Hot off the heels of the indie darling Guacamelee, the gaming world had taken notice, and was ready to be blown away by whatever, Toronto based developer, DrinkBox Studios had to deliver. After testing the water with their 2012 Vita launch title Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack everyone’s eyes were open to the studio two years later with Guacamelee. So with all this hype and public attention set on them what did they do? They made a touch based, first person, dungeon crawler, Vita exclusive called Severed, which, in defying all logic is down right fantastic.
In what very well could be the last great Vita exclusive, Severed puts you in the shoes of it’s one armed protagonist Sasha, as she slashes her way to find out what has happened to her family. With it’s finger burning swiping combat, Severed is incredibly fluid and almost rhythm based at times as you turn back and forth to chop enemies to bits.
The dungeon crawling and metroidvania elements are here as well, taking from and adding to things that were done perfectly in Guacamelee. While the backtracking in the game can get a bit tedious at times, the reward for finding the mysteries that the beautiful, stylized world has to offer make up for the fact that, going back to unexplored areas can be a bit of a slog.
While story isn’t integral to the Severed experience it’s few characters, much like in Guacamelee, have a very nuanced sense of humor, that isn’t lost in a forgotten, burned out world. It’s completed with a tale about loss and overcoming adversity, which on one hand is moving and on the other can be completely forgotten in lieu of cutting up some baddies.
Sasha herself has quite a number of weapons at her disposal, adding more and more powers as the game progress, which can then be leveled up to become more powerful. A gameplay loop that challenges you slice-and-dice enemies in the most strategic way possible in order to get the most bang for your swipe. Toward the end, when every single movement counts, your training, has turned you into and pin point ninja with reflexes quicker than your enemies and enough style to make you feel rewarded after a perfect encounter.
The leveling system is deep enough to really engross yourself into the choices that you’re making to fit your play-style but still shallow enough to wrap your head around quickly to understand exactly everything it has going for it. It is achievable yet not easy, exactly what you want from a game, that takes a carrot-to-stick approach to leveling where you constantly need just one more chopped up monster arm to enter into the next level of badassery.
The toughest thing to swallow about Severed is just how hard it is to get used to playing a game on a handheld console, like you would on a phone or tablet. It’s odd at first to only be holding the system with one hand with the other casually sits idly by while you wait for the next fight, not to unlike Sasha in the game itself.
While most touch screen games tend to be very gimmicky and don’t really elicit any kind of real excitement from the gamer, Severed does. It constantly has you coming back and for more. You can’t put the down the system for too long without wanting to find one more hidden room or take down one more multilayered encounter. It isn’t hindered as much as it could have been by it’s combat, rather it’s combat becoming something that becomes integral to what Severed is. Halfway through, swiping is an afterthought as the world and it’s monster engross you and require your full attention.
While it’s easy to be hesitant on a game that’s not part of a genre you’re familiar with, it’s important to note, that in bringing people so far outside of their comfort zone, and having them enjoy something is a tough task by itself.
DrinkBox knocked it out of the park on this one, and while it’s certainly foreseeable at this point that Severed could see a port to either, tablets, phones or even the PS4 with it’s touchpad functionality. It’s a game that should be played where it belongs, right at home on Vita island. It was created and handcrafted exactly for the people who love DrinkBox and know exactly what they do, and what they do on Servered, is just extraordinary.
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