Saturday, May 3, 2014

PS3 games people overlooked, part 2

Another one of the PS3 games that I wanted to get to before it was no longer readily available was Shadows of the Damned. It has a few fun things going for it.
  1. Shinji Mikami is one of the Creative Producers. He's been involved with Devil May Cry, Killer 7, Resident Evil 1, Resident Evil 4, some of the Phoenix Wright games, an obscure but critically acclaimed brawler called God Hand, and that game Vanquish that I just finished not that long ago.
  2. Goichi Suda, more often known to Americans as Suda 51 is the Executive Producer. He previously worked with Shinji Mikami on Killer 7, but has also worked on one of my favorite Wii titles No More Heroes and its sequel No More Heroes 2, the zombie brawler Lollipop Chainsaw, and the arty-looking assassin hack-and slash title Killer is Dead.
  3. Steven Blum voices the main character, Garcia Hotspur. While Mr. Blum is a seasoned professional, and few doubt the quality of his voice, I was a little surprised that it was him. I was partly surprised because I didn't identify it right away, and partly because I thought they would have tried to get a Mexican-American voice actor. Since Steven Blum lives in southern California, it's not like he's unfamiliar with the accent.
  4. Garcia's sideckick/comic relief/tour guide/club/gun/motorcycle Johnson is voiced by English actor Greg Ellis. 
The premise of the story is that you're some sort of fancy pants demon hunter, and the demons decide to take your girlfriend from you as revenge. (A tale as old as King Kong.) This is complicated by the fact that you decide to travel directly to Hell to get her back, and she might not even be who you think she is.

It's a third person shooter with a extra non-standard game mechanic. (You could say the same thing about Vanquish and its speed boost mechanic.) The non-standard mechanic is a light/dark mechanism. Light is good, darkness is bad. Dark enemies need to be shot with a light bullet before you can destroy them. Dark areas need to be lit up before they can be traversed or you lose health. Some objects have different properties in the dark and in the light. Also, demon baby door guards like strawberries, but sometimes they'd rather have brains or eyeballs to eat. I am worried this is going to turn the entire game into a series of lame fetchquests, but it hasn't happened yet. (Maybe someone should make a parody of an action/RPG called "A Series of Lame Fetchquests".)

The graphics are really interesting looking, and there are lots of eye-catching posters and handbills on the walls that add amusing subtext to the story. The voice work is great, and the music is eerie and atmospheric punctuated with little Spanish guitar accents. The story is just twisted enough that I'm hooked in, but the game has been slow-going for me so far.

Other than some explicit puzzle solving hints, the game doesn't always teach you what it wants you to do, and it's hard to tell when the things you're doing in combat are effective or not. Certainly I don't want a game to feel like it has to hold my hand and tell me everything, but if an enemy doesn't have a health bar or any visual indicator that you're doing damage to it it's hard to decide what the best course of action is.

The other problem I'm having with it probably is due to the fact that I'm not playing regular shooters - my aim is terrible, and I can't seem to stay focused on enemies. It may be a sign that I need a different control scheme, since I didn't remember having this much of problem with Resident Evil 5 and 6 or Vanquish.

I think I'm going to have to revisit this game later, but my first impression is that there are a few things wrong with the game and a few things wrong with me.

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