Platform: Nintendo 3DS eShop/Wii U eShop (played on both systems)
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Release Date: September 22nd, 2016 (NA and UK/EU)
Price: $13.49/$14.99 (US/CDN), £11.99/€13.99 (UK/EU), Cross-Buy (buy one version, get the other free)
Review copy provided by Drinkbox Studios
Today I’m reviewing the newest game by the creators of Guacamelee, and for those who don’t know, the Toronto developer Drinkbox Studios was formed by folks who were at Pseudo Interactive (who also were in Toronto), the creators of Cel Damage!
One thing to note is that Drinkbox seemingly did the 3DS and Wii U ports of Severed themselves, unlike with Guacamelee, which was ported to Wii U by Wii U veteran Broken Rules (creators of Chasing Aurora on Wii U and also And Yet it Moves on WiiWare). So it’s interesting to see Drinkbox develop the Nintendo versions of their game themselves this time around.
Moving through a dungeon (3DS)
Unlike Guacamelee, which was a 2D platformer, Severed is instead of 1st-person hack-and-slash dungeon crawler game if you will. Both games however feature wonderful art-styles that are very colorful and creative. Drinkbox have really made a style all their own. But how does Severed fair gameplay-wise? Let’s find out.
The game stars a woman who has ended up being all alone, having lost her family somehow. She embarks on a journey through this strange world filled with dark and mysterious creatures on the search for her missing family. At the start of the game, you’re visited by this mysterious figure who just randomly gives you a sword (as your main weapon for attacking foes) and just vanishes. Is this figure a friend or foe? Time will tell it seems. Movement is VERY similar to Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey series on DS and 3DS. You always move in the direction you’re facing, but you can turn around freely, and can only move straight north, south, easy, or west. Every time you take a step, the area around you loads into a new one, so it’s not a long fluid moving world, it’s like sections, possibly for performance reasons. While moving about, a map on the top screen on 3DS keeps track of your movement progress, even showing you what percentage you’ve explored.
Fighting an enemy (3DS)
In the beginning area, you’ll have a dream sequence, and a tutorial will begin where your mother will teach you how to properly use your sword to slash at opponents. When fighting enemies, the direction you swing by swiping the bottom touch screen is key. You have to watch for enemies and how they block your attacks, so when they block in a certain position, you have to swing from a specific angle to damage them. A round meter at the bottom of the enemy will show when they will attack you. the perimeter of the meter will fill with a yellow circle, and when that circle completes, the enemy will strike. Some enemies can be interrupted with an attack and you can avoid being hit by certain enemies by timing your attacks at the right time. Others can only be hit from slicing in one direction. Some enemies can have their attacks be blocked by slashing in the direction of the oncoming attack (called parrying).
Soon you are introduced to the game’s signature technique; severing. What happens is that you have a focus meter, and you fill it up by successfully damaging opponents without being blocked or being hit. Your bar doesn’t actually empty upon this happening, you just lose steam if you will. One enemy puts up a shield where you slash at it to shrink said shield, and every time I do this, it says I lose focus, but if you do this over and over again, you can actually build your focus meter very slowly without even getting hit. When your focus meter is full, upon dealing the death blow, the enemy floats for a couple of seconds and you can sever its limbs or halves of its body. Doing this within the time limit will slice off said parts, and you can collect them. Collected parts can be used for upgrades, these upgrades include more power, better defense against certain attacks, extended time for severing, etc.
Fighting an enemy (Wii U)
During your run through the dungeons, you can do various things such as break open jars which contain items (be warned that cracked ones will hurt you), open gates by pulling a lever down with the stylus, and acquiring items to open doors. You can also collect fruit throughout that will heal your HP, and also heart pieces that will when completed, will give you more health (sound familiar?).
Visually as I said before, it has a great style. What actually amazed me was that it runs in 60fps, even in 3D. I did not expect that at all to be honest, especially since the game was originally on Vita. Music-wise is pretty pleasant from what I’ve heard so far, it focuses more on a subtle atmospheric sound to put you in the mood of a strange, alien-like world. A note on the gameplay in terms of the screens, even if it is mostly on the bottom screen, you can have the top screen mirror the gameplay of the bottom by tapping the two-screen icon on the upper-right corner of the bottom screen, or to give you a status menu on both screens by tapping the magnifying glass icon at the same spot. A note is that the game auto-saves (you see a rotating eye on the bottom right of the bottom screen when this happens).
A cutscene (Wii U)
On Wii U, the game only allows you to change the top screen, so you can enjoy the game’s visuals in glorious HD (the map will be displayed at the top-right corner in this state). The problem is, you have to keep looking at the GamePad for aiming at specific things, or else you’ll be flailing at objects with only some success here and there.
As interesting and engaging as the gameplay and style is, I have a major issue with the game; the physical strain of it. The game requires you to hold the 3DS with one hand and to use the style with the other (it seems friendly to both left and right-handers), and boy does it make your arms sore. I also cannot see this being feasible while you’re out and about in-case your hand loosens its grip. Depends on what you’re physically able to handle, but that’s just me. On Wii U at least you can just rest the GamePad on your knee when sitting, so you don’t have to worry about the weight of the GamePad as much here. Depends on your comfort. Another thing is that since the game encourages you to quickly swipe the screen, you will tire out doing this for prolonged periods of time. This is not a game for long sessions, but rather short bursts. It’s worth considering a buy if you have little to no trouble with the physical aspect and the cross-buy is very appealing, so $15 doesn’t turn into $30 if you wanted both versions.
+ The art-style is very pretty with lots of color and runs at a locked 60fps on both systems, even in 3D mode on 3DS.
+ The music pretty pleasant to listen to.
+ Cross-Buy is always a plus.
+ The slicing gameplay is really great, and the very accurate touch controls are wonderful.
+ Character designs are very creative.
+ Despite its theme, it’s not gory. You won’t get sick from seeing limbs get sliced off, so don’t worry. It’s only T-rated.
+ 3D support is appreciated since you can see the gameplay on the top screen, but not the most necessary since you HAVE to watch the bottom screen to play the game effectively.
– The game is very tiring when played for more than short bursts.
– It’s not the most varied game. You may get bored by simply walking a bit, fight an enemy, and so on and so forth.
– As said above, the game really requires you to watch the bottom screen, so don’t focus on the top for anything other than just temporarily seeing the visuals. Don’t play the game while looking at the top screen or the TV while playing the Wii U version.