Till Death Do You Part
There’s nothing so joyous as when two soul mates find each other, like Garcia Hotspur and the love of his life, Paula, in Shadows of the Damned. But before you get all mushy and sigh out a long, “Awwwwwwww,” let me first sum up this game for you. Paula is dead, taken to Hell to become the mistress of a thoroughly nasty demon named Fleming. You must enter Hell and blow apart all manner of foul creatures with your own assortment of demonic weapons, including a phallic-shaped pistol called the Boner. On your way, you will solve messed-up puzzles—like finding brains to feed to talking baby doll heads—while keeping your life force from depleting by staying out of the darkness. Yeah, this is definitely not a “chick flick.”
At this point, you might think Shadows of the Damned sounds like a blend of Resident Evil and No More Heroes. Well, you’d be spot-on with that assumption. Shinji Mikami and Suda51, masterminds behind the aforementioned games, have slammed their heads together (probably spilling some brain matter in the process) to bring what has been dubbed a “punk rock psychological action thriller” to the throng of horror-craving gamers.
But Shadows of the Damned doesn’t stop with a twisted love story and loads of horror. It’s also packed with comedy, largely due to your trusty demonic sidekick, Johnson, a flaming skull with a British accent. In stark contrast to the fervor and vengeance ingrained in the protagonist Garcia, Johnson has a line for every situation encountered. Whether you’re confronting a hopeless scenario or stumbling upon felines fornicating with harmonicas, Johnson has something to say. The crude humor is not just limited to Johnson’s commentary, as you’ll discover for yourself upon meeting Christopher, a happy-go-lucky man/beast hybrid with a southern drawl.
Johnson does more than simply talk though; he also functions as a tool and weapon set for Garcia. His firearm permutations include a hulking handgun called the Boner, a machine gun called Teether, and a shotgun called Monocussioner. Yet in his standard form as a flaming skull on a stick, Johnson still helps Garcia with some literal kick-in-the-nuts melee attacks, as well as providing Garcia with his mode of transportation a la motorcycle.
Don’t think that Johnson steals the show from the main man Garcia though. This Hispanic hero has big cojones, braving the City of the Damned against impossible odds to rescue his girl. He sports a slick leather jacket and a bevy of tattoos, including a vow to Paula tattooed around his neck. Yeah, he’s got it bad for this girl. So bad in fact that his love supersedes any fear he may have about razor-sharp fiends looking to tear him apart.
Gameplay follows the pretty standard format of a third-person shooter/adventure: progressing through the various levels requires taking out waves for enemies and solving puzzles. Although set in Hell, this particular underworld takes the shape of a European village filled with centuries-old architecture, dark alleys, murky sewers, haunting forests, and mist-shrouded graveyards; all are perfect breeding points for demons. The twist in the gameplay mechanics is that the shadows of Hell are advantageous to your enemies, who are more powerful and agile when covered in darkness. In order to tip the scales in your favor, you must locate goat heads which become beacons of light, keeping your health from being depleted. The demons themselves must be shot with a light gun, which removes their coating of shade and makes them vulnerable to weapon attacks.
Since Shadows of the Damned is so far-removed from realism, don’t expect too much in the way of accurate physics. This does, however, leave the doors wide open for some interesting visual elements. One example has you swinging around a giant chandelier to smash supporting columns. The music follows the same punk style of the art and game itself, with composer Akira Yamaoka—known for his work on Silent Hill 4: The Room, among others—providing the background music for this soon-to-be-released thriller.
After researching Shadows of the Damned, I was immediately compelled to watch Army of Darkness. You should too, as this Bruce Campbell classic is the perfect primer for playing this crazy game.
Shadows of the Damned seems a perfect fit for the horrorphiliacs, while providing them with a break from the usual suspects of Hell-based demon slayer molds. With Mikami and Suda51 behind the production wheels, we can almost guarantee an emphasis on blood-soaked action, keeping players poised on the trigger button and nervously waiting for the next undead enemy to surprise them. What’s uncertain right now, however, is whether the story and humor will be engaging enough to keep players wanting more.