El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron review

  • Amazing art design
  • Deeper-than-expected combat
  • Lucifer's snarky remarks
  • Platforming isn't all it could be
  • Not enough replay value
  • Too straightforward for some

The way you experience both flavors of gameplay are fairly direct, as you move from section to section: jump until you get the next circular area, then the invisible walls pop-up and it’s time to beat up goons until the walls drop. The devs shake things up occasionally, including one fun and completely unexpected motorcycle race, though when they stick with such the dependable set-up for an action game it’s still fun, just not revolutionary. (Quick note about the inventive approach to death in the game: instead of a collection of lives, each time you die you need to mash buttons as fast as you can to regain consciousness, with each mashfest tougher than the last, meaning if you’re fast enough you may never see a game over screen.)

Where the game makers decided to really get experimental was everything that’s set around the title’s structure. Honestly, El Shaddai is one of the most gorgeous games we’ve ever seen, with seemingly each stage more artistically inventive than the last. When exploring a stage, we were continually enthralled by the artistic achievement of each level. The separate sections had their own unique feel and flow to them, their own stylistic impression to make. You can tell this game was made by someone who got their start in the art side of gaming, as it looks like he was given so much freedom with how to decorate the stage that you end up with some lovely work you won’t see in any other game.

There are ethereal planes that involve riding cresting waves in the clouds, there’s the colorful and distressingly childlike Nephelim playground, and stained-glass tableaus your silhouette is imposed on. Even in more grounded stages, like a faux-futuristic world, a singular style is present. And there's always a great soundtrack backing it up. We felt like we were getting more and more culturally enriched as the game progressed. Even if El Shaddai played like crap (which is certainly doesn’t), it would be worthwhile to anyone who wants to appreciate true art inside their games.

El Shaddai dreams big, making most of them a reality. It paints so beautifully on its canvas that we feel anyone could enjoy that, though we wish the gameplay could always be as grand as the visual design. The combat never falters, but doesn’t do enough new, and at times the platforming drags, though that shouldn’t deter you from the overall experience. Games like El Shaddai are sadly few and far between; when they come around they deserve our attention, as big budget experiments like these become increasingly rare.

Aug 16, 2011

More Info

Release date: Aug 16 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Sep 09 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Published by: Ignition Entertainment
Developed by: Ignition Entertainment
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes


  • Craza - August 20, 2011 4:23 a.m.

    This is a pretty odd game, but I would like to check it out.
  • coleswanson - August 18, 2011 1:44 p.m.

    Am I the only one who sees the word "metatron" and makes the Zone of Enders connection? Then it makes me sad because they need to come out with a ZOE3.
  • snipes101 - August 17, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    I don't understand why they chose to release this game in August. July or Juno would have been better because it is just going to be crowded out of the way by bigger games. This is by far the most gorgeous game I have ever played ever though. The art style is just so mind blowingly gorgeous that I stopped and just stared on occasion. I never do that in games (gritty realism bores me in terms of visuals, even if the game is great).
  • Vincemaster - August 17, 2011 6:09 p.m.

    Yay. Way better review than IGN, and I'm not just saying that because the score is higher. Clearly you guys actually know how to play games. Nice review.
  • avantguardian - August 17, 2011 9:53 a.m.

    this WOULD be like okami, if it had the same charm, depth, controls, and polish. based on the demo, i would say i experienced none of these. still, i love the style (the trees are especially amazing), i'll pick it up on the cheap or maybe an LSD trip/rental@o@
  • santaclouse37 - August 17, 2011 4:01 a.m.

    I want this so hard just to be able to play it while on... um... certain... things that aren't illegal to grow and consume....
  • Thequestion 121 - August 17, 2011 3:56 a.m.

    I want this game
  • einhazard - August 17, 2011 3:35 a.m.

    I'm digging this game. Like the said, Platforming is a little sketchy, but overall, it's fun. Honestly, it's a game I bought for its looks, not its personality.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 17, 2011 3:06 a.m.

    This looks AWESOME, but with no replay value, I'll wait for the price to shoot down. And I HATE waiting.
  • ZiegZeon - August 17, 2011 2:10 a.m.

    Its awesome. And so is Shadows of the Damned and Child of Eden. Okami is still one of my favorite purchases ever as well.
  • BladedFalcon - August 16, 2011 11:39 p.m.

    Screw the demo, I'm gonna get this anyway. Demos are hardly a good indicator of a game's actual quality anyway. Bullet storm is another iconic example of that
  • GR_HenryGilbert - August 16, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    I was a little turned off by the demo too, but in the flow of the real game the pace and controls work much better
  • MySistersMenstruationTastesFunny - August 16, 2011 10:55 p.m.

    God I hated the demo.
  • 510BrotherPanda - August 16, 2011 10:53 p.m.

    ...I guess the world is just going to stick with the Gears of War, CoD, etc... I'd get this, but I still don't have the money to buy the system on which to play it...
  • Draijan - August 16, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    I loved Okami, but the demo for this I didn't like one bit :s
  • Spybreak8 - August 16, 2011 9:49 p.m.

  • Darkmessiah24 - August 16, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    Might get it as the demo was pretty nifty but the lack of a dodge mechanic kinda annoyed me.
  • JKami - August 16, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    ill buy this game but not sure when ill be able to with so many other games i NEES to buy already:/
  • DualWieldingIsNotFeasible - August 16, 2011 9:43 p.m.

    Like everybody else, I'm too poor to add this to the massive list of games that I'm buying over the next few months. I already blew my "buy the unique game, just to support artistic expression" money on Shadows of the Damned.
  • Hydrohs - August 16, 2011 9:43 p.m.

    I'll definitely be getting this at some point. I've always thought it looked interesting, glad to see it plays well too.

Showing 1-20 of 26 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000