El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has got to be one of the most titularly confusing, and utterly disappointing games of 2011. I had sincerely high hopes for this game before its release because it seemed to be attempting something daring and unique in today's gaming climate. However the game fails to deliver a satisfying adventure and gripping gameplay, to match its stunning visuals and unique design.
Sightplay - This is the best part of this game. The unique art style is positively captivating and the architechture feels like something truly divine. The interpretation of angels and devils battling each other in a heavenly realm (or hell [or limbo]) is something to experience. The use of raw colors gives backgrounds a degree of abstraction that has proven quite affective in drawing emotion out of me while playing. When I compare it to other games brimming with realisticly textured scenery. Perhaps it's my weakness for cel-shading, but something about the bright colors lends a timeless look. It's what makes Jet Set Radio or Wind Waker still look amazing today. It's unfortunate that the rest of this game doesn't live up to the spectacular and daring visual design.
Soundplay - The voice acting in this game is fairly decent, but the few characters involved will soon grow boring and familiar. The sounds of combat are passable and feel approriate, but sadly just aren't memorable at all. I hate to sound like a broken record but the soundtrack was also forgettable. Not awful mind you, and while you're playing it all seems very cohesive and matches together quite well, just not that great. However after the game is over, rather quickly at that, none of the music really sticks with you. Perhaps it's the fact that the music seems too conventional. Orchestral arrangements for a divine adventure seems almost too expected.
Gameplay - This is where the game completlely falls on its angelic face, with all the impact of a fall from the very heavens themselves. The game is an incredibly simplistic hack and slash with bits of platforming thrown in as well. It seems as though the developers were going for a streamlined approach, but the whole affair comes off as tedious. Even for a game that is about six hours long, you've pretty much played through it all by the half way point. There are only three weapons to use in the game and obviously one of them is overpowered, rendering the other two useless (unless a boss fight forces you to use one in order to finish it off). Perhaps it's the masochist in me but this game could have definitely benefitted from a more action packed approach to gameplay, a la Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. The increase in difficulty would have been greatly appreciated, as I felt like I beat this game half asleep. The 2D platforming sections were a bold way to incorporate some retro segments into the game, but were beyond dull.
Replay - Although I'm reviewing this game late, and the price for this game has gone down substantially, I'm still criticizing this game as if it were full price. And for the full asking price of $60, this game was positively not worth it. It could have been far more successful as a $20 downloadable title, because it feels like that's the amount of content you're getting. The story, although appealing and mystical at first, becomes little more than fun visuals surrounding a dull game. There isn't much by way of replay value at all either. There are six collectible items that, if gathered, provide you with an invulnerable armor to equip making the hardest difficulty an absolute breeze.
Score - 1 out of 5. This game is the epitome of a rental. It's something you must experience, but it might just be as fulfilling if you saw all the cutscenes online instead of having to button mash you're way through the brief game. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was a game I was hoping would help inject some new values into the gaming industry, but unfortunately it fails to deliver.