Sunday, October 9, 2011

El Shaddai Review

My review of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is now up at Pixel Hunt. You can read it if you want.

As will become apparent quickly enough if you do indeed read it, is that I got really, really bored with El Shaddai. This disappointed and frustrated me in equal measures. I love the games that try to do something different, something weird, something other than men-with-guns-in-corridors-shooting-alien-zombies. So I really wanted to like El Shaddai--so much that I tolerated its dreadfully boring play for hours just to give it a chance to get better. It was weird. It was experimental. It had weird colours! It deserved a chance, right?

But El Shaddai is creatively bankrupt. As I say in my review, the pretty visuals are just wallpaper on the corridor. My engagement with the world is so frivolous, so insignificant, that I might as well have been watching a video. But as this was meant to be a videogame, it was a video where I had to constantly hold down the 'play' button, and that gets old pretty quickly.

So as I was playing it and undeniably not enjoying myself, I kept thinking, "But I really like Rez." It seemed at first to be a weird game to be thinking of, but the two really have a lot in common in how they attempt to engage the player. The difference is only that Rez succeeds. Both are highly linear, require minimal interaction from the player, and rely heavily on their audiovisual representation. But this works for Rez. It doesn't work at all for El Shaddai. I think it is because Rez is skeletal, stripped back, wireframe and drumbeats--so a stripped back interaction with it worked. El Shaddai is lush, deep, multi-layered and complex--so a stripped back interaction with it just feels fraudulent.

So that is why the review talks about Rez before it talks about El Shaddai, which is probably breaking some game review style guide's rules or something. I don't dislike El Shaddai because it is weird and experimental. I dislike it because it is generic, dogmatic, and so devoid of any creativity beyond its pretty graphics that there is nothing unique there to experience. In short, it has no soul.


Adrian Forest said...

It's funny, a lot of the stuff you complained about is pretty similar to the stuff that put me off Bastion.

sandy said...

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