Published and developed by Ignition Entertainment, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an action game inspired by the apocryphal Book of Enoch. The player – as Enoch – tries to prevent the fallen angels from bringing the flood. A biblical tale may not sound like an exciting premise for a video game, but if you add in gameplay like Devil May Cry, the art style of Okami, and a modern-day take on the characters (Lucifel contacts God on a cell phone, and Enoch’s only wearing a pair of designer jeans under his armor), you’ve got a recipe for the sleeper hit of the summer.
Platforms: PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Ignition Entertainment
Genre: Biblical Platforming Action
Release: July 26, 2011
ESRB Rating: Teen
El Shaddai’s demo starts out with an in-depth description of which buttons you need to remember, which are very basic – jump, block, move, and purify. You can use L1 to steal your enemy’s weapons when they’re unconscious and automatically purify it, since it’s tainted by the demons. After using it on your enemies, it gets tainted by them again, so you have to purify again by hitting L1. “Take heart, Enoch,” the game tells you, “if anyone can purify a weapon, it’s you—God’s chosen one!” The two weapons you can use in this demo are the Arch, which is a wickedly curved blade, and the Gale, which shoots darts. The demo ends as you are about to get the third weapon, the Veil, which is a pair of gauntlets that can also act as a shield.
The artwork in El Shaddai is absolutely stunning. Even the pause screen is filled with beautiful moving shapes and colors. Ezekiel’s level is the one you play in the demo, and hers is full of natural beauty. As you work your way through it, you destroy demons and unlock items and more weapons. The Flame of Power “raises Enoch’s latent abilities,” and the Light of Blessing restores your armor – his feather armor over his jeans. He’s shirtless once your armor is broken down – shirtless with his designer jeans. You know, just like in the bible.
While the game can seem a little unforgiving, it’s mostly a matter of getting adjusted to the gameplay. The battles can be difficult, but timing attacks and blocks is crucial in defeating foes. There’s also a recovery option – as Enoch is about to hit the ground after being knocked out, you can hit L1, R1, Square, and X to trigger a recovery. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, you pop back up again, armor fully restored and ready to go.
There are also side-scrolling moments which are just as beautiful as the rest of the game. Enoch must make his way across this part by riding waves from platform to platform. The sky changes as the sun goes across the sky and the moon rises, inverting the colors on the screen. Everything about the demo feels like a water color painting brought to life.
The game does suffer from some slight perspective issues. It reminded me of Hades in the original God of War game, in which you would try to jump to other platforms and one slight miscalculation would dump you down into lava. It takes a well-timed and perfectly-aimed double jump to make it through some of these areas. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easier, but the first few times are definitely ones that elicit some language Enoch would probably not approve of.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron looks stunning, has a breathtaking score, and feels like games you already know and love. Keep a lookout for it when it launches for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on July 26.