Is Hell bad, in a good way?
©2010 Aaron Klein
Dante’s Inferno is an arcade-style action game that works only because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, one of the early enemy types is the unbaptised baby…
The game is loosely based off the first cantica of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, where the poet is escorted by the Roman poet Virgil through the nine circles of Hell.
The poem is an allegorical journey through the true nature of sin, populated by many historical figures and Alighieri’s contemporaries.
As far as adapting a 689-year-old manuscript into a video game, Visceral Games did a great job while taking tremendous liberties.
The literary work was a multilayered medieval masterpiece that dealt with such heavy concepts as religion, salvation, politics and science. From all of that rich source material, the elements best incorporated into the game is the imagery and architecture of Hell.
Dante’s vision of Hell, divided according to severity of the sin into nine ever-deeper rims of a gigantic pit, with Lucifer himself at the bottom, lends itself well to level designers. The theme of each sin—from lust and greed to fraud and treachery—allows for creative and disturbing imagery in environment and enemies.
The game is a fast-paced button-masher. Armed with Death’s own sickle, Dante returns from the Crusades to find Lucifer himself dragging the soul of his murdered love, Beatrice, to Hell. Dante charges after her, slicing up any demons who get in the way.
Dante is confronted with his own sins while assailing the Inferno. Which is a major problem since Dante apparently let himself go a little wild after the crusading troops were assured by the bishop that their sins would be absolved. Wrong.
Dante and God Of War?!
The game can be sadistic. Platforming sections are ruthless, enemies gang up on you and bosses are brutal.
To stop casual players from throwing controllers at the television set, the game recognizes when you are having a tough time and gives you extra health.
If you’re really having a tough time, it will remind you that you can change the difficulty at any time in the options menu.
Dante’s trip to Hell and beyond is a spectacle, and an interesting adaption for anyone who has read The Divine Comedy.
But it’s mostly a one way trip. After making the journey once, there is not much more to gain going through again unless you’re a glutton for pain and want to up the difficulty.
©2010 Aaron Klein
Note: Aaron Klein is a U.S.-based freelance video game writer. Read more of his reviews at cornfedgamer.com.