The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

‘El Shaddai’ is a Trip Worth Taking

4 min read

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This is college, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you’re a fan of video games, and drugs. Is that a fair assessment?

Then say hello to “El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron,” an unfortunately titled game trippy enough to make you wonder if one of your roommates slipped you something.

“El Shaddai” is about the Book of Enoch, a holy text that didn’t quite make the cut to get into the Bible. It follows Enoch, Noah’s great-grandfather, as he fulfills a mission from God to bring back “the Watchers,” angels who defected from Heaven and fell to Earth, earning the loyalty of humans and the wrath of God.

But that part doesn’t matter.

Mind you, if you’re interested in religion, the story here will be pretty interesting, a modern interpretation of an ancient text, if a little basic.

Here’s something you need to know about “El Shaddai”: you will feel like you are tripping balls when you’re playing it. It’s a pretty standard action game wrapped in a layer of acid thick enough to suffocate you with just how ridiculously cool everything looks.

The game bounces between vistas that look like watercolor paintings, stained glass windows, futuristic “TRON”-inspired cities, and Jimi Hendrix album covers. It’s easily one of the most visually stimulating games to come out in the last decade.

Here’s something you need to know about “El Shaddai”: the second level switches you from a standard 3-D space to move and fight in to a 2-D side-scrolling montage that takes place over the course of 365 years.

It’s constantly throwing you into crazy scenarios like that and never quite adhering to your expectations, unless your expectations are for it to unexpectedly roll credits 20 minutes in and back you out to the main menu, that is. But I don’t want to spoil everything.

Not sold yet?

Here’s something you need to know about “El Shaddai”: your guide throughout the game is Lucifel, a trendy version of Lucifer that sounds eerily like George Clooney who exists outside the spectrum of time and can therefore wear designer clothes and talk to God on a cell phone. Awesome, I know.

And apparently God doesn’t have much faith in you. Ironic, huh? You’ll run across Lucifel regularly throughout the game, and he makes no effort to hide his conversations with God. He’s constantly reassuring God that you’re up to the task of bringing back the fallen angels, and you can’t help but wonder if God really doesn’t have faith in your abilities, or if Lucifel is just trying to manipulate you. He is eventually going to become Satan, after all.

But it’s only by the grace of Lucifel that you even have a chance at succeeding. He’s the one who allows you to save your progress, not God. He’s the one who gives you useful advice, not God. He’s the one who snaps his fingers whenever you accidentally miss a jump and fall, not God.

And here’s what you really need to know about “El Shaddai”: you will accidentally miss jumps, so get cozy with your new best friend, the future Prince of Darkness. With all the absurd visual effects going on here, it can be almost impossible sometimes to accurately gauge distance when the game wants you to make complex jumps from one platform to the next. It’s frustrating sometimes, but since Lucifel just brings you back into existence without too much of a penalty, it’s not a big deal.

The action fares a lot better, a third-person melee combat game (think “Devil May Cry” or “God of War”) based around rhythm rather than complicated, multi-button combos. You’ve got one attack button and one block button, and depending on how quickly you’re hitting the attack button, whether you’re holding it down, or if you’re also blocking, your attacks will vary. It’s simple enough that pretty much anyone can get into it and appreciate the art of the game, but deep enough that if you want a finer degree of control, it’s there for you.

Beyond just the timing of your attacks, the game places a heavy emphasis on what weapon you’re using. Enemies will carry one of three types – an arching sword that looks almost like a bow, a halo that fires projectiles from afar, and a set of powerful shields that operate like big fists – and it’s up to you to weaken them and steal their weapons. Each weapon is most effective against specific enemy types, so there’s a certain satisfaction in stealing weapons in the right order.

Other than the game’s crazy visual style, the combat is its best feature. It’s definitely not perfect, by the end fluctuating between repetitive and frustrating, but it’s still decent fun.

I don’t know that I would recommend buying “El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron,” but I’d definitely recommend that you rent it. It’s wild and imaginative and completely unlike anything else you’ve ever seen.