LTTP or ‘late to the party’ pieces are opportunities for me to catch up and write about games I missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.
Suda 51 made a lot of quirky games and I didn’t enjoy the ones I played including Killer7 and what I saw from No More Heroes’ gameplay didn’t interest me at all. His games always intrigued me though. They were always weird and original, I just kept wishing that he wasn’t the one behind the gameplay execution.
Enter Shinji Mikami. He’s a developer that I’d give the benefit of the doubt to any day. When I heard about his involvement with Shadows of the Damned, I was anticipating great things. The style of Suda 51 and the gameplay mastery of Shinji Mikami. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer: Not too much when you tackle everything in moderation.
Taking minimal risks in the gameplay department isn’t something to punish. Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space held fantastic gameplay ideas and I don’t mind seeing them implemented in Shadows of the Damned. The ability to roll around actually opened up the boss and enemy designs a bit so that it wasn’t just about shooting the weak points glowing right in front of me. Being able to navigate through attack patterns and different enemy types of varying speeds and abilities felt liberating since not many games play like this nowadays.
What held Shadows of the Damned back was its reluctance to let the game breathe. Most of the levels demonstrated one or two ideas, but they were short lived. I felt like they’ve just introduced the idea and then the level wraps up. Was there a technological reason why the levels were kept so concise or did they feel their ideas would outstay their welcome?
Grasshopper’s Unreal Engine 3 implementation was sound; I didn’t encounter any noticeable slowdowns or hiccups. It may have been one of the better implementations of Epic’s middleware on the PlayStation 3 in my opinion. They didn’t create the most sprawling rendition of the demon world, but it was detailed and acceptably gross to look at.
This game ought to be one of the stranger depictions of the demon world. I, like the protagonist Garcia Hotspur, have never been in a place like this before. Without Johnson — a former resident turned side kick — to serve as guide, this place would have been a real head scratcher. Johnson explained the strangeness the with authority and somehow convinced us that babies who somehow end up here are best suited for the role of door lock.
Johnson also served as Garcia’s transport by turning himself into a motorcycle. But his most useful role was as a weapon — or more accurately — as weapons. He started as a pistol, but jamming certain gems collected from bosses enabled other weapon transformations. Disappointingly, they weren’t very inventive variants of the standard arsenal of shotgun, submachine guns and pistols.
On the bright side, Johnson’s personality outshone the lack of creativity. He was a funny floating flaming skull who told dirty jokes and helped articulate what was going on during Garcia’s quest to save his girlfriend from the lord of the demon world himself. I wish his role grew more significant as the game progressed, but alas that was not the case.
Shadows of the Damned never really peaked at any point. It always felt like it was getting started and before I knew it, the girlfriend was saved and the final boss was vanquished. I felt they played it too cautiously with the action and wished they took more liberties with it. My key takeaway from Shadows of the Damned was Johnson and the humor that accompanied him. I doubt a sequel for it was in the works, but more of him and Garcia with an extra helping of craziness in the gameplay department and I would be set.
For more information on Shadows of the Damned, visit the official site.