In hell, V.I.P stands for Very Important Pendejo.
Or so thinks Garcia Fucking Hotspur, who will carve the name into your flesh before he kills you, demon scum! This is why I love playing and reviewing a Suda 51 game: I can write shit like this and it makes sense. Okay, well, it actually doesn’t make any fucking sense at all, but it sure is fun.
Let’s try an experiment: In an effort to better give you a sense of just how insane Shadows of the Damned is, I’m going to start each paragraph with a random piece of dialogue or observation about the game. If you’re left in humorous bewilderment after reading it—great, you’ve come as close as possible to knowing the experience of playing the game. If you can make sense out of any of it—check yourself into a mental institution, pronto.
“Quick, fill those cracks with your explosive Hot Boner!”
“…What? You heard me!”
Fair warning: Get used to lots and lots of dick jokes. The word “boner” gets tossed around so many times you won’t even notice it after a while. The dialogue in Shadows of the Damned is of course quite juvenile, but very funny and very aware of it, embracing it like the sweet caress of Johnson’s Boner pistol. As a reviewer, I appreciate it on an extra level because it gives me carte blanche to write boner as many times as I want. I can’t remember the last time I could write boner repeatedly in a professional setting, so I’m going to abuse it. Boner.
Alcohol is your lifeblood in the underworld. If you're hurt, just take a shot—down there, the stuff un-kills you!
If you have any experience whatsoever with Suda 51, then you already know that style is king in Shadows. It’s “style over substance” taken to such an extreme that the style becomes the substance. Whether it’s an over-the-top line of dialogue, morbidly ludicrous enemy design, or a totally out-of-place mini-game, there will always be something right around the corner to throw you for a loop and ask yourself, “Did they just do that? Really?” And when you add Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami to the equation, you get a weird mix of creepy (if not outright scary) atmosphere with hilarious interludes.
Johnson can turn into anything, from a torch to a gun to a motorcycle. In that last instance, you are literally riding a Johnson.
The premise for all this madness is that Garcia Hotspur (so obviously a Suda name) is an established, scarred, tattooed, demon hunter, and he’s not shy of expressing his love for killing fucking demons. After a while, the lord of demons, Fleming, just gets sick and tired of Garcia killing his minions, so he kidnaps G’s hot blonde girlfriend Paula and takes her to the underworld. Garcia gives chase, with trusty ex-demon Johnson as his guide through hell. Johnson serves the dual purpose of transforming into all of Garcia’s weapons as well, and is just an awesome character overall—imagine a less bumbling, more dirty-minded Wheatley.
“We’ll leave only emptiness and despair as our last gifts to you.”
“Just don’t forget to wrap them, Puta Claus!”
The gameplay is primarily that of a typical third-person shooter; nothing revolutionary or mind-blowing. Johnson can turn into three basic gun types which receive modifications as you go along: a pistol (the Boner and Hot Boner), a shotgun (the Monocussioner), and a machine gun (the Teether). You can charge up Johnson’s torch for a strong melee attack or use your lightshot to stun weaker enemies and run up to use an over-the-top finisher on them.
When the darkness closes in, you’ll find you can stay in it longer by eating the human hearts scattered around.
The upgraded guns have unique abilities—you can fire a “Hot Boner Payload”, an attachable bomb that explodes when shot to clear out large areas, home in on demons with The Dentist’s lock-on function, or fire a giant rolling explosive skull with the Skullblaster. All in all, there isn’t a huge range of ways to dispose of the underworld filth, but there’s just enough variety that it doesn’t get boring.
If you need to put out the darkness but can’t find a mounted goat’s head, simply track down the giant hand spewing it out and shove your torch into it.
Awesome little mini-game moments serve to spice up the action, whether it’s a side-scrolling twin-stick shooter, bowling and pachinko for zombies, or putting down giant hammerheads with the Big Boner after Johnson calls an erotic hotline. Boss fights get pretty wild and crazy as well; where else will you see a boss who rides on an undead horse, eats his steed’s heart to grow in size, eats the rest of its body when he’s big enough to swallow it, and finally pisses a concentrated stream of darkness into a fountain once he’s 20 stories tall?
When you need a mobile light source, follow the chanting golden anglerfish.
An unbelievably good soundtrack from Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka accompanies all this madness, but if you expect it to sound like Silent Hill, you’re in for a surprise. Some of it—the scarier, moodier parts—do, of course, but there’s an astounding range of sound effects and music that always seems perfect but never what you'd expect. The pounding hard-rock track when you’re selecting a new game is just as appropriate as the haunting, operatic melody from one of the game’s mysterious antagonists.
Strawberries are a delicacy in the underworld. The dirty little secret? They’re made from human tongues. If you think that’s bad—well, the phrase “pop your cherry” has a bit of extra meaning down there.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love how disturbing and nuts Shadows of the Damned is. Then again, I always love crazy Suda 51 games; as mixed as the reception to Killer7 was, it remains one of my favorites. For people like me who are into Suda stuff, or weird Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro-type shit, this is an ‘A’ game. That is, of course, a rather niche demographic, and not everyone else is going to appreciate it to the same degree. The game also suffers from a 10-hour story mode that offers nothing else once you reach the awesome ending. If you don’t think that’s worth 60 bucks, I don’t really blame you.
But none of that makes Shadows of the Damned any less cool. If you’ve got any interest in this kind of insanity, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Oh, and leave the drugs and alcohol behind—the game is trippy enough already.