Developer Drinkbox Studios has once again brought a vivid art mosaic onto the gaming landscape. In the past, DrinkBox Studios was responsible for such games as Guacamelee and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. I haven’t played Mutant Blobs Attack, but Guacamelee is truly a treasure of a game.
Similar to Severed, Guacamelee blends Metroidvania gameplay with a unique art style that’s bound to leave you dazzled. The world of Severed is covered in colorful fungi, eyeballs, and trees that shift from indigo to bright neon purple.
As I mentioned, the animation style of Severed is definitely borrowed from studio predecessors. Unlike games like Guacamelee, though, you’ll find Severed to be full of demonic imagery and endless insanity.
In Severed, you follow a protagonist named Sasha. Sasha is a one-armed young girl turned warrior on a quest to unravel the mysteries of a dark fantasy universe. She’s also looking for her family, but finding them is no easy feat. Fortunately, you have a supremely powerful living sword by your side throughout the harrowing journey.
The story starts when Sasha is pushed into this insane world when you learn Sasha has lost her arm and her family along with it. A demon informs her that this world isn’t her reality, she’s a long way from home and if she’d ever like to return she must reunite the bodies of her slain family.
Severed is in the style of Legend of Grimrock or the Etrian Odyssey series, maps are laid out in grid format and Sasha must move through them one square at a time. The game is a first-person experience, moving through forests, and dungeons, enemies could just be around the next corner of the map for you to battle them.
You’re allowed free rein to look in any direction to choose which way to go next, adding depth and awe to the environments when you’re free to look around to plot your way through. It makes the art style come alive and enhancing it by making it look more 3D than it actually is.
There’s a tendency to do backtracking for previously missed goodies, in the same vein as Guacamelee and other games of the Metroidvania style. Unfortunately, the mechanics are limited so the puzzles aren’t all too difficult to solve.
When in combat Severed is reminiscent of games like Fruit Ninja where you swipe your finger/stylus across the screen and slash whatever is in your way. Although the creatures of this world definitely do not resemble apples and oranges, this I can assure you. I don’t remember any of the fruits in Fruit Ninja blocking my slashes or fighting back.
This mechanic makes the fight feel frantic and engaging like a Fruit Ninja stage, but provides you an opportunity to think how to best take down your enemy. You feel a similar satisfaction with your swipes due to the thoughtful sound design and integrated touch controls.
On the Wii U version, Severed is thankfully played on the tablet portion of the console, and the TV is used to keep track of the map. It’s pretty difficult to go from looking at the tablet then to the TV to get a good sense of what’s happening, so this solves all the problems when your actions and the visual cues you need are all in one place, rather breaking away from the tablet screen to look up at your TV.
In combat you’ll be faced with multiple enemies or single tough targets to deal with. Each enemy has a health meter and an attack gauge to keep well informed about your next move. You must choose wisely when facing down a tough opponent with his minions and focus on who to attack first. Fortunately, enemies have tells so you know when to strike, the game provides meters at the bottom that fill up with a yellow color indicating when they’re poised to strike back at you.
The yellow ring surrounds the enemy’s health gauge as well, this makes for an intuitive system for keeping track of the combat pace. And every enemy has a particular area of weakness to exploit, Severed will make demands of you to have precision aim on different enemy types.
As you slash at enemies you have your Severe Time gauge that fills on the top left, the more hits the enemy receives the sooner you can unleash your full power onto them. You then tap onto an enemy that’s stunned and it’ll open the way for your fury to be unleashed in a bullet time sequence where you can dismember your opponent’s limbs and claim items to use as currency for the game’s upgrade system.
You can upgrade your Severe Time, (the slow-mo state you initiate for the hack and slash fun to begin) your health, or damage. It brings it full circle, your arm was cut off, now you get to exact revenge on the mobs of enemies that stand in your way of being reunited with your family.
The only negatives are the handful of monster types, with those few monsters getting only upgraded in the late game. So moving forward the punches of the early game seem to bring less of the same power they packed, a shame but not a deal breaker in the slightest. It just makes me excited for what this indie developer, DrinkBox Studios, can bring out next. Severed shows the impact this game has on me to just want more dungeons and monsters to fight!
The music of the game is provided by an Indie Canadian group: YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN they fuse noise, metal, pop, and folk music into their unique tracks. It provides an additional layer of ambience to the dark fantasy setting. They also have the OST from the game to peruse through.
DrinkBox Studios has done a remarkable job of making this adventure memorable, through the striking imagery. The character design is genuinely interesting, haunting and beautiful. The combat is fun, frantic, and challenging when dealing with different enemy types all at once. DrinkBox Studios has made a game that the touch based interface is fun to use which by itself is astounding to someone who prefers a control or keyboard and mouse combo. Without touch I would say the mechanics would not be nearly as fun as they are. Hopefully in the future we’ll see more from DrinkBox Studios on the Nintendo Switch platform.
Severed was voted 2016’s iPad game of the year, and is currently available Nintendo eshop. If you buy the game on your linked Nintendo account, you’ll receive a copy on both Wii U and 3DS. You can also buy a copy on the PSVita or download it on iTunes.