The PlayStation Vita still craves my attention even though new releases are few and far between for it now. It has some classics for it that makes me outright refuse to let the Vita go. The graphics still impress me. One of my favourite games for it was Drinkbox Studios’ metroidvania game, Guacamelee. Its unique colourful art style, unusual story and characters, and addictive gameplay shone with me. So much so, I bought the expanded ports on the PlayStation 4.
Well, Drinkbox Studios are back with their new title, Severed, which has the same kind of art style but with a much darker tone. You play as Sasha, a woman who is on a quest to rescue her family. As you awake, you realize you only have one arm as the other was has been….ahem….severed. Not to worry though, it’s not long before you are granted with a blade. The plot is one large rescue mission with a few twists. The vision who bestowed upon you your sword explains that it is alive and to make it, and you, stronger, you must feed it the limbs of your enemies. Do you see why the game is called Severed now? It’s an interesting premise. One that makes things hard not to care. It is your family after all. Why did they leave you armless? A question that beckons an answer. All the more reason to battle onward.
Severed is inspired heavily on old 3D dungeon crawlers. Those maze navigators that we consider precursors of the role playing game genre. Viewed entirely in first-person, you use the left thumb stick or directional pad to navigate the map which branch off occasionally. This opens up puzzle opportunities which mainly require you to hit hidden switches or activate sigils. The biggest puzzle Severed offers, though, is the combat. Walk into a floating cloud and its fists up, or I should say, fist up. Enemies come at you easy at first. You swipe across the screen with your finger to swipe with your sword in that desired direction. Think of it as a spruced up Fruit Ninja but with weird looking purple and red monsters. Each enemy has a weak point to aim for. Some of them block, requiring you to wait for your time to strike. Some, however, hit back in an assortment of different ways. Certain enemies give off a visual marker before unleashing an attack of their own. This marker is a chance for you to parry their attack so that you can go for the counter. Other enemies gradually get bigger before they attack and their starting state is the only way you can damage them. There are an impressive range of enemies with different attacks to be wary of, but further into the game this variety soon becomes an annoyance as combat transforms into enemy management.
Don’t get me wrong, the combat is good at the start but quickly gets annoying as enemies start coming at you on all sides. This means you have to think on your feet and be quick. You soon give up and just swipe furiously until they are dead, and I muttered a “for god’s sake” every time I walked into an enemy cloud. Problem with this is, in order to level up your skills, you need the severed body parts of your foes. As you attack, you fill up a gauge that when filled, your next defeated monster dies in such a spectacular fashion; time slows down, giving you time to cut certain parts of its body off. Don’t worry, they don’t fly off in a torrential rainstorm of blood (unfortunately).
Levelling up can boost your attack damage, give you the ability to suck health from your opponents, or provide a more generous amount of time to sever limbs. This upgrading system adds depth but not an astounding amount. At least not as much to make long and drawn out battles less of a chore. I began trying my best to dodge enemies rather than fight them. I just wanted to crack on with the rescue mission, but battles that were simply too drawn out and long hindered me.
Severed looks great on the Vita. Using the same artistic flare of Drinkbox’s Guacamelee, bold colours flood the screen in glorious 2D fashion. Monsters move like paper cut-out puppets put together with pin tags, but watching them explode when defeated is a great sight that you’ll witness many, many times. There are some beautiful locations too. Temples and forests all manage to give you a sense of isolation. They encourage exploration. Branched out paths are often which sometimes cause you to go back and see where they lead.
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: 26th April 2016