El Shaddai: Ascension of the What The Eff

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is the most interesting game I have played in some time. It loosely follows the first part of Book of Enoch and sets you on a mission to go out and dispose of some fallen angels (called Watchers) who are doing bad things to humanity. This sets up one of the most gorgeous and inspired games I have ever come across. The combat is simple but not boring and moves you smoothly through a wonderful journey of colorful surreal and abstract art.

The game is ostensibly an action title, and so there is plenty of combat. It is extremely simple but not boring. You fight with rhythmic presses of a single button, and there are three weapons you can grab off creatures and a happy little weapon triangle. That’s about it. The boss fights involve weapon matching and quick thinking but in most situations you’ll use whatever your favorite is. I mostly used the ranged weapon because it had a quick dodge, but there’s also a swift light melee weapon and a heavy melee weapon that does heavy damage and shields you.

While El Shaddai is billed as an action title, I feel that it is much more of a platformer in terms of the gameplay because of how it is incorporated into the art and design of the game. The platforming elements are used to showcase certain areas in 2D and give you a feel for the environments, and there are also some very advanced and challenging 3D platforming levels that help shape the otherworldly feel of the Watchers’ Tower.

The core of El Shaddai is its approach to art and presentation. I think that to the general gaming public “beautiful game” is equated with one that emulates real life pretty well, but that is a very narrow way to look at things. El Shaddai throws this out the window and takes its queues from the world of fine art. I’m not going to get into an argument about whether games count as art here or not, but the design work in El Shaddai is amazing and deserves tons of praise. Every floor of the Tower is distinct in style, color palette and feel and clearly influenced by the world of fine art. You can really feel and appreciate the effort that the design team put into the world they created.

A random scene from El Shaddai

Most importantly, there is an extremely well-crafted nightclub scene that segues into a fight with one of the Watchers. It is bizarre and actually fits right in with what’s going on in the level.

As I mentioned earlier, the story in El Shaddai is based on a part of the Book of Enoch. I had a vague understanding of what was going on thanks to taking Theology in college, but if you haven’t read it you won’t really understand a whole lot of what is going on. I don’t want to give the impression that I followed along exactly, either, but I got the gist of things.

Once you get past the introductory cut-scenes much of the story is related by God’s right-hand man Luciel (voiced by Jason Isaacs who does a real bang-up job) and done in two ways. There are exposition sequences where you control Enoch in a 2D environment where the background shows you the events being related and you catch bits of conversations Luciel is having with God about your mission progress.  It’s hard to follow beyond the base story, but I took it as a weird surreal experience and I don’t think it takes away from the game. If you play ugly games for the story, why not play a beautiful game for the design.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metraton is a conventional game hidden in an unconventional shell. It has some of the most amazing art direction and graphics I’ve ever seen in a game, and is worth playing through just to take in the experience. The platforming and hitting things with weapons won’t blow your mind but it all comes together in a nice package if you don’t try to think too hard about the story.

A Girl Walks Into Some Ancient Ruins…

It’s a rough job, raiding tombs. You never know when a giant octopus is going to show up and get in your way.

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Kraken outta nowhere is much cooler than a tyrannosaurus rex (if you disagree, you are wrong) and this is just one of many reasons why the Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games put the Core Design titles to shame.

The Great Ratchet And Clank Project

The Ratchet and Clank games are the reason why I own a PS3 right now. While I own both a Wii and a 360, I had a platformer shaped hole in my heart that only a Lombax and his robot best friend could fill. When the PS3 slim model came out, my boyfriend got one for me so that I would stop wistfully staring at the two Ratchet and Clank Future titles whenever we were at a game store. I really love the series.

As I am now finishing up the trophy list for A Crack in Time, I figured it is a good time to revisit all the games in the series and finishing it all off with a hard mode run of Crack. I’ll be playing them in the order that they were released:

  1. Ratchet and Clank
  2. Ratchet and Clank: Going Command
  3. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
  4. Ratchet: Deadlocked
  5. Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters
  6. Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
  7. Secret Agent Clank
  8. Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty
  9. Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

This is a lot of games, and all of them except Quest for Booty clock in between 10 and 20 hours so I’m not offering a solid timeframe on the project. I do also have new games to play and then a gigantic backlog. It’s just something I’m gonna do whenever the whim strikes me.

Size Matters and Secret Agent Clank were originally PSP titles ported to PS2 and I own the ports, not the original game. I figured that playing through platformers with the PSP nub would make me throw the device against the wall and should be avoided. They were also not made by Insomniac proper but that’s a whole other thing.

I have not played the first three R&C games in a number of years, but in my experience, good platformers (non early-Castlevania division) age really well so I don’t expect to hate them or anything. I do miss the chicken gun. I was very entertained by it way back when and am excited to turn enemies into confused hens again.

Quilted Pink Creampuffs (Kirby’s Epic Yarn Wrap-Up)

The Kirby series is a favorite of mine, and I’ve played every game in the series through Epic Yarn several times with the exception of the Crystal Shards (I did not have an N64 and never bothered to buy one). Unlike the other premier platformers Nintendo makes the Kirby games are pretty easy which I appreciate because it allows me to just sit back and enjoy them with no hair tearing action. Plus, Kirby is stupidly cute and the theme music makes me irrationally happy.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is incredibly successful in every aspect of being a Kirby game and is just immense amounts of fun. My criteria here aren’t any kind of world wide standard so I’ll run through my checklist:

[ X ] Easy, but not boring.

The biggest challenge with making low difficulty level games is keeping them interesting. There have to be some mild challenges which is achieved through boss fights, but the gameplay has to be good enough that it doesn’t matter if you breeze through levels. Kirby’s Epic Yarn does this with diverse level settings, user interactions with the environments and light puzzles. There is a music themed level where walking across or jumping on instruments plays little tunes. It doesn’t really matter that the world isn’t full of deathtraps when you’re having fun traveling through it.

[ X ] Whimsical, but not overly cutsey.

Kirby is a series for youngins, the rest of us are just joining them along on the ride. However for the games to be successful they have to appeal to people older than five years old, and that means they can’t be the video game version of a Benji movie. The cutscenes are a bit much but skippable (though I recommend watching the Meta Knight one, I thought it was very funny) and the game itself is adorable but not overwhelming. The different styles of quilting for the worlds are beautiful with a splash of cute.

[ X ] A large variety of powers to defeat enemies

Since the second Kirby game you’ve been able to suck enemies up and absorb their powers, which is not a feature of Epic Yarn. To make up for this there are several mini-game areas of levels where Kirby transforms into vehicles such as the all time classic UFO and takes a break from the straightforward platforming.

[X] You fight King Dedede

Can’t forget about this one, although it is really a nice to have rather than a critical item! All the bosses you expect to find in a Kirby game make appearances though they are not the end level fights of the past. And yes this includes the annoying thunder cloud thing with an eye, who is as aggravating in Epic Yarn as he is in all the other games.

Beyond the check-list Epic Yarn also has a very good soundtrack that really compliments the levels. The music is not necessarily something that you’ll want to listen to when you’re not playing but it’s perfect for traversing through the game. An added bonus, if you will.

Nothing in Epic Yarn will blow your mind the way that the levels in say, Super Mario Galaxy do but it is a different kind of genius and deserves a playthrough. If you aren’t at least a little charmed by Kirby’s world, you are probably some kind of frozen heart villain like Mr. Freeze.