With a name like Garcia Hotspur you either become a male prostitute or a badass demon hunter or in the case of eccentric developer, Suda 51’s latest game, Shadows of the Damned, a demon hunter who has a thing for dong jokes. While being a demon hunter has its perks, it does come with a few tiny perils that include eternal damnation for your girlfriend by the hands of a demon overlord. Nothing to sweat about really except for the fact that she’ll probably get dragged into the underworld only to die mercilessly over and over and over again in horrific ways. But hey, there’s nothing like a free meal right?

Are you having a

Are you having a “ball” of a time?

But being the stud that you are, you obviously dive in (quite literally) to rescue her from this terrible fate, aided in this noble endeavor by your Johnson. And yes, that is a clever play on words (remember the whole penis thing I told you about at the start) because by Johnson I do mean your floating skull companion voice by a British guy who can change into a plethora of weapons. After all, he is the “perfect tool for the job”. Har Har.

As juvenile as the pee pee jokes seem, they are actually quite funny and unlike Duke Nukem Forever where I cringed on every pun, I rather enjoyed the snide, sexual overtones in Shadows of the Damned. Instead of annoying the player, they really do drive home the cheesy B grade horror movie vibe Suda 51 was aiming at in the first place. Fusing the visual style of Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse with the over-the-top horror and humor of an Evil Dead, Shadows of the Damned is a homage of sorts to the days when horror movies actually amused you instead of just grossing you out.

BOOM! Headshot

BOOM! Headshot

The game takes place in Suda 51’s demented vision of the Underworld, a place that you’ll hopefully never visit. The game’s concept where the player is forced to watch his loved one die in horrible ways all the time is very bleak and I found the humor, as juvenile as it was balancing this out to a certain extent. Voice acting is intentionally cheesy, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Unlike Dante (from Dante’s Inferno) who just whined and whined like some emo kid tweaking off caffeine after suffering a similar fate, Garcia is a total badass who will make the best of a bad situation. And then make a dong joke out of it. That’s how he rolls.

Gameplay in SoTD is more or less your conventional third person shooter sans the cover system and regenerating health bar. The controls do feel a bit clunky at first but you’ll get used to them eventually. Shooting underworld’s minions will grant you white crystals that can used to purchase a bunch of stuff like upgrades for your tool, ammunition as well as some much needed health in the form of alcohol. Since this is the underworld, I guess the rules of the real world do not apply over here so drinking is actually good for your health over here. Fun times!

Besides a bunch of grotesque minions you will often encounter some particularly nasty bosses who no matter how big or ugly always sport their Achilles heel in the form of a red glowing spots on their body. Stun them with your light burst and then go to town on that red spot; it never fails. Every boss upon being slain will drop a blue crystal which when fed to your Johnson will allow him (or it) to become a newer weapon like a variant of a machine gun or a shotgun. A few levels in, you’ll encounter a half-demon, half-human trader called Christopher (don’t ask) who for a price will sell you certain items – be it ammunition, booze or red orbs to upgrade weapons like increasing, reloading speed, capacity, damage and so on.

Oh there's your weak spot right there

Oh there's your weak spot right there

Besides the conventional mechanics I spoke about above, crucial to this game is the concept of light and dark. Every level in the Underworld has a certain amount of darkness represented by well actual darkness. When engulfed in this darkness, Garcia will slowly start losing health as the corruption starts eating away at his health bar.  When faced with such a predicament you either run towards the light (literally) or create some for yourself by shooting wall mounted goat heads. Because in the underworld, goat heads are capable of shedding light. I mean how could you not know this?

A lot of the game’s combat is tied into this mechanic as well. When engulfed in the darkness, most enemies tend to get tougher to kill as they get a protective cover of sorts that can only be destroyed with your light shot. Once that protective shield is taken down, only then will your bullets carve them up.

I'm having a bloody good time

I'm having a bloody good time

Like I mentioned earlier, SoTD sports a really cool visual style combining grungy psychedelic visuals with some really depressing, dreary vistas. The underworld is really not a pleasant place and that fact is driven home by some of the morbid enemies you’ll encounter in this game. Special mention goes out to the rather hideous creature design (Stan Winston, R.I.P. would be proud). The penile fetish I mentioned multiple times also finds a way into level as well as weapon design so don’t be surprised if you run into a ton of phallic symbols in this game. Towards the end of the game you’ll encounter a few 2D side scrolling levels that are a welcome change of pace. While they are enjoyable in their own way, they do get a bit frustrating at times thanks to clunky controls and the inability to control your character’s movement in that plane.

Eventually your love (or hate) for SoTD will depend on your tolerance (or love) for all things B grade. I for one totally dug the game’s art style. It's juvenile humor, cheesy voice acting and bleak setting. The game can get a bit tough and repetitive at times and for some, the penis jokes may get a bit out of hand, but if you leave all logic behind and dive into Suda 51’s creepy and totally demented world, I guarantee you’ll have a ball of a time. Yes, I said ball. 

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