A Cut Above – A Severed (PS Vita) Review

I know I don’t write about video games anywhere near as much as I do with anime, but this week I came across a game that I thought deserved some attention. Severed, from Drinkbox Studios, came out this week on the PS Vita, and by golly did I like it a lot. Now, I know most of you reading this probably don’t even own a Vita, so if you were to indulge me for a few minutes it would be much appreciated. Heck, maybe this will convinced you to buy one, eh?

While I don’t consider myself a huge fan of first person, touch-based dungeon crawlers, Severed managed to sink its claws into me in a way not many games can. The gameplay alone is so frantic and fun, yet precise and nerve racking. It’s kinda like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, a game I was also very fond of. It’s a simple mechanic, swiping in the right direction at the right time, but something about it is so darn enjoyable that I always looked forward to another encounter rather than be annoyed by yet another obstacle in my way. Perhaps it’s the sound and animation paired with each blow that makes it so utterly satisfying. It’s an especially rewarding feeling once you start severing off every limb without even a hitch.

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The puzzles are pretty clever, but never too obtuse or frustrating that I’d start considering giving up. This of course is just my completely subjective experience. That being said, I certainly don’t put myself on any sort of pedestal in terms of mental or puzzle solving capability, and I would expect a human of average intelligence to be able to complete these conundrums. Although I don’t really know how to measure intelligence either. So let’s just say there are puzzles. You’ve been warned.

Back-tracking’s a bit of a pain, made no less difficult by sun/moon doors and magic gateways. Getting everything in the game basically means you are going to waste about an hour to nothing but the act of movement. What’s worse is that you’ll probably forget to view the wonderful scenery when focusing on pure navigation and staring intently at the mini map in the upper right. Also adding to the rush and neglect of scenery is the fact that there’s still a boss battle awaiting you, and you really want to get there as fast as you can. It’s a shame, but if you have the mental fortitude to actually stop and smell the roses, I recommend you doing so. I had to remind myself of that a couple times, and it was worth it because the art style is just so gosh darn pretty.

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Before we move on from gameplay, I just want to take a moment and talk about the tutorial…I wish games would stop treating me like an idiot. I, as well as most likely every other owner of a PlayStation Vita, know how to play a fucking video game! Enough hand holding, enough explanations, enough slowing down so I can grasp the idea of swiping a screen to attack or pushing a button to jump or aiming down sights with a trigger. If you really need to include a handbook, put it someplace I don’t have to see it. There was one stroke of genius in Severed’s approach to teaching you the game. It was a pot. A cracked, purple pot, that if broken, deals you damage. An incredibly simple hazard, ones that I came across and broke, more than a few times before realizing I should avoid them. I learned, and I didn’t need a big flashing arrow and a writing prompt to figure that out. Unfortunately, this game needs to teach you how to use your weapons, and although these moments are few and far between, and truly a minor hiccup in the overall pace of the game, I can’t help but feel disappointed in it. Tutorials are not for everyone and should not be in the way of people who do not need them.

But other than that, Severed is a fantastic game!  The writing is pretty minimal, but can be funny, charming, interesting and dreadful, all at the same time. This feeling of dread and despair carries throughout the entire game, and feels incredibly separated from Drinkbox’s previous game Guacamelee, despite having such similar art styles. I can’t speak much toward the soundtrack, as I know very little about criticizing music, and my scale consists of two sides: “Sounds good” and “Doesn’t sound good”. So I’ll just leave you with “sounds good”. There is no New Game + mode, which is what it is. I think I probably would’ve liked having one, but I’m not particularly disappointed by the lack of it. The overall length of the game, again, is what it is. I don’t really measure a games worth by its length, but I clocked in at 6 hours -1 for back-tracking. Oh, and it has a pretty obtainable platinum, so that’s cool.

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Severed is a very unique game with a dreadful/beautiful aesthetic and thoroughly engaging gameplay. Although the tutorial is a small bump in an otherwise smooth road, there’s really nothing too unlikeable about this game. The back-tracking, while a tad tedious, was necessary in experiencing every secret Severed had to offer. I don’t really do recommendations here, but if you have a Vita…I mean, wink and a nudge yo.

And seriously, how cool is it that the PS Vita actually got an exclusive in 2016?! Thank you Drinkbox! And of course, thank you (reader) for reading.

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