Everything is not fine...
Lured by the cell shaded visuals of this game I decided to give it a try. A third-person action adventure game with a promising graphical and selectively used style should be a formula for a unique game. El Shaddai is a unique game for sure, but the execution of the premise is painful to experience. This is hands down one of the worst games I have ever played, and I finished the experience on a very sour note and due to its absence in difficulty. The lack of challenge is confusing, and the zero sense of accomplishment is bewildering. Having rented the game on GameFly I could not believe this was actually a retail release at some point in the past, when the entire game feels like a GDC demo ( Game Developers Conference - for those at home ) to experiment on different technologies. Needless to say the game did terrible in sales, and it is not even a 'passable' game by any means. I strongly suggest avoiding this game even if you have all the time in the world to play mindless videogames. You'd have more fun waiting for The Rapture to happen...
PRESENTATION: El Shaddai is a good looking game...and that's about the only good thing that you can take from it. Narrated by the angel Lucifel ( not a typo ) you embark on your quest while he talks on his cell phone ( !?? ) to God describing your quest to him. Although the main protagonist, Enoch, does not talk or show emotions throughout his journey to stop the four archangels in his Diesel jeans. The cell shaded visuals are enticing, but the repetitive nature of them present a serene atmosphere that leads you to a boring walk through in each level. The saving grace of the game in my opinion, is the successful and seamless transition from 3d to 2d gameplay and viceversa, in different areas. It was a well implemented idea and although mainly executed in platforming sections, it is something that can be looked at as a success in terms of innovation and appeal. However, this good spot on a highway full of holes merely reduces the impact of the incredibly bumpy ride you go on. The story is suspect to say the least...
GRAPHICS: Good. The biggest draw to El Shaddai is its cell shaded graphics and comic style atmospheres. Where newer games try to make everything look realistic, this game goes for a more artistic flow in terms of colors, schemes, and palettes. The monotony of the schemes start to hinder the experience after traversing through a level, but this falls entirely on the level design, which is a subject to be touched on later. Case in point if walking through the levels were shorter the schemes would not dull traversing them as much. The abstract theme is prevalent throughout the game and it is emphasized in the graphics and the looks of the environments, but it also lends to serious weird moments and total disconnect for even hardcore gamers.
SOUND: Poor. The musical score is set to make a soothing effect on the gamer, and sometimes achieves its purpose. Overall, however, sound does not play a part in the game for several reasons. Music stops at times and leaves you to wander with just foot steps effects, coupled with the long travesty of the levels, with the same color palettes more over, dulls the gameplay severely. The game is narrated by the angel in a black suit named Lucifel, voiced by Jason Isaacs, and it does an incredible job at annoying the heaven out of you with 'Everything's fine' the twenty five thousand times he says that throughout the game. Describing your journey to God over a cell phone, no less, your hero does not have the ability to speak, so you are left with his account of the story. This creates a disconnect with Enoch, the main character, as we cannot hear or see what he feels or would say when blindly thrown into this heavenly journey. Sound effects are better compared to the musical score and the voice acting, but are few sometimes because the game offers little in weaponry to clash, but enemies and bosses are diverse enough to contrast this setback with their own attacks and overall noises. In some cases the music turns laughable when facing bosses that like to moon walk, for example, or when the score is repeated heavily when facing similar enemies and bosses.
GAMEPLAY: Very poor. Although Enoch is a B-list mirage of Dante from Devi May Cry, he is a seriously lame copy of him. At any point you can ever feel a connection to the protagonist, made even more difficult by his apparent inability to speak and just following orders from a guy on a cell phone wearing a black suit. Link is yet to speak to this day but you relate to the character and his sense of duty somewhat in the journey he takes on and when he is fighting hordes of enemies by the grunts he sometimes unleashes when attacking or taking damage. The pacing of the game is tedious, as there is a lot of running around facing no enemies at all, just straightforward walking without any platforming either. Their intent was to amuse you with the environment, but the effect is rather dull and boring instead. You start off unarmed in the game and joggle between 3 weapons that you can steal off your well below average enemies, which are more related to insects that you can find in your back yard. There is no skill necessary to defeat them either, just patience. Combo system is super simple and is a bad version of cool fighting systems in more prevalent games in the same genre, although at some point with enough consecutive hits you have an ability that inflicts more damage on your foe but is still a laughable super ability to possess. The platforming in the game is highly forgiving, even if you fall you do not die just get restarted at the closest point, yet some vertical platforming sections are tedious to achieve due to the annoying camera angles and the lack of control of the character.
LEVEL DESIGN: Poor. The entire game feels like a demo designed to show off technological aspects that could be used in gaming. I can't take any more than that from the highly disconnected and unfinished levels of El Shaddai. The 2d platforming sections of the game are the better conceived and designed areas and the seamless transition from that into the 3d realm is an honest achievement. Throughout the game the sense of place is wary, whereas you have no idea where in fantasy land could this ever exist, - some castle- some forest- some desert- nowhere in your mind can you place your character in the settings he is thrown into much less with the connection you never engage with him. A string of walkways in space is cool to see but once the entire level consists of that you start scratching your head a bit. There is a motorcycle sequence in a well built modern city somewhere that places Enoch well and it is the only 'believable' setting you can actually relate to and feels engaging. The rest is a mash up of levels of someone high on Ecstasy really, with one level emphasizing the dullness and boring aspect of the game with a platforming amalgamation in a greyish atmosphere.
BEASTIARY: Terrible and atrocious. Possibly the biggest junk over garbage job that can ever exist. The issue here is not a problem in variety, which plagues some games in the genre, but the type of variety supplied. Boss fights include, but not limited to, charging pigs, giant ant, beetle like beings, something that resembles the man region, etc...just a joke of enemy / boss design which has nothing to do with coming down from Heaven into a fantasy world of some sort. No demons, no evil angels, no corrupt humans appear anywhere. The zero difficulty helps tolerate this incredible flaw, even though I had plenty of what IS that moments when facing new enemies and bosses. The giant ant towards the end is basically the only real threat in the game, and the only time I ever died from facing a foe. The rest was mistimed platforming.
DIFFICULTY: Very poor to Zero. A flat out very easy game. Even without any HUD on screen to let you know your health or items or anything info about what is going on at all the game is a cake walk. This bores the experience obviously, and the sense of achievement is zero. You will be left with more questions on why did I play this game more than anything.
LASTING APPEAL: Nothing. The only recollection from this game is just that. Very close to a complete waste of time, this game does not merit a first play through much less a second one.
LAST THOUGHTS: Normally I respect people who tryout new things but this game is a complete fail. Do not play this game in your life and if you somehow feel that you like this game then I truly pity your soul.
I rate a 3.5 / 10.0