It’s no great surprise that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron starts up with “this game was made by a multicultural team with various religious beliefs”, Assassin’s Creed-style, what with it essentially riding roughshod over The Dead Sea Scrolls with some seriously rough shods.
You play Enoch, God’s scribe, who’s called away from his scribbling duties to kick the celestial buttocks of seven fallen angels down on earth. You’re helped by Lucifel, a guardian angel who dresses like a slick Japanese media consultant – black trousers, black shoes, poorly buttoned up black shirt – while you look like Troy-era Brad Pitt wrapped up in strips of white cloth.
In other words, it’s totally bonkers. Then again, it’s directed by Takeyasu Sawaki, the character designer behind other Japanese gaming oddities Devil May Cry and Ōkami, so we wouldn’t accept anything less.
So yes, it’s totally bonkers, but it’s totally bonkers in a genuinely amazing way. From the very beginning you realise that it’s not a regular-old-same-old-same-old genre game – no bog standard first person shooter, coin-collecting platformer, sports simulation or anything like that – it’s a bright, brilliant and beautifully constructed piece of… art, really.
We say “art” there not because it’s Godlike perfection writ large on you tellybox, but because it puts so much emphasis on its visual aesthetic it’s impossible not to sit back and stare at your TV screen.
From your multicolored, headless, occasionally long-legged foes to your glacial, majestic surroundings, it’s all an incredible watch. At times, you forget you’re even “playing a third-person fantasy action game featuring platform game elements” – you’re too busy gawping.
But once you get over each distinct level’s astonishing look, you begin to actually play the actual game. Controls are uncomplicated, attacks well animated, and without a HUD, it manages to let you play the game without anything interrupting the visual maelstrom you’re enjoying. Your health, for example, is shown by your armour falling off and your weapon’s strength by the its colour.
Admittedly, with just two attack buttons, a lot of the fighting variety is down to timing, parrying and movement, and defeating enemies seems to mostly involve working out their routines and jabbing them when they’re defences are down, but from the hour or so we played, we were definitely anxious to play more.
Already out (and well reviewed) in the US and Japan, it’s going to be on the shelves in the UK on September 9. How exciting. And to help you understand just how flippin’ mentile this game is, here’s the trailer for you to feast your eyes on. Warning: no matter what you’re expecting, it’s not what you’re expecting. Can’t put it better than that, really.