Lucifer is charming in what is probably his biggest video game appearance of the year. He's a pal. He's smooth. He calls God on a cell phone. He wears fashionable jeans.
"Lucifer is likable in this game," Shane Bettenhausen told me as he was recently showing me his company's next big adventure, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron "The presentation of Lucifer is very cool. He's funny and attractive."
Lucifer, the guy many of us grew up thinking of as the devil—as the ultimate bad guy—is a good guy in this game. "That's going to be challenging for some people," Bettenhausen said. It will be challenging, because El Shaddai is doing what most big video games don't do: tell a story based on Biblical figures.
American gamers have been able to play flipped, warped video game versions of Greek mythology in God of War and unconventional takes on Norse mythology in Thor games and in Too Human. Judeo-Christian lore, however, has been largely unexplored in interactive adventures released in North America.
"We've had Norse mythology. We've had Greek mythology. We've had Japanese mythology," Bettenhausen said, recounting a conversations people at the England office of El Shaddai publisher Ignition Entertainment had when considering backing this Japanese-made game. " Can we have Christian mythology? Is it something we're allowed to do? Will it offend people?"
As he played through parts of the flashy El Shaddai game for me recently, Bettenhausen didn't want to get too specific about just what might throw Judeo-Christian gamers for a loop when they get their hands on the controller. Spoilers, I guess. But even the set-up about what El Shaddai may unsettle some people.
The game is a fanciful retelling of the Book of Enoch, an alternate version of the Book of Genesis. It features rogue angels—not Lucifer—corrupting humanity, and a man named Enoch who works in Heaven and is dispatched to stop the angles, lest God unleash the Great Flood and destroy the Tower of Babel. The angels are designed to look like David Bowie and Marlon Brando, among other celebrities.
The player controls Enoch, who has to punch and kick his way through the bad angels and their minions. But when Enoch isn't getting assistance from cel-phone-toting Lucifer—known as Lucifel in this game—they may forget much of the religious reference in the game. After all, it looks like few Bible adaptations before it and appears to be more of a crossover between action games like Devil May Cry and trippy visual spectacles like the Walt Disney cartoon Fantasia. (That image atop this post is a screenshot of the game in action, you know.)