foes. But rather than switch between them at will, he has to steal them from enemies to gain the upper hand - a system which encourages creative play.

Slashing sword attacks, ranged fire and a heavy-hitting punch and shield combo are the choices available and with bosses requiring the player to be adept at all three, it pays to experiment with what's available.

On easier difficulty settings it's possible to button mash your way through encounters, but crank it up a notch and blocks, dodges and timely attacks are the only way to make progress.

Visually, El Shaddai is quite incredible, with some stunning locations to romp around in. Grainy monochrome worlds, fizzing neon environments, sprawling futuristic cityscapes and organic watery levels are just some of the spectacular sights. But the visual treats don't stop there, with the game constantly flipping between 3D and 2D. El Shaddai isn't afraid to chuck convention out of the window, either and adds a smattering of jaw-dropping moments which surprise and delight.

Enhancing the atmosphere is the eclectic and quite brilliant soundtrack, which successfully infuses ambient soundscapes and harmonic tribal melodies to create a spellbinding score.

It's not a perfect game, though, with several problems cropping up regularly. Enoch's platforming antics are sloppy at times, with the swirling backdrops making it difficult to judge distances, while constant and repetitive battles in the game's final third sour some of the enjoyment.

Some will find it hard to live with these problems, but as an experience, there's nothing quite like El Shaddai.

One of the most refreshing and beautiful adventures I've undertaken in some time.

PS3 version tested

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