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El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - hands-on impressions

by Steven Williamson on 11 August 2011, 14:17

Tags: Ignition Entertainment, RPG

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Heavenly fighting action from the guys who brought us Okami

Japanese gamers adore El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Released in the East earlier this year, Ignition Entertainment’s fusion of fast-paced combat, bizarre monsters and surreal, anime-style hand-drawn art design has “wowed” gamers and critics alike, who have described it as a mix between Bayonetta, Okami and Child Of Eden – all great games in their own right.

With development led by Takeyasu Sawaki (Devil May Cry, Steel Battalion and Okami) and Producer Masato Kimura (Devil May Cry, Okami, Resident Evil and Viewtiful Joe), it’s come as no surprise that El Shaddai offers something truly special in terms of visual design, but unlike some games born out of 'The Land Of The Rising Sun', it’s refreshing that it also boasts a theme and narrative that the Western World can also identify with.

El Shaddai is steeped in religious imagery and Biblical themes that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has a belief in God, or a mindful knowledge of the Bible. Inspired by events in the Old Testament's apocryphal 'Book of Enoch,' El Shaddai sticks firmly to the realms of fantasy and seeks to surprise you at every turn with its unique level design and bizarre characters. Despite its wackiness, the tale Of God, Lucifel and fallen angels, resonates with its universal truths, while the story it has to tell is totally fascinating.

In El Shaddai, God sends down angels, called Watchers, to keep an eye on the Earth, but they turn against him and abandoned heaven to dwell among humanity. In his anger God floods the Earth to get rid of these Watchers, but God’s scribe Enoch pleads with him to recapture the fallen angels. In the role of Enoch, players head down to Sawaki’s unique re-imagining of Earth and attempt to recapture the seven fallen angels, who aren't at all keen on returning to heaven without putting up a serious fight.

In El Shaddai, gameplay largely revolves around platforming and combat, but having played some of early levels ahead of its release in September, we’ve actually been blown away more than anything by the hand-drawn art in the game and the stunning level, character and weapon design. This dream-like world of indescribable shapes and patterns, which is wrapped in a kaleidoscope of colours, never fails to surprise you with its iconic structures and wonderfully wacky characters. It feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of what El Shaddai will offer as an experience, and having left the first few enthralling levels behind we're genuinely excited to see what the developer has up its sleeve for the rest of the game.