Enough with the Dante already!

It occurs to me that video game reviews are generally expected to at some point talk about the game as, well, a video game, offering thoughts on the subject’s graphics and gameplay and all that.  Granted, that angle has by now been pretty well covered by just about every respectable video game journalist out there–and quite a few disrespectable ones as well–but lest I be remiss in my reviewerly duties, allow me to finish up my review by touching on those very points.


Not bad, really. Never before have I seen a game attempt to render giant towers made of monstrous human genitalia, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but still, nice job. I particularly enjoyed the giant faces you sometimes see on the walls that vomit neverending streams of damned souls.*


Likewise, not that bad. I don’t know what a writhing mass of twisted, groaning bodies being boiled in molten gold sounds like in real life, but this seems to me a decent stab at replicating it.

Gameplay Theology

As everyone else on the Internet has already pointed out, the game is pretty much a direct swipe of homage to God of War and its sequels with one important innovation: the addition of an ‘I Win’ button, by which I mean the button that you use to employ Beatrice’s holy cross in combat.

Eat God’s absolving mercy, bitches.

While the scythe that Dante swiped homaged borrowed from Death looks cool on the cover of the game’s slipcase, it is so much dead weight compared to the cross that Beatrice gives him. With this powerful holy artifact, the game allows Dante to shoot multiple glowing crosses that automatically lock onto his foes, even foes all the way across the screen, even foes that aren’t yet visible on the screen. The glowing crosses are faster than Dante’s scythe, do more damage, and aren’t as easily interrupted.  And every time you use the cross’s ‘absolve’ power on an enemy, you get special experience points that you can use to make the cross even stronger.  Oh, and did I mention it has unlimited ammo and no cooldown?

There’s probably upward of two dozen special combo attacks that Dante can pick up throughout the game, but I don’t really know for sure because my game was one long series of [cross] [cross] [crossity] [cross].   And I’m not alone in this.  If you go to GameFAQs.com, you’ll find that the strategy guide for Dante’s Inferno is two sentences long. Actually, why don’t I just quote it in its entirety and save you the trip?

When you see see the first enemy, push the cross button over and over until it’s dead. There are approximately 1,297 enemies in the game, so repeat this 1,296 more times.  

Now, many reviewers regard this as a serious flaw in the game, but that’s because they care more about “fun” and “not wasting twelve hours” than they do about medieval theology.  Allow me to explain.

As any student of medieval romance or saints’ lives can tell you, one of the chief virtues of Christianity in the medieval mind is that it is 100% effective against all manner of goblin, devil, and bump-in-the-night-goer.  No exceptions.  If a saint is confronted with a dragon, all he has to do is remind it that God’s power is infinite, and the dragon has no choice but to slump its shoulders and slink away and hope that no one in the next town it plans to plague will remember that it’s powerless in the face of Christianity.**  Just making the sign of the cross is good enough for Galahad and company to defeat an entire castle wall’s worth of succubi.  Heck, if it’s just one or two demons all a Grail Knight needs to do is to be reminded of God’s power by glancing at something vaguely cross-shaped, like the hilt of a sword and bam, demon problem sorted.

I, for one, commend the makers of Dante’s Inferno for their bold theologically-driven game design.  Sure, it means that the game can be played equally well one-handed while staring out the window, but sacrifices have to be made if you want to stay on the good side of any omnipotent supreme beings who might happen to wander into the Gamestop.

 Meet the current Dante’s Inferno high score world record holder.

Final Judgment

Because someone who actually plays video games might stumble across this review, I feel I must continue to bow to the accepted standard and end by assigning numbers to everything I’ve said so far.  How else will you know if you should buy this game?  So here goes:

Graphics: 001 1101 11001 101 0 1
Sound: 340.29 m/s
Breasthavingness: 44DDD
Flatness of Characters: -44DDD
Similarity to More Popular Games: ∞ -1
Theogameplology: α & ω
Total: 7s, 3s, E/8s, X, 4L***

*Back off, grammar snobs who are now no doubt composing me emails saying, “with your dangling modifier I can’t tell if it’s the faces or the walls that vomit souls, hnar hnar hnar.”  The walls are made of giant vomiting faces, so who’s got egg vomited soul on their face now?
**A colleague tells me that in Scandinavian literature this gets so bad that the devils actually cry and whine that if Christianity keeps spreading north, they’ll not have anywhere left to live.
***Quipu! It’s not just for Incan grain warehouses anymore.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • P. M. Doolan

    Dante must be in the air. In a recent posting on my blog I argue that there is a Dante subtext in the newest novel from Paul Auster. You can read my review at

  • lauramichet

    I'm a undergrad creative writing/history student who reads your blog solely because I found it once while taking a class partially about marginal art and was unable to stop reading it. I also play a lot of games. I am attempting to get into the games industry, too.

    Needless to say, I found your numbers very enlightening. I might never have understood this post, otherwise! As gamers say to each other, 12385926.23, comrade. Well done.

    Now that you have mastered the pressing of x, you can go play God of War and do some more of that!

  • Doc

    Nice bit about quipu! I wrote a paper back in undergrad that asserted the Incas were close to turning it into a writing system.

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