Shadows of the Damned is batshit crazy. Quite literally, at times. In the rotten bowels of the underworld, checkpoints are signified by a one-eyed bat called Willy, who - when passed - takes a quick dump to mark your progress. Doors to new areas are adorned with the faces of grotesque babies, who must be fed brains, eyes and (spot the odd one out) strawberries in order to open. Your gun can talk and is called Johnson. When your health's low, you'll neck bottles of tequila, absinthe and hot sake to replenish it. At one point, you'll move between realms by crossing a bridge formed from a naked woman's body, literally walking across her nipples.
Traipsing through this dark and twisted wonderland, demon-hunter Garcia Hotspur embarks on a rescue mission to save his beloved Paula from the clutches of an eight-foot tall, six-eyed cannibalistic demon lord that goes by the name of Fleming. What follows is ten hours of slaying monsters, solving puzzles and going "eww" at particularly gruesome bits. This might sound like all the other horror action titles out there, but when the credits are decorated with the names of Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) and Shinji Mikami (Devil May Cry, Resident Evil 4), you can bet there's something more to it all.
There is. The game is defined by a kooky sense of humour and Mexican undertones. Garcia delivers his foul-mouthed quips with a thick Meh-hee-can twang, whilst the soundtrack is spurred on by lively guitars and maracas combined with the occasional outburst of thumping metal, and the sinister imagery of the underworld. The game has a very distinct atmosphere.
The script is one of the game's crowning achievements, chock-full of delicious innuendo and self-referential humour. "He's an absolute lunatic!" Garcia comments on a particularly exuberant enemy. "Maybe he plays too many video games?" offers Johnson as an explanation, blissfully unaware of the irony. Shadows of the Damned never quite breaks the fourth wall, but it does give it a good kicking every now and again.
And yet, underpinning all this nonsense, there's something really quite grim about it all. Some of the things you'll witness over the course of the game - demons exploding out of the chest of your girlfriend, a boss battle where you have to shoot the swollen red testicles of a giant flying bird, a demon who wears the skin of young girl he murdered - serve as a harsh contrast to the comedy. But even if it's laced with guilt, you'll still laugh; Shadows of the Damned is up there with Portal 2 and Bulletstorm as one of the funniest games this year.
By the end of the first level, you'll have a Boner. The talking skull, Johnson, is your escort through the underworld and a faithful sidekick with more than a hint of Stephen Merchant about him. He also has the ability to transform into numerous objects. In addition to a motorbike and the torch Garcia uses to light the way, one of these objects is a gun that can shoot bones - the 'Boner'.
After upgrading Johnson with blue gems collected from the bloody corpses of VIP demons (bosses), you'll unlock more weapons: the Teether (which shoots teeth) and the Skullcrusher (which shoots skulls). Red gems dotted about the underworld can then be used to upgrade the power, capacity and reload time of these firearms, as well as Garcia's health. Staying alive on the harder difficulty settings requires a decent supply of said red gems.