Easter Eggs: Shadows of the Damned

By Chewie, 4 years ago
Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.
You've just got home from a busy day of killing demons to find your girlfriend hanging from a ceiling fan. Your initial shock turns to horror as demons begin pouring out of her body and some big brute with about a million eyes steals her into hell after making a lot of crude, barely disguised euphemisms about your "lack of thrust". Royally peeved, you leap in after them, only to land on an empty highway. Subsequently, your gun turns into your old buddy, the floating, burning skull, Johnson, who makes a fine torch, before turning into a motorbike that you can ride down the highway on, straight into hell. So begins Shadows of the Damned, a third-person shooter with horror trappings that definitely doesn't take itself too seriously.

Hotspur loves holding his JohnsonHotspur loves holding his Johnson

The Basics
Shadows of the Damned is the result of wacky game designer Goichi Suda a.k.a "Suda51" teaming up with horror game legend Shinji Mikami (of Resident Evil and upcoming The Evil Within fame) to co-develop a game that appeals to both of their sensibilities. It takes the off-the-wall humour and punk stylings of Suda's games, such as Killer7 and No More Heroes and smooshes them with Mikami's survival horror leanings.

On the surface, Shadows of the Damned is a fairly straightforward third-person shooter that sees protagonist Garcia Hotspur (great name) blasting through the hordes of hell to save his girlfriend Paula from the clutches of the evil, many-eyed demon, Fleming. However, the game utilises a few key ingredients that make it stand out from the standard fare.

The power of Hotspur compels youThe power of Hotspur compels you

The Hook
On the gameplay side of things, the title employs a "light" mechanic for taking down enemies. As Garcia wanders through hell he must avoid the life-draining evil of darkness, a tangible smog that pervades the world and the creatures within it, rendering them immune to normal bullets. To battle the darkness, Garcia can fire "light bullets". Firing these at goats heads in the nearby vicinity dispels the darkness in the air and firing them at enemies clears them of their corruption armour, allowing Garcia to fill them full of good old fashioned lead. Utilising light in this way adds a lair of puzzle solving and strategy in some areas and encounters, meaning you occasionally have to think about how best to proceed. These tactics also extend to the boss fights where, as is usually the case, utilising light is often the key to exposing the boss's weak spots. Mixing up the standard gameplay, the game also throws in different types of play, such as random 2D platformer sections in a hand-drawn style, Evil Dead inspired chase sequences where Hotspur must run from a possessed Paula and other occasional mini-games. Although these diversions disrupt the flow of the narrative and are often more frustrating than fun, their inclusion doesn't feel remiss in a game where all hell is literally breaking loose.

The game is also laced with Suda's signature humour, most of which is rude, crude and a lot of fun. Lovers of highbrow entertainment should probably avoid it. Examples of the vulgarity include Hotspur's favourite gun, the Boner, which at one point is super-sized into the Big Boner, and a level where Fleming "torments" Hotspur by twisting the world into a giant version of Paula, meaning he has to traverse across all her various lovely lady lumps. Aside from the lowbrow elements, there's genuine warmth in the relationship between Hotspur and his loyal sidekick, the flaming, shape-shifting skull/gun/vehicle known as Johnson (yes, another phallic reference). Their banter is the humorous highlight of the game, not least when Hotspur reads occasional books describing the back-stories of some of the game's bosses, much to Johnson's derision. Suda and Mikami also have fun with the tropes of the genre by turning health drinks into alcoholic beverages (naturally) and making the shop-keeper (who sells upgrades that can be purchased from collectable gems) a giant friendly half-demon redneck called Christopher.

Additionally, although the two famed collaborators are reason enough to pique many gamers' interests, it would be remiss not to mention a third key collaborator in the form of Akira Yamaoka, the brilliant composer behind the Silent Hill series and frequent Suda collaborator, who again provides a distinctive and kooky score that notches the unique ambience of the game up a good few levels.

Christopher will nibble on your jewelsChristopher will nibble on your jewels

The Achievements
With a TA score (at time of writing) of 1,483, none of the 50 achievements in Shadows of the Damned are particularly difficult or time-consuming. The vast majority can be picked up in one playthrough. The achievement list provides a nice variety of achievements for story progression and completing certain actions. For instance, the game encourages you to use all the different weapons available with achievements for killing a certain amount of enemies with each and, whilst these are technically missable as they must be done in a single playthrough, they're all easily attainable if you mix up your killing throughout the game.

The only bummer for achievement hunters looking for a quick and easy 1,000GS is that the game's three achievements for completing the game on each difficulty are not stackable, meaning three whole playthroughs are required. Having said that, the game isn't particularly long, being broken down into five Acts, each with a handful of short Chapters. It can be completed in roughly eight hours, so those three playthroughs won't be too time-consuming. Finally, the only other achievement to be really wary of is High in Las Vegas, which is a sort of collectable, but also requires some kill grinding. Because you receive fewer gems on harder difficulties, it's only really worth going for on Easy, which you were going to have to do anyway, so it's all cool, right?

Introducing the BonerIntroducing the Boner

The Stats
At the time of writing, Shadows of the Damned has a total of 17,351 players tracked here on TA. It currently holds a 3.9 out of 5 star rating from 1998 TA user votes, whilst review score aggregator Metacritic puts the game at 76 out of 100. 2,409 players have completed the game, consisting of 13.88% of the total players.

Yes, you're supposed to shoot the big red bit. Bosses, eh? Always a weak spot.Yes, you're supposed to shoot the big red bit. Bosses, eh? Always a weak spot.

The Price
If you feel like picking up the game new, Amazon.com has it for around $23 whilst Gamestop sells it for $20. In the UK, Amazon.co.uk stocks it for £19 and Game has it for around £17. For pre-owned copies, the prices drop to around $10 or £5. However, cheaper prices can probably be found from shopping around.

Erm, Paula, is this normal?Erm, Paula, is this normal?

The Verdict
Although it's definitely not perfect and some of the more lowbrow elements of the game's humour will put off many, Shadows of the Damned is definitely worth picking up for a fun ride through the minds of a couple of eccentric gaming auteurs. The basic action is solid, aside from some odd dalliances with random gameplay, and the atmosphere and humour keep you engaged. If you've played and enjoyed Suda's later Xbox 360 efforts, Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead, then it's definitely worth seeking out.

If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Written by Chewie
Chewie is a Wookiee from Kashyyyk. Since helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Emperor, he has taken up Achievement-Hunting and Newshoundery on TA. Also, ice-skating.