Very few game designers manage to create experiences in which mature themes are present. Most games usually fail to use these subjects by falling into vulgarity, excessive violence and lame jokes (I’m looking at you Duke…). However, famous designer Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer 7) has always seemed to be able to treat more “adult” themes perfectly. His latest game Shadows of the Damned is no exception.
Shadows of the Damned puts you in the shoes of Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican demon hunter. The game opens up with a sequence in which demons break in Garcia’s apartment and let him choose its destiny: either he chooses to give its soul to the demons and have its wife Paula live or keep fighting demons and have its wife taken away. Of course, our hero makes the inevitable choice of trying to save his love in hell. Luckily for him, a friendly demon named Johnson joins him on its quest to help him out. The story then goes on and on, making you travel twisted environments and making you meet crazy characters. You will also be treated with multiple “mature” jokes and some references to horror classics such as Evil Dead. Also, the ending of the game totally caught me off-guard (twice) which is something I’m not used to.
As it is easily noticeable in the game’s gameplay, Suda51 didn’t go into this project alone as he got help from Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Resident Evil 4, Vanquish). The game is basically a faster version of Resident Evil 4 with more emphasis on shooting than planning your attacks. While the game might seem simple, eliminating the enemies is where it can get a little complicated as the enemies usually bring darkness with them, something Garcia is vulnerable to (and something that grants the enemies with invulnerability). However, Johnson does help you with its Light Shot power, enabling you to remove darkness from “dark” enemies and light-up goat heads to brighten areas. Yes, goat heads. Please don’t ask why (I can’t really explain why since I don’t understand more than you do…).
Just like Resident Evil 4, you can upgrade your weapons as you please. Also, the game also brings interesting puzzles and boss battles. All of them feel fresh without being too hard to figure out, which never slows down the pacing of the game. Depending on your skill level and the difficulty you’re playing, Shadows of the Damned will offer you a 7 hours long adventure more-or-so. Still, playing through the higher difficulty levels will bring you more challenge as the enemies are capable of a larger number of attacks.
Visually, Shadows of the Damned is gorgeous. As you play through the game, you can tell you are playing a Suda51 game just by the way the demons walk toward you. Even the way their heads explode feels like you are playing a game from the famous game designer. The game’s environments are also very detailed and diverse, not to say completely twisted on some occasions. The game sure feels like a mix of Killer 7 and Resident Evil 4 at first, but there is much more to it that makes it totally unique.
Suda 51 also went into this project with another of its friend to handle the soundtrack of the game. Having had so much fun working with Suda51 on No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) created a score that blends perfectly with the game’s Tarantino-like feel. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that you will love the carnival-themed song found halfway in the game. In addition, the game’s sounds are great. The only gripe I may have with the game’s audio is with the voiceover work which does not always feel authentic to the character.
Unfortunately, Shadows of the Damned suffers from some minor problems. First, the game features some REALLY frustrating sections which require perfect execution. This simply breaks the great pacing the game has aside from these sections. Also, the games numerous cutscenes cannot be skipped, making multiple playthroughs a pain. Finally, the game is extremely linear, something that some players will not like.
Shadows of the Damned is a game that you do not see too often. It is a great game tackling mature themes in a humorous way without being grotesque. If you are looking to take your mind of your everyday life or just to experience something totally different, this game is a must. It is not perfect, but this game will take you on one hell of a ride that you will not forget.
Shadows of the Damned is available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for 59,99$USD.
– The game’s dark humour
– The twisted story and universe Suda51 created
– The bloody-yet-stylish/Tarantino art style (the loading screen is nice looking)
– The music sounds unique and fits perfectly with the game’s style
– Might be too repetitive and linear for some players
– Some sections are more than frustrating
– Unskippable cutscenes make multiple playthroughs a pain.