There's a surreal edge to Darksiders 2, only part of which is down to the story and setting. The words of the Vigil developer demoing the game to us disappear into our consciousness like coins sent clattering down a well.
"This time you're playing Death, another of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. You may remember in the first game that War was gone for a century for accidentally bringing about the apocalypse. In this game you have to restore mankind in order to rescue your brother.
"Darksiders 2 takes place in the Abyssal Plane. At this time in the game, we need an audience with the Lord of Bones. He's kind of an air-traffic director for souls."
By this point in the demo, Death has finished bounding up a stone staircase to a colossal, black bell. In what turns out to be the beginning of a laughably bombastic cutscene, Death briefly morphs into his "Reaper Form" - a fifteen-foot tall angel of death - to ring the bell by cutting it clean in half with his scythe. Death: not totally clued-up on how bells work, then.
Luckily for everyone involved, the bell is positioned over a bottomless pit and clangs massively as it goes tumbling down into darkness. The Lord of Bones has been summoned. On cue a fantastic airship that looks a bit like a supertanker as designed by My Chemical Romance emerges from the fog, pulled by two vast flying serpents.
The Lord of Bones has been summoned, yes, but he has no intention of stopping. Death awaits the perfect moment and leaps, at some point summoning his pale horse from thin air, because now we're watching Death ride a horse down the back of a flying snake. Another leap sees Death arrive on the back of the other snake, and a final leap carries him onto a low-lying platform on the airship, in what turns out to be a playable platforming section that takes in the ship's exterior.
It's here that things get surreal for a very different reason. I realise that the snake cutscene was reminiscent of Nariko running down the rope in Heavenly Sword. We also get our first look at Death's "Ghost Hook", a grappling hook that immediately gives me flashbacks of using the whip in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and Death's more acrobatic climbing powers nudge him further into territory occupied by Nathan Drake.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Darksiders 2 is very much working the room, which is, of course, no bad thing. Mostly, these borrowed elements represent the best that those games had to offer. Mostly. When Death throws open the door to a room containing a piercing beam of light, a gem at roughly the same height, a locked door and a statue holding a mirror, it's all I can do to keep from flinging my notepad at the screen.
Stranger still are Darksiders 2's new RPG elements. Where the first Darksiders waddled cautiously in the footsteps of Zelda, Darksiders 2 has taken a sturdy interest in World of Warcraft. When Death finally emerges onto the deck of the airship, we're informed that it's one of several "towns" in the game where you'll be able to sell your loot and receive quests, one of which appears as it's revealed that the Lord of Bones is far too busy to see Death. Who's too busy to see death? Death promptly threatens to kill all in his path, a proposition that makes my head hurt seeing as everybody here's already dead, but all is explained by the Lord's hunched, scheming assistant. Seeing as everybody on Earth has so recently died, his master is having a rather tough time of it. Ah.