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El Shaddai, Barons in Review

It’s birthday week in the Barnes household, my wife and I had our second young’un tuesday which is my excuse for not contributing much lately. But being the devoted workhorse I am, the show went on at Gameshark.com this week and I’ve got two items there ready for perusal.

First up is my review of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. I absolutely hated this game. I found it unbelievably empty-headed (and empty-hearted) and any notion that it’s somehow “artistic” really makes me question the standard that many critics have in terms of what is or isn’t artistic. The game’s concept of art is completely facile. The story isn’t “abstract”, it’s nonsensical and incomplete. The vaunted adaption of Enochian scripture is little more than a source of proper names. The Nephilim are depicted as freaking jellybean creatures (pictured above) frolicking with beach balls, for f**k’s sake. On top of it all, the gameplay is crude, simplistic, and totally uninteresting. There is literally no reason to play this game over Bayonetta. Or Devil May Cry, for that matter. My score is the lowest on Metacritic, and I 100% stand by my assertion that a 33 is about what it deserves. Calling this piece of s-h-i-tut “art” is liking calling a god damned Precious Moments figure “sculpture”. Or a Twilight novel “literature”.

The other item of note is this week’s Cracked LCD. It’s a review of a nifty card game called Barons, issued by a small company called Cambridge Games Factory. They did a fantastic San Juan-derived card game called Glory to Rome a couple of years ago that had HORRIBLE artwork they are now fixing through a Kickstarter.com project. Hopefully they’ll get around to beautifying Barons too, because it deserves it. Quite a lot of game for under $20.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

6 thoughts to “El Shaddai, Barons in Review”

  1. Congratulations on second child!

    Also, why do I get impression that you *absolutely hated* El Shaddai? I can’t decide is it because of that part “empty-headed (and empty-hearted)”, or “The story isn’t “abstract”, it’s nonsensical and incomplete.”, or “Calling this piece of s-h-i-tut “art” is liking calling a god damned Precious Moments figure “sculpture”.”

    On a more serious note, I think why people call El Shaddai artistic is because its art-style, which certainly does look nice, interesting and different. I like it from what I’ve seen so far (demo, trailers and some video reviews), and would certainly call it (art-style that is) artistic. Gameplay on the other hand… I didn’t get combat, but that may be because I played Japanese demo, and had no idea what to do and how to do it.

  2. Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t be bothered to download and try it… well, maybe that says something about my interest in El Shaddai. Gonna probably pick it up when price drops though, I’d like to check it out some day.

  3. I was pretty sure that, despite the lackluster gameplay and art style I saw in the demo, most sites would review this as some grand ground-breaking art game. (In your face Ebert!) I am so glad you didn’t.

    I love that you reviewed this with such honesty and knowledgeable arguments against what most people would call art. I have to agree with you from what I’ve played and my history of agreeing with your opinion on other titles.

    It would have been easy enough for you to give the classic Shark Sandwich review. (Which is a Spinal Tap reference and not a GameShark reference, for those who don’t know) Instead you gave all aspects due attention. Systematically tearing down each pillar of such a fragile structure and admitting you wanted to say something nice but couldn’t. When all you really needed to do was say the gameplay was horrible as, after all, you are reviewing a game.

    I wonder if knowing nothing about art might cause someone to review this as great for fear that others might notice that they didn’t get it.

    I wonder if many of the problems would have felt forgivable were this a $10-$15 XBLA or PSN game, which is exactly what it looks and feels like. In fact, it may have been a smash hit like Limbo, which I cared little for despite nearly every review fawning over it. The digital realm seems to be the place for artistic games to thrive. Imagine the outrage if Limbo had been a full $60 title at its current length. Granted, Limbo may have had better gameplay, but it is a tried and true formula that few games manage to mess up.

    Personally, I don’t care how much I pay for a game, as long as it is fun. I’m just wondering how much the price, hype and proposed brilliance (and the contrasting final product) of El Shaddai may have joined forces to raise your ire, inspiring such a brutally honest review.

    I’m glad to have discovered No High Scores and subsequently you as a reviewer and commentator. Even your Portal 2 review (I happened to have plenty of fun playing the game) was filled with brutal honesty which I can’t help but respect and agree with.

    Seeing as you speak directly to the same core ideals I love in gaming with such regularity I suppose it is time for me to explore the Cracked LCD side of gaming. I don’t have a crew that would play a boardless tabletop game for longer than an hour (if that) though I may be able to find one person willing to play a two person game. So, any suggestions as to where I should start?

    P.S. I nearly forgot. Congratulations on your second child!

  4. Looking at the scores on Metacritic, I have to ask. Did the other reviewers get paid to say that stuff?

    It will be hard to take them seriously either way. Things just don’t add up, and I’m sure this isn’t the first time.

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