El Shaddai: Ascension Of The Metatron review

El Shaddai: Ascension Of The Metatron review

So El Shaddai is based on the Book of Enoch, a bit ?of antediluvian religious esoterica that outlines the revelations of Noah’s great grandfather. But this is hardly Sunday School stuff. El Shaddai presents Bible stories by way of hippie psychedelia, French sci-fi, Japanese anime and videogame oddity. It takes the original and filters it through a kaleidoscope of pop-culture influences that seemingly range far and wide: everything from Ulysses 31 to Les Maitres du Temps; Zardoz to the conclusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey; Bayonetta, Okami, Paper Mario and more.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story as filtered through that shimmering lens is the sort of unintelligible, overcomplicated errant nonsense familiar to anyone who’s watched any anime (or indeed anybody who’s read any major religious texts or associated apocrypha). A rather loose take on the source material, it has Enoch looking suitably golden-haired and surprisingly beach-buff for a bookworm – not to mention the fetching pair of Edwin jeans beneath his celestial armour. He’s sent ?to defeat a coterie of fallen angels to prevent a great flood from destroying humanity (which, to be fair, is sort of like the original). Much of the narrative, however, takes place in the background and between scenes, compressing celestial timespans into a few moments and spewing forth so many complicated names that ?it can be easier just to ignore them and the story altogether in favour of getting to grips with the action.

And what action. Even the opening credits are bursting with a joyful playfulness: as you scroll along the bottom of the screen fighting scratchy silhouetted beetle-backed stick figures, watercolour scenes fade in and out of the background to recount the story so far; momiji maple leaves scatter and fall across the screen; and the credits roll, complete with illuminated capitals, before Enoch finally falls between giant glowing Hebrew(ish) lettering to meet the game’s first challenge.

Prismatic and constantly shifting, it’s a difficult game to pin down. One moment it’s full of organic, ?alien landscapes, all climbing towers and abstract shapes; the next it dissolves into great vistas of nothingness. Stark stone escarpments are given a choral accompaniment; later, abstract pathways are lit up in disco neon by fireworks that explode and fall in the background, with electronic music to match. You’ll find yourself running through strange, spacey tunnels before switching to Paper Mario worlds of big, blocky, colourful 2D platforming populated by Noby Noby Boy Nephilim wobbling, bending and bouncing about the place before swallowing Enoch whole to deposit him intact at his next challenge (or even eating each other to mutate ?into a giant tentacled horror).

Some 2D platforming sections are simple strolls across huge stained glass windows that depict angelic hierarchies or recount prelapsarian history; others require pixel-perfect progress across rocky outcrops above surging waves, or rickety stonework that threads its way through seas of flame. There are fiendish jumps and geometric puzzles, and always the lighting and colourwork is constantly shifting and iridescent, marbling and warping across the screen, taking in all sorts of different traditions in design and animation, from stop-motion cartoons to LocoRoco.