It's a brand new day over at Kombo as we've changed our review format at long last. The short "What's Hot / What's Not" template has been retired in favor of long-form reviews that analyze a game's theme, structure, mechanics, and other deeper topics beyond the traditional "The controls are nice and the music is sweet" sort of review. I can't express how thrilled I am with the change, as I finally get the chance to go on and on about a game's real strengths like we used to do in the old days. My first review under this new way of life is for Dante's Inferno for the Sony PlayStation 3 (and Microsoft Xbox 360) in which I explore how the game draws players into the various circles of Hell. Check it out at Kombo.
What is especially interesting and what makes the game a deeper experience than one would expect is that each circle's theme reflects back on the player, drawing one into the particular circle in question and creating a secondary challenge that the player, not Dante, must overcome. Consider the following examples. There's Limbo; a nice, generic, non-threatening-yet-damned place that serves as something of a basic guide for what one can expect in the underworld. It is here that Dante collects his first stat-altering artifact and learns the basic flow of Hell. Then there's Lust. The last half of that level is spent as Dante scales the inside of a large phallic-shaped tower while the circle's boss, a giant Cleopatra, climbs the outside. Cleopatra is topless, and the camera has a knack of focusing on her bare breasts as they jiggle into the foreground when it should be aimed at the enemies Dante is attempting to slay. If the player is distracted by Cleopatra and is tempted by lust, then there's a risk of failing the challenge.
I was really impressed with how deep Dante's Inferno went into breaking the fourth wall in a subtle way. I was excited about this game back at E3 last year and I was mocked soundly by friends and Kombo co-workers for my enthusiasm for "a mere God of War knock-off", but considering that the game is actually an immersive adventure packed with symbolism, who's laughing now, eh? Eh?