I absolutely adored Drinkbox Studio’s last two games Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee! But when they revealed their latest game, Severed, I was instantly weary. I’m not a big fan of classic 1st-Person dungeon crawling, and frankly, it looked like a late-to-the-party Fruit Ninja clone with a great art style. Not exactly something I was excited for. Thankfully, after getting some hands-on time with the game at PSX, Drinkbox is beginning to put those fears to rest.
That’s because it’s way more than some gimmicky touch game. For one, the story seems to be extremely dark, despite the game’s colorful art style. From what I played, Severed’s heroine has had her family killed and her arm chopped off. I had to find her dead family and bring them back to their desolate house. And in order to become stronger, you have to collect the severed limbs of your enemies to complete upgrades. It’s pretty nasty stuff in the best possible way.
My other worry, the 1st-person dungeon crawling aspect, ends up working smoothly and, at least in demo, was easy to keep progressing. I was worried there would be a lot of backtracking, a lot of dead ends, and puzzles that would keep me from moving forward. Luckily, Severed pushes the player along nicely and gives you control of how you want to play. Touch screen only? Go ahead. Would you rather use the D-pad to move? You can do that too. My only worry is that I’m going to get a hand cramp if I play Severed for a long period of time because I liked holding the Vita with my left hand, using the D-pad to navigate while my right hand hovered over the screen waiting to swipe.
While I worried about the swiping mechanics in Severed, it was with good reason. You’ll be doing a whole lot of swiping here. What I didn’t expect was to find how deliberate, strategic, and fun it could be. Severed doesn’t just ask you to swipe at enemies aimlessly until they’re dead. Many enemies will shield themselves and the only way you can attack them is to find an opening. Other enemies have specific weak points to exploit. And when you build up enough focus, you can sever their limbs in order to upgrade your character. On top of all this, certain battles will leave you surrounded by enemies on the sides and behind you. The boss battle in the demo left me swirling around attacking foes right before they hit me, doing my best to maintain the situation while wailing on the boss whenever I got an opening. There’s a lot going on in Severed to maintain and balance, but at the same time, it never felt overwhelming.
Drinkbox Studios has had a pretty good track record as of late and after spending some time with Severed, I think they definitely can have another hit on their hands. What’s even more impressive is that Severed is completely different from their past games. They could’ve played it safe and made Guacamelee 2! because of course we would have played it, but instead they took a risk and from what I played so far, it’s going to pay off.