Shadows Of The Damned Review
Goichi Suda has always been known for his surreal and strikingly creative works that appeal to the hardcore gamer with an insatiable craving for something new. Now he’s hanging loose with creative producer Shinji Mikami in an effort to go artistically balls deep with his latest creation; the phallically preoccupied Shadows of the Damned.
As an irreverent, self-aware mashup of Resident Evil and Shinji Mikami’s lesser-known Godhand, the game never fails to entertain and seems to represent ideas that couldn’t be done with Capcom’s more popular and established survival horror series. Off-color humor and excessive gore are thrown in from every angle, presenting a grindhouse-style experience not quite like anything seen before. Shout-outs to older films such as Evil Dead and Ghostbusters are spotted here and there, while other elements are directly lifted from the Resident Evil series itself.
The story follows purple-clad demon hunter Garcia “Fucking” Hotspur through the demon-infested underworld to rescue his long-time girlfriend from the clutches of the six-eyed ruler of hell himself, Fleming. No, this isn’t your Dante’s Inferno-style hell, complete with “eternal hell fires” and “worms as your sheet”. This is the Corpse-Bride-on-mescaline underworld rife with pubs, gun control and phone sex lines – all ruled by some guy named “Fleming.”
Suda 51, you did it again!
Vanquish your enemies by blowing a hot, sticky payload all over their faces.
Accompanying our leather-bound hero is his floating skull pall and Swiss army weapon, Johnson. As your tour guide through these infernal regions, Johnson possesses the power to change in size, giving him more thrust to complement Garcia’s manpower. As the game progresses, you’re given chances to upgrade your Johnson, adding to his size and girth. One form, dubbed the Boner, eventually evolves into the HotBoner, and, more prolifically, the Big Boner. “Let’s take this pole for a stroll” quips Garcia after the aforementioned upgrade.
And so it begins.
You see, Suda’s previous No More Heroes had a fair supply of penile references, but this game doesn’t just revel in them – it’s flat-out obsessed. In the beginning, I found myself overwhelmed and clutching my face in angst to the remarkably easy jokes. “Puns! Puns everywhere!” I shouted. After some time, though, I came to accept them, like an old friend. The game had sucked me into its somewhat juvenile sense of humor and I had come to welcome it with open arms. After all, it is a game about “hard men” with spectacular “endowments.” It’s only fitting, right?
But like a mental patient suffering from bouts of DPD, Shadows of the Damned switches back and forth between horrifying imagery and school-yard comedy. You’ll spot dead babies hanging from a tree, and troves of skinned corpses pinned up to dry. Then, Johnson will suggest you take the gem you just received and “stick it in his face,” giving more prominence to your package. After a futile attempt to give the king of torment – Fleming – a hot lead injection, he merely laughs and gives off a Hannibal lecture. “Your bullets have no bite… No penetration… YOU NEED MORE THRUST!” Then he carts away Garcia’s missus so that she may experience a thousand deaths.
And I’ll be damned if this weird-ass compilation doesn’t add up. It’s a game that takes pride in its offensiveness by having the draw of being equal parts sex jokes and excessive gore. Two great tastes that taste great together converge to result in the world’s most successful grindhouse game. Hmm? What’s that? “Splatterhouse remake,” you say? Silly goose! That game wasn’t successful at all!
Garcia’s a man who knows how to get things done.
But what does all this wanton violence and childish humor serve if the gameplay is no good? Worry not, because we’ve got Shinji Mikami on the job.
As noted earlier, the game plays as a cross between an old-school beat-’em up and the survival horror sensibilities of the Resident Evil series. As such, we’re given the over-the top action overtones of the former and the demon-shooting sensibilities of the latter. Think Leon Kennedy if he was trapped in a mexploitation flick, with an eloquent floating skull sporting a british accent for a sidekick – except you can actually run and shoot. Go, Mikami-Suda wonder team, go!
And because you can strafe and shoot, or use the left analog stick to horizontally line up shots, a new dimension of energy is added to what could have wound up as another static mess. You can switch between different guns, strafing shots and melee attacks on the fly, and the variety of enemies always keeps you challenged and looking for inventive ways to dispatch them. The upgrades you receive after each boss makes your Johnson fuller and more versatile, adding some of that much-sought-after thrust that Fleming mentioned earlier. Each gun holds a distinct feeling of power and each suits a different purpose; use the Skullcussioner for close-range shotgun-style blasts, or break out the Teether for a quick spray-‘n’-pray. If all else fails, you can always just whip out your boner and blast off a few rounds. I mean, that’s what it’s there for.
In between (or even during) the shooting segments are specially timed puzzles that are built around Shadows‘ darkness mechanic. Every so often, while making your way through a level, you’ll suddenly become engulfed in an umbral haze, and your life will slowly deplete. In circumstances like these, you’ll need to find a bleating goat head mounted on a wall (an abstract but embracing source of light) before Garcia succumbs to his own injuries, and dies indignantly with a limp Johnson. No really, your Johnson-torch goes limp in the shadows – I can’t make this stuff up.
Read about the verdict with a screenshot gallery on the next page…
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Published by:
- Electronic Arts
- Developed by:
- Grasshopper Manufacture
- Year Released:
- 21 June 2011
- Also Available On:
- Xbox 360
- Official URL:
- Shadows Of The Damned Official Site