God Said Knock You Out: ‘El Shaddai’ Review

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Parts of El Shaddai do feel annoyingly old-school, though. You’ll endure long stretches of just walk-walk-walking and stumble through level designs in some platforming sections that make it hard gauge your jumps. You’d think God would prep you better against such stupid deaths.

And, hey, should a man in God’s service even be able to die? Even if it’s a video game? How does an updated bible hero come back, without being the Word Made Flesh? El Shaddai finds another clever mechanic to answer that question. If an enemy puts you down for the count, all you need to do is rapidly press the button prompted on-screen to get Enoch back in the fight.

The more you die, the harder it gets but it remains possible if you’re fast enough. It’s another bit of gameplay that feels like religious devotion. Rapidly mashing that button to revive becomes an act of faith, like making the Sign of the Cross over and over as fast as you can to ward off evil.

Ironically, El Shaddai‘s lead designer Sawaki Takeyasu made his name working on fan-favorite, half-devil demon hunter Dante in Capcom’s Devil May Cry series. He then went onto the beloved PS2/GameCube title Okami, which starred wolfen Japanese sun deity Amaterasu. And El Shaddai feels like a game made by a guy with gods and devils on his mind.

But there’s no holy roller agenda here. It’s not even needed. El Shaddai unfolds with Old Testament logic. The bad guys are bad—even if they used to be angelically good—and they evolve in creatures with massive destructive potential. Even if the gameplay doesn’t rise to the same level of the visuals, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron makes other games feel pagan by comparison. Like Jake and Elwood, you’re literally on a mission from God. And while it may feel like purgatory sometimes, it—especially in how the game looks—occasionally approaches something heavenly.

Techland Score: 8.0 out of 10

Evan Narcisse is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @EvNarc or on Facebook at Facebook/Evan.Narcisse. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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