Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Visual ether

For the second night in a row El Shaddai has managed to put me to sleep while playing. The first night it was assisted by a fine pint of stout, but last night it managed to knock out in spite of it being broken up by a half hour of Third Strike. Yes, the combat is a bit bland and the linear environments don't do much to keep me invested, but the sights and sounds are what make it the most difficult to stay awake. It's all so relaxing, like sitting on a beach with the waves slowly crashing, a warm but not too warm breeze, a large bottle of something to keep you company, and no people around to ruin the mood. Perhaps I am immune to the crazy that has been painstakingly infused into every frame, as I don't think being a sleep aid was on the the list of bullet points used to pitch El Shaddai to a publisher, but being visually eccentric is just not enough to keep me interested.

For a polar opposite example, compare El Shaddai to Bayonetta. I didn't fall all over Bayontetta; I hated the character but the enjoyed the game. It was visually strange almost to the point of El Shaddai but was exciting. Big things were happening all of the time. Last night I spent several minutes watching Enoch walk up stairs while cryptic single line quotes from heavenly beings tried to make things as confusing as possible. There is nothing wrong with making an 'artsy' game but you can't forget about the 'game' part of it. Video games have a more difficult time diverging from the main stream because they need to be entertaining on all levels to be successful. A movie with great acting but terrible cinematography is still watchable. Likewise one with terrible actors but incredible visuals can work (I have yet to see Avatar...). In a game most of the individual parts need to be working most of the time to hold the players interest.

El Shaddai's visuals are always excellent, if a bit on the relaxing side. They do give you some seriously fucked up dreams after they put you to sleep, so for all I know it was the whole point. It pains me to say that there isn't much worth playing here. Rhythm based single button combos against three different enemy types just do not cut it in the post Devil May Cry world. Though El Shaddai does throw in an incredibly out of place motor cycle level...

When it finally tries to go big it just doesn't work.

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