Shadows of the Damned is the latest game from developer Grasshopper Manufacturer. It is the creative child from Goichi Suda (aka: Suda51 and best known for games such as No More Heroes and killer7) and Shinji Mikami (best known for his work on Resident Evil series, Viewtiful Joe, and Devil May Cry). It is a game that will lead you into the depths of hell, giving you many fun surprises at every turn. Yet, despite its explosive and often over-the-top presentation, the game has plenty of demons hanging onto it keeping it from being an outstanding game.
30 Second Review:
(+) New changes in every level keep the gameplay refreshing.
(+) Excellent atmosphere created by both creepy aesthetics and charming music.
(+) “Darkness” mechanic creates fun puzzles throughout the game.
(-) Controls are rather clunky.
(-) Camera is too close.
(-) No New Game+ hurts replay value.
(-) Shallow characters and enough swearing and sexual jokes to make a sailor blush.
In Shadows of the Damned, you follow the adventure of Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican Demon hunter, as he travels into the depths of hell trying to rescue his beloved Paula who is taken by Fleming, Lord of the Dead. However, you don’t go into the land of the dead empty handed. You are assisted by your partner and weapon, Johnson, a floating wise-cracking skull with the power to shape shift into different weapons. It is a weird world in the land of the dead. Goat heads are a source of light, alcohol heals you, and strawberries aren’t what you thought they were. As you journey to find your lost love, Garcia must face hordes of dead soldiers, angelic reapers, and even run from a crazed version of his own beloved Paula.
The first thing that stands out in this game is its atmosphere. The overall atmosphere of the game is fantastically presented through art design and music presented throughout the levels. You will explore dark alleyways with dim street lights and shambled buildings; venture through swampy marshes where disfigured toy baby dolls hang from nooses in the trees; make your way through a huge shifting library (with a very Ghostbusters feel to it) . All these locations are paired perfectly with musical accompaniments just as eerie and enchanting and it’s easy to stop moving and just listen to the musical score.
Shadows of the Damned plays as a 3rd Person, over the shoulder shooter. As mentioned, your companion, Johnson, can shape shift into different styles of weapons. While the name of the weapons are certainly not ordinary (i.e. TeethGrinder, Skullcussioner), they are your standard pistol, machine gun, shotgun/rocket launcher style guns and are quite effective at dispatching legions of the dead quickly. As you progress through the story, you will be able to pick up diamonds which can improve weapon characteristics and upgrade your Johnson, giving it new abilities. The shooting itself feels smooth and easy to control. Controlling Garcia’s movement on the other hand is not as smooth. Garcia moves with heavy trodden steps that make him feel rather clunky and slow. Additionally, the camera often pans too close to Garcia limiting the on screen view and making it difficult to line up shots at times. This especially happens in tight quarters. The clunky movement and the close camera by no means break the game, but do hinder the gameplay at times.
Where this game really begins to shine is in its puzzle element. In the world of the dead, light is obviously not every dead guy’s favorite thing. Many would prefer the creepy dark than the light. But in hell, there is something even darker than the darkest night known as “the darkness”. The Darkness are areas of intense black shadows which will suck the life out of Garcia if he stays too long and power up certain enemies which enter the void. The catch is that certain puzzles throughout the map can only be solved by entering The Darkness. Not only that, but The Darkness will often pop up in the middle of battles causing you to change your strategies and objectives in a matter of seconds creating a satisfying level of suspension to the gameplay.
Additionally, the game does a great job of not riding a dead horse by over playing the same puzzle element again and again. Every level you are given new challenges, new puzzles, new enemies keeping you on your toes and giving the game a very comfortable pace all the way to the end. Pacing is done at such a great job that when you find yourself at the end of the game, you want to start again! If only there was a New Game+ option. Once you reach the end, if you want to play through again, you have to start from scratch. It would have been great if I could have started my venture through hell again, only this time with all my upgrades and harder enemies.
If I were to stop my review here, it would be a great game (a 4 out of 5 stars in my book), but it doesn’t. Just as over-the-top as the gameplay can be, the language goes above and beyond offensive at times. This game is filled from beginning to end with foul language and terrible crude 3rd grade humor sex jokes (primarily relating to the male productive organ). At the very least, the game is constant in that regard. It doesn’t try to shy away from it and pretend to be something it’s not. This type of humor is fitting for the characters which are overall shallow and stereotypical. Personally for me, it was a bit excessive and I found it to be in poor taste to the point it hurt my experience with the game (and trust me, I have a high tolerance for crude humor).
If you are easily offended, it may be hard to look past all the innuendos and see the fun game underneath. If you can look past it, there is an enjoyable 3rd Person shooter filled with clever puzzles and great pacing. But, with no multiplayer feature or New Game+ mode, it’s hard to suggest this game as anything more than a rental.
[starreview tpl=14 size=’30’]