Shadows of the Damned
At other times, you need to pass through demon pube gates – yes, you read that right - unlocked by destroying power sources revealed when submerged in darkness. And each of the game's memorable boss battles cleverly employs light and dark to complicate the standard glowing weak-spot formula.
In isolation, there's nothing novel about these mechanics. But Shadows' coup de theatre is the convoluted mayhem of combat, where pulling off headshots is of secondary importance to your ability to respond to ever changing dynamics by chopping and changing tactics at breakneck speeds.
It's ironic, then, that for all this diversity, the game's latter half descends into monotony, despite the introduction of a couple of mini-games to break the incessant combat. The first is a simple sniping section where you shoot giant demons lurching towards you along restricted paths. And the second is a quaint 2D side-scrolling shoot-em-up in a wood-cut animation style. There's also a one-off spatial puzzle that involves revolving bridges to navigate an intelligently designed room. But these additions arrive too late, and are all too brief and rudimentary to alleviate the game's primary focus on combat.
Shadows' strengths and weaknesses both lie in its preoccupation with combat. There are few games able to rival the intensity and intelligence of its gunplay, but there will also be few gamers, I suspect, satisfied with its punishing relentlessness. And with no multiplayer, co-op or additional difficulty levels to extend the experience, the real horror lurking in Shadows' hell is that it doesn't quite live up to its devilish flashes of imagination. ®
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