If the idea of cavorting before a hipster guardian angel who communicates with God on a cell phone and doing battle with minions of a dreadlocked Michael Jackson-alike who vogues in front of the screen whilst you’re engaged in combat isn’t an immediate turnoff, then El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron might just be weird enough for you.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron takes its inspiration from the Apocryphal book of Enoch. The more devout of thee in the audience can correct me if i’m wrong, but from what i could gather Enoch is a character from the Holy Bible book of Genesis who was a man of great faith, that turned out to be the great grandfather of Noah. In the game you are Enoch, a denim jeans clad hero fighting to restore order in Heaven by purifying truant angels to prevent the great flood. According to Genesis, angels had descended to earth and were making babies, known as Nephilim, with mortal women. This act of betrayal by the angels and humans was so detestable to the Big Guy upstairs that it inspired the watery Etch-a-Sketch end of the world. Talk about a jealous lover!
It’s a Biblicalish tale with a very Japanese style. Think Bayonetta and Dante’s Inferno (the not-classic game, not the classic book) by way of Davey and Goliath on acid. The play style is hack and slash with platformer tendencies. It does both competently. The art style is beyond gorgeous. Any number of screenshots would make decent wall hangings in your suburban home.
The 11 levels of the game sans one take place in a colorful and diversely envisioned netherworld. The one level not like the others involves a bizarre motorbike chase with Transformers-, no, Gobot-like nemesis’s (f Michael Bay in the ear for ruining my childhood memories) on your tail in a futuristic Blade Runner-esque cityscape.
Most of the rest of the game involves doing battle with the fan club of puffy pantaloons-wearing fallen angels who don All-Seeing Eye of God masks (more popular in heaven on Halloween than Guy Fawkes masks) in boss battles. It’s like if the back of a one dollar bill came to life… and wanted to kill you. Illuminati take note.
And now the verdict, in which rhubarb doom angles for a coveted AGN Game Critic Award. Using a 5 point scale we have...
Gameplay - 3.5: The simple control scheme is easy to learn and adequately responsive. It's not uncommon to misjudge jumps, but i'd attribute that more to being dazzled by the purty visuals more than due to crappy controls. All in all a relatively frustration-free, controller tossing-less experience.
Presentation - 5: Released in 2011 alongside such visual wonders as Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Battlefield 3 and Rayman Origins, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron dazzles with stunningly beautiful graphics. The vaguely decipherable story, based on an excised chapter from the numero uno best seller of all time, is served well by the marvelous artsy fartsy style.
Sound - 4: Though the clip above from the Japanese version cannot attest, the voice acting is excellent, featuring a Shakespearean actor in the lead and a guy from the Harry Potter films as your "I've got God on speed dial!" pal and convenient save station. The musical score is fitting if not somewhat unremarkable. Sound effects do their job well.
Replayability - 3: There are a whole host of bonuses to be had upon completion of your first playthrough. There are cinematics, sketches, harder difficulties, and extra costumes to unlock. If you're careful to collect all six of the "Prophecies of Ishtar" entries you'll gain access to an outfit that basically makes you invincible, which is handy for repeat playthroughs to pick up any spare cheevos left hanging.
Multiplayer - 0: Thankfully, Ignition Entertainment chose not to tack a pointless multiplayer mode onto this little gem. Here is a case where a zed in the ratings category is a badge of honor. No need for multiplayer here. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a completely satisfying single player experience.
Final Score - 4: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a video game not unique by type, but by style, and for that reason alone is worth a long lingering look. It can be had brand new for under $20 at Amazon and Gamestop (got mine on sale for $14.99 at newegg.com) and at that price is quite the Eighth Commandment busting steal.