I've never spoken to God, but if I ever did I don't think he'd ask me to go on a holy murderous rampage. I wouldn't be very good at it, for a start, and after climbing to the second floor of the Tower of Babel I'd probably be completely knackered and demand somebody install an elevator.

El Shaddai is definitely going for an Old Testament interpretation of Him, casting players as emissary Enoch and having him negotiate (read: fight to the death) with a group of fallen angels and their human followers. I don't think that was in the Bible.

I already know I'm going to play El Shaddai, because I'm the kind of person who can happily sink an afternoon into browsing import websites and I personally consider an NTSC-J copy of DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou one of the gems in my games collection. But the real question is whether you'll be interested in playing El Shaddai.

Here's the answer: you really should be.

At its core El Shaddai is a combat-heavy brawler, but interspersed alongside these are some gorgeous platforming sequences that make use of myriad aesthetic styles. In the early stages you find yourself running along flowing Hokusai waves and other icons of the Edo period, yet these scenes are delivered without the weight of pretension.

As the game progresses, however, the entire art style changes - further levels in the game promise to mirror the look of crayon paintings and another models itself on the bright neon lines of Tron. It's a game that's not afraid to look starkly different from the level immediately prior, let alone the rest of the medium.

Navigation can be a bit finicky - El Shaddai is very strict on its jumps - and the rapidly changing visuals occasionally make it challenging to differentiate between platforms. Enoch can double jump and glide for extra precision, but in my experience you'll flounder every now and then.

Combat presents the illusion of simplicity, with the game quickly teaching you the basics of its three-weapon system and rudimentary controls - there's only one button to attack, alongside one button to jump, and another button to block. Despite only having three buttons, the game can quite easily kick your head in if you're not careful.

Jabbing at attack will land you processions of basic three-hit combos, but leave a pause between inputs and you can open up more impressive attacks. Once you get a good grasp of what it's doing, combat feels bouncy and balletic.

Enoch himself is a blonde beefcake, losing his angelic armour with every hit until he's reduced to a pair of designer jeans and ripping abdominals. A fourth button is also used to purify corruption from your weaponry, which must be done at regular intervals to stay effective.

Quite simply, there's nothing else on the market quite like El Shaddai. I have my suspicions that the combat might not be on the same tier of quality as Devil May Cry 3 and Bayonetta, but aesthetically it is as unique as it is refreshing; the perfect gaming aperitif before the fourth-quarter onslaught of steady and recognisable franchises.


El Shaddai is already out in Japan, with a US release mid-August and a belated European release on September 9.