I have greatly enjoyed DrinkBox Studios outings on the PS Vita for their fun gameplay stylings and great art. I got Mutant Blobs on Playstation Plus and Guacamelee in a flash sale. I came in to Severed expecting something remotely familiar, what I found however was a deeply imaginative game that takes the Vita’s touch screen in a direction that very few games have had the cojones to.
You play as a girl named Sasha who awakes in a strange world after losing her family as well as her left arm. Intent on rescuing her family, she sets off on a quest armed with a living sword presented to her by a strange entity. Combat is done entirely on the touch screen with the only face buttons used being the D-Pad (or the control stick if you prefer) for movement.
Jeesh, I think he’s seen better days. Get it? SEEN?
The controls, by that token, are extremely simplistic, with the only movement options being forward, and turn to face another direction. The movement reminded me a lot of the indoor sequences used in Friday The 13th for the NES, with a single “forward” movement required to move from one room to another. Some rooms are blocked off, offering you a glance of an item you can collect behind the debris, but first you need to solve a puzzle to get to that room. Other rooms are unlocked by using an item you will obtain later. These places are automatically marked on your mini map, but you will need to remember in which of the game’s 5 locales you saw it in.
Combat, as was previously noted, is done entirely with the touch screen and your attacks are done by swiping your finger to simulate a slash with your sword. Enemy attacks can be blocked by parrying the enemy’s swing. Other attacks can simply just be diverted by attacking the enemy before their Active Time Battle-style countdown ends. When you start the game, you are presented with a memory of your mother teaching you how to fight. I’m not sure if I just don’t understand what it means to parry, but I had the hardest time with blocking attacks from a specific enemy, and eventually the first main boss. After dying several times, I discovered that I was simply just not blocking the strikes right. As soon as I realized exactly what I was doing wrong, everything was breezy. That is, until they started throwing multiple enemies at me at once.
My name is Sasha, you took my arm. Prepare to die.
Some fights go by without a hitch, but when they introduce more enemies to fight at once, it gets slightly complicated. Much alike the first boss fight, it will sometimes take me several deaths to figure out the best strategy to use on 4 enemies, who are all attacking at once. The key is finding the perfect sequence of who to eliminate first, and who to hold off on killing and slowly whittle them all down one by one. You have a bar called the “Focus Meter” which fills throughout the course of a regular battle with consecutive hits on the enemy. Once your Focus meter is full and your enemies are nearing defeat, you get a short window of time where you can Zandatsu the hell out of their body parts and collect them to be used on upgrades to your character, thanks in no small part to a kind-of-non-linear skill tree. In the event that you aren’t fast enough to cut off the enemy’s body parts, you can collect little bits called “giblets” in clay pots, which can be turned into monster parts via synthesis.
The art style presented in the game is very good looking, much alike Drinkbox’s other games, with sharp angles and vibrant colours. Enemy designs are often repeated with minor changes to them, such as adding armor or a slightly modified skin and an extra attack, but at the core they behave similarly and attack in similar patterns, all of which you need to exploit to do away with them. Music sets the tones where appropriate. I found that I played the game with the volume down most of the time. In fact, I spent more time humming the music from Friday The 13th than I did actually listening to the music in the game. It wasn’t their fault, I just found it to be more catchy.
ZANDATSU! What, was I the only one who played Metal Gear Rising?
The locales you travel to all have percentages of completion so all of you completionists can obsess over how to get that last 1%. I, on the other hand, am fine with simply experiencing the story; to each their own. I suppose the same could be said for replayability. Its been a long time since I have actually replayed a game. While Severed has been a really great and unique adventure that I would highly recommend playing at least once, I’m not sure if I’d play it a second time.
Well, not for a while anyways.