It’s easy to understand if your jaw is still tender from the kick-in-the-face that was Duke Nukem Forever; it really turned out worse than anyone could have predicted. But if you still fancy a game that has bucketloads of completely unjustified adult humour, a riotous sense of humour and a good core game on top of it, there is a decent alternative.
Shadows of the Damned is an action-packed third person shooter I’ve had my eye on since it was announced for several reasons. Firstly, the game was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, the guys who made No More Heroes. Their approach is to celebrate the fact that a videogame is a videogame rather than trying to turn it into a Hollywood blockbuster. The game was directed by Shinji Mikami, who liberated Resident Evil from its stodgy survival horror roots and gave it an action game makeover with Resident Evil 4. And lastly, the sound and music was directed by Akira Yamaoka, whose magic touch will be familiar to anyone who has played the Silent Hill games.
Players take on the role of Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican demon-slayer with a serious pair of cojones. The lord of demons shows up and kidnaps his girlfriend, so he dives headlong into the Netherworld to rescue her. Armed only with his friend, Johnson, a former demon skull with a British accent who can transform into a gun, he must fight waves of enemies of solve all kinds of bizarre puzzles as he makes his way through the seriously disturbing demon world.
Most of the game is played as a third person shooter, and the crux of it all is light. Demons are afraid of it, so the demon world is dark, and the darkness actually hurts humans. Obviously, there are plenty of puzzles where Garcia must find a means to light his way, or even dash into the darkness quickly to achieve various goals. There are different types of enemies to fight, but they are invincible when they’re in the dark, adding a tactical element to the combat. Each time Garcia kills a boss demon, he earns a blue gem that enables Johnson to transform into a new weapon. There are plenty of secrets to find and mini-games to play too.
It’s safe to say that the gameplay is challenging and fun, but the whacky design, endearing characters and bawdy humour are a large part of the appeal. There are more penis and boner jokes than you’d believe – even your main weapon is called “the Boner” because it shoots demon bones instead of bullets, see? Funny. Some of the other highlights include a particularly amusing Evil Dead rip off, the utterly pointless story books you can read, and several hilarious conversations between Garcia and Johnson.
When a game goes out of its way like this to challenge our shooting skills and make us laugh our asses off at the same time, I have no trouble recommending it to anyone looking for a good time.